chapter  6
Altered states
Pages 18

In a world characterised by migration, integration, communication and the evershifting liquid surface of modern identity, the issue of secession has become compelling for the international political community. Few states can unabashedly claim to be composed of a single homogeneous ethnic group. Indeed the very meaning of ‘homogeneity’ can be sharply criticised. Even those states which make this claim must recognise slow but inevitable demographic changes due to immigration and increased cultural contact. The markers of group identification have always changed over time, regardless of how certain and fixed they have appeared. This process is merely a function of the nature of time and the enormous adaptability of the human species. Groups experience changes through economic, technological and cultural fluctuations. Members of groups are gained and lost through migration, and contact with other groups continually shapes the meanings and values of group identity. A quick glance through history confirms both the timeless nature and the deep significance of this pattern of cultural interaction. The contribution of the technological age has been such acceleration of these events that they may be observed within a generation. Then it is something of a paradox that the evolution of the modern political state has yielded a system in which legitimacy derives from sovereign control over bounded territory, yet the citizens who reside within a state territory may feel multiple forms of allegiance which not only transcend cartography but shift in response to events both internal and external to the state. These multiple and malleable identities create enormous problems for political theory. The ‘people’ who confer legitimacy on the state may be defined as those who live within the fixed territorial boundaries of the state. But making those ‘people’ fit the meaning of ‘nation’, ensuring that they feel both civic and cultural loyalty to each other as co-citizens, is an endlessly fruitless task which problematises the concept of ‘nation-state’.