Thursday, July 13, 2006

Nations and such

Quick question out there for everyone (anyone?): what is a nation? How is it different from a “country” or from an “ethnic group”?

I know some of us have thought about this a lot, i know some of us have pat answers but may not have ever questioned these, but regardless: i’m interested in hearing what anyone has to say…


  1. Hey there,

    I wrote an essay about this five years ago, in the immediate aftermath of 9-11, using a variety of then current contexts to come up with some provisional definitions of the words "nation," "nationalism," and "national identity." My definition at that time of a nation is as follows:

    "From this context we can define a nation as a community of communities, manifested in perceptions of shared identity and experience, possibly including culture, language, ancestry, land and various intangibles, with said perceptions being the result of the interaction of popular self-activity and external historical forces."

    This is pretty loose, and I'm not entirely sure I think it's adequate, but it's not totally off-the-wall. You can read the whole thing at


  3. Oh, and I almost forgot: Since I'm researching the history of the Sojourner Truth Organization, I should point out that they published a detailed analysis of the "national question" in the late 70's. It was controversial in its day primarily for challenging Stalin's analysis of nationalism (as cited in the comment above). In retrospect, there's much to disagree with in the pamphlet, but it does offer an interesting tie-in between the critique of white supremacy and the defense of black (and Puerto Rican) nationalism.

    Thanks to the good work of the STO archive comrades in Kansas City, you can read the pamphlet in full here:

    Also, I'd like to hear your thoughts on this stuff, as sketchy as they may be...