ENGL 328: Nationalist

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Various Definitions

Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines "Nationalist" as an advocate of or a believer in nationalism. nationalist

Nationalist is a person or group that considers themselves on the margins of society and feels a need to act to have their political and social values represented. These values are centered around their country. The term implies that change is necessary. Stemming from the word "nation" which is a political group that is organized based on race, culture, and geopraphic location. It also has a proponent of "taking ultimate pride in your country and where you come from." i.e. Patriotism.It can be used as an adjective to describe qualities of political and social reform (e.g. nationalist movement).

The more modern definition has acquired a negative connotation, as the term is usually associated with extremist groups, such as the "White Nationalists." Although some lingering patriotic aspects still appear to be present in the definition, the idea that a "nationalist" is someone who has strong feelings towards promoting the independence and values of a specific country does not have a lot of weight.

Again here are the first images that popped up when I google imaged our word "nationalist." nationalist Moreover, when "nationalist" is searched on google, most of the sites that pop up have to do with groups that Americans would consider extremist, even cultish, like the "Storefront White Nationalist Community."

There are two main uses that appear in the course readings. They have been previously defined in a “dictionary” context but I will link these definitions to the text. They are also linked to each other through the texts.

     •	The first definition is the patriotic one.  This is where “nationalist” is a person who loves his/her country.  Johnson and Burke clearly think this way of England as does Equiano. 
     •	The second definition is the dynamic version(as a movement).  The one that denotes “nationalist” as a seeker of social and/or political change within ones own country.  This definition carries along with it connotations of change and revolution.  Equiano also indirectly uses this in his book when he writes about the necessity for his “countrymen” to be free and pushes for abolition.   

Oxford English Dictionary Definition

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a "nationalist" as someone who is an "advocate of national independence or self-determination." This particular definition was first used in 1849. The word originally was linked to advocates of a national church, a usuage which dates back to 1715. Additionally, the word "nationalist" can be linked with "race" and "native" because it pertains to the desires of particular racial and/or native groups who desire an independent and unified freedom. Additionally, culture can be tied to the idea of nationalism and the "nationalist" because nationalists are often found within particular cultural groups. These groups attempt to inforce particular values and norms, and wish to have their nation organized in a specific, uniform way. According to Wikipedia, "nationalists see nations as an inclusive categorization of human beings, assigning every individual to a nation," according to his/her cultural, racial, or native status.

Social Implications

Nationalist can be a person who sees that their country will be better served to consider only their own country’s goals and not worry about how their particular country fits in with the international or global community. There is a Nationalist Party in the U.S. If you follow their link you will see that they have a website with their own definitions on it. In the website they consider the United States to be “analogous to [a] living and breathing organism”. The site goes on to reject “Multiculturalism” and shows that the party tries preserve the countries identity. The use of the word in this context shows that the word can be subjective and have a different meaning among different people.

Nationalism as a Political Movement

Nationalist, as a word and concept, is very politically and socially volatile. There are a number of organizations in this country that use the word in a political sense and many are considered on the fringes of our culture. The aforementioned Nationalist Party is a good example of this but it can get more controversial. Here is an example; nationalist.org Here the word is used by a racist organization to further their isolationist discourse and viewpoint of how the country should be. It seems that there is a connection between nationalism and social activity. That being a nationalist is not something that you just sit back and do. Nationalism requires movement and is a very complex and dynamic process or system. This seems to strengthen the dynamic sense of the word and tie it into a necessary reform for a particular country. In this sense, nationalism requires change or movement.

The Relationship between 'Nationalist' and 'Nation'

Nationalists are what make up a nation. They tend to share the same or similar values, culture, language, and devotion to such unity. nation A nation is a group of people, nationalists, who strive towards a common political organization or goal, similar to that of a state. nationalist Moreover, because the creation of a state implies that the particular group of people who came together under a set of common values, nationalists have strong ties to the creation of government and social status within their nation because they were part of the active process of its establishment. Another interesting dynamic of nationalism is that it comes in various forms. For example, "ethnic nationalism" refers to a group of common origins attempting to acquire a state, and conversely there is an idea of "civic nationalism" which is focused on a trying to create a nation around a state.

Johnson's Usage

Johnson often uses the word "nation" and occasionally "national," frequently expressing nationalist sentiments. He personifies nations in a similar way to Burke, describing Native American societies as "savage nations," and making sweeping generalizations about the French nation. When writing about the English nation, the word nation is frequently preceded by the word "the," which implies both that Johnson's essays are meant somewhat exclusively for an English audience, and that in a certain way, the English nation is superior to the others he writes about. He basically seems to think of nations as entities with specific, invariable personalities. This is particularly evident when he writes about the interaction of nations in the new world in the essay "Observations on the Present State of Affairs." The essay reads as if he is talking about a group of (nations as) people with whom he is well enough aquainted to predict how they will interact. Johnson has this to say about the French in this essay: "The French compose one body with one head. They have all the same interest, and agree to pursue it by the same means...They have more martial than mercantile ambition, and seldom suffer their military schemes to be entangled with collateral projects of gain: they have no wish but for conquest,of which they justly consider riches as the consequence." (507) This is basically how he seems to think of the nations he writes about. He is comfortable making sweeping generalizations which result in the personification of groups of people. One may reach the conclusion that thinking of nations this way could produce feelings of intense identification with the group one belongs to and equally intense feelings of not belonging to others. This mindset is an important part of nationalism. Johnson's arguments frequently rely on popular opinions about the world which he considers obvious facts, in general he tends to have a very black and white view of the world.

Burke's Usage

Edmund Burke uses the word “nation” frequently throughout his “Speech on Mr. Fox’s East India Bill” and “Speech on Conciliation With the Colonies.” In “East India Bill” he actually uses the word “national” when listing his objections to the bill: “4thly, that it deeply affects the national credit.” (364) I’m not sure if he means credit in an economic sense or in reference to reputation, but he his definitely making an argument about England and the country’s interests. He is writing about both a group of people and the physical place they inhabit. He also writes quite a bit about the character of England as a nation, in comparison to, for instance, the Welsh. There is an interesting personification of England going on here, which results from Burke’s identification of the characteristics of different countries which set them apart from each other. They aren’t just bunches of people who happen to live in different areas of the world. One is reminded of the way that when speaking about a country, people will sometimes uses the pronouns “he” and “she” instead of “it.”

There is an interesting passage on page 369 where Burke is making an argument for the people of India, “a people for ages civilized and cultivated by all the arts of polished life, whilst we were yet in the woods. There have been (and still the skeletons remain) princes once of great dignity, authority, and opulence. There are to be found the chiefs of tribes and nations.” This creates an association in his writing between the idea of a “nation” and the ideas of “polished” and “cultivated.” On the same page he compares the people of India to the Guaranies and Chiquitos, who he considers "gangs of savages" unworthy of the title of "nation."

Edmund Burke was an abolitionist. He wanted to get rid of slavery because he found it to be morally and religiously wrong. He drew up a document to give to the king's secretary of state addressing what should be done about the issue(Burke 183).

Burke wanted to make the transition to freedom easier on the slaves. He called it a "point of departure" from a state of slavery. He wanted to bring order and civilization into their lives. The slaves were provided for by their masters, and now they would have to learn how to provide for themselves, and Burke wanted to help them learn to do that (185).

"We must precede the donation of freedom by disposing the minds of the objects to a disposition to receive it without danger to themselves or to us. The process of bringing free savages to order and civilization is very different. When a state of slavery is that upon which we are to work, the very means which head to liberty must partake of compulsion. The minds of men being crippled with that restraint can do nothing for themselves; everything must be done for them" (185).

" A people for ages civilized and cultivated-cultivated bu all the arts of polished life, whilst we were yet in the woods. There have been (and still the skeletons remain) princes once of great dignity, authority, and opulence. There are to be found the Chiefs of tribes and Nations. There is to be found an ancient and venerable priesthood, the depository of their laws, learning, and history, the guides of the people whilst living and their consolation in death; a nobility of great antiquity and renown; a multitude of cities, not exceeded in population and trade by those of the first class in Europe" (369).

Equiano's Usage

A great example of a nationalist is Mr. Gustavus Vassa on page 10 of Equiano. Thos. Digges states, "He was torn from his relatives and country (by the more savage white men of England) at an early period in life; and during his residence in England, at which time I have seen him, during my agency for the American prisoners, with Sir William Dolben, Mr. Granville Sharp, Mr. Wilkes, and many other distinguished characters; he supported an irreproachable character, and was a principal instrument in bringing about the motion for the repeal of the Slave-Act."

Although Equiano never uses the actual term "nationalist", it does seem that he has identified himself as an African Nationalist. When he uses the word "countrymen" in a way to mean "anyone that is from Africa." However, because Equiano is constantly travelling the globe, and because his education comes from various sources, his narrative could also be seen as an anti-nationalist text, because he never adheres to one particular culture or group until the end, when he returns to England.

Equiano's narrative, I think, is more of an transnationalist text than a nationalist text. Readers of The Interesting Narrative are presented with a variety of situations, feelings, emotions, etc., surrounding the treatment of Africans. The global nature of Equiano's travels present the ubiquity of discrimination over many different nations. To circumvent this tragic, but true, quality, Equiano mobilizes Religion as an unifying human characteristic beyond and above nationalism. Wikipedia refers to Transnationalismas: "a social movement grown out of the heightened interconnectivity between people all around the world and the loosening of boundaries between countries."

Though equiano never actually uses the word "nationalist," he frequently uses the word "nation" in different ways. For instance in his "Miscellaneous Verses" he uses it in a way which seems to mainly make reference to a location: "The English nation forc'd to leave." (195) In chapter eleven, he uses it to mean a group of people: "I never met any nation that were so simple in their manners as these people (the Musquito tribe)" (206) The word nation, used in this sense, appears all over Equiano's account of living with the Musquitos, in which he compares their appearance and customs to other societies he has encountered in his travels.

Contemporary Examples


Benedict Anderson's Contributions

In Benedict Anderson's text Imagined Communities he states that, "I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community - - and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign."

Links: wiki sites Imagined Communities and Benedict Anderson

More Cluster Words

Country, countrymen,Revolution, State,Civilization