chapter
nationalism
Pages 4

Nationalism is the political doctrine which holds that humanity can be divided into separate, discrete units-nations-and that each nation should constitute a separate political unit-a *state. The claim to nationhood usually invokes the idea of a group of people with a shared *culture, often a shared *language, sometimes a shared *religion, and usually but not always a shared history; to this it adds the political claim that this group of people should, by rights, rule themselves or be ruled by people of the same kind (nation, ethnicity, language, religion, etc.). Understood like this, the idea of nationalism as a political doctrine can be traced back to German Romantic philosophers like †Herder and Fichte, whose ideas were also crucial in the development of the anthropological concept of culture. Anthropology, then, shares an intellectual history with nationalism, and nationalism serves as a reminder of the political implications of common anthropological assumptions about the world-for example, the idea that people can be naturally classified as belonging to discrete, bounded cultures or societies. *Boas (who explicitly acknowledged the influence of Herder) and his students, for example, fought a long battle against the idea of *‘race’ in the inter-war years, but in substituting instead the idea of culture they failed to question the assumption that people naturally belonged to one culture and one culture only.