A Review On What Is Nationalism Cultural Studies Essay

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Nationalism can be defined as a potential ideology that engenders a strong identification of a group of individuals with a nation. This ideology strives toward a common culture, including shared meanings, symbols and recognition of mutual rights and duties to each other as part of a shared membership of the nation. It therefore claims on behalf of the nation a right to constitute an independent autonomous political community based on a shared history and common identity. For many years, sociologists have argued that the identification of people or categorization into ''homeland cultures'' and ''origins'' is very complex. (Appaduarai 1990, said, 1986, Gifford 1998) and that the word ''identity'' is too ambiguous (Brubaker and Cooper 2000). They state that its meaning depends on the context of its use and the theoretical tradition from which the use in question derives. ''Nationalism can also be interpreted as the idea of ''sameness'' which manifests itself as ''solidarity'' in share dispositions and consciousness or in collective action''[from old essay]

Throughout history and to this present day, sport has been frequently viewed as reinforcing national identification. For example the biggest championships are organised in ways to ensure that individuals represent their nation states. However with the effects of globalisation there has been a developing marked post-national dimension in national sport. For example, e.g. England's premier league now includes a large and increasing proportion of foreign players. This has impacted domestic football and has ultimately led to a increase in foreign ownership in England's Major clubs simultaneously affecting other sports too.

In this essay, I will explore two contrasting theoretical models of nationalism: Ernest Gellner's structuralist perspective and Anderson's more culturalist theory of 'imagined communities' and consider their applicability to modern sport. I will also attempt to demonstrate through several levels of sport---e.g. national, transnational and local levels---that nationalism plays an important role in each case. I then consider the effects of globalization on nationalism in sport.

Ernest Gellner defines 'nationalism' as 'primarily a principle that holds that the political and national unit should be congruent.' (citation). He, thus, establishes nationalism as a political category, that is, the ideological agenda of delimiting the boundary of the polis to the ethnos, nation, or 'race.' Gellner positions the rise of nationalism within the long-term shift from agricultural to industrial societies. Gellner suggests that industrialism has ultimately affected society, from basic social relations---how people interact with each other---to the overall political structure of communities. Gellner, like many scholars of nationalism, is a 'hard core modernist,' his definition of modernity basically overlaps with industrialisation. Due to the changing structure of modern, industrial societies, a standardised 'high' culture becomes necessary as work becomes more technical and impersonalised. Especially important in this process is the emerging system of mass education, which indoctrinates students as citizens of the nation. He makes the point that it is nationalism 'which engenders nations and not the other way round' (citation)

Among the contradictions nationalism generates, Gellner advances his characterisation of 'eastern nationalism': state enforced homogenisation, which he uses the metaphor to describe it as the empire of 'megalomania' which provokes the reaction of those who have been excluded or opted out on their own choice in order to protect and preserve their own culture. [include a few other examples from text]

As a society-focused structural functionalist, Gellner argued that ideology did not figure prominently in the development of nationalism. The LSE scholar Klie Kedourie on the other hand, a historian of ideas, maintains the opposite view (citation). Similarly, Benedict Anderson suggests that the idea of nationalism is vitally linked to when someone's identity and persona are formed. Though a Marxist, and structuralist in this sense, Anderson argued that we were about to enter in a 'fundamental transformation in the history of Marxism and Marxist movements are upon us' (citation). He claimed that the recent wars between Vietnam, Cambodia and China relax this and there are visible signs of cultural transformation. Connecting the emergence of nationalism with the structural transformations of 'print capitalism' Anderson noted that England with the help of the printing press by Gutenberg made great strides to develop their own unique language to rival the invasion of Latin and French vocabulary. This constituted a development of power, which Britain extended into money with the help of colonialism, and the expansion of power into imperialism.

Anderson's core thesis is that 'nations' are 'an imagined political community - and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign' (citation). He argue that nations are imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each of them lives the image of their community. 'The nation is imagined as limited because even the largest of them, encompassing perhaps a billion living human beings, has finite, if elastic, boundaries, beyond which lie other nations' Like Gellner, Anderson notes that nations are a product of nationalism, noting 'nationalism is not the awakening of the nations to self-consciousness: it invents nations where they do not exist' (citation). However, Anderson's attention to ideological influences is less structuralist than Gellner.


In relation to sport, Anderson's conception of 'imagined communities' seemed to be much more salient. The ideological coherence engendered with sport connects the symbolic and emotional effervescence of sport and nation in complex ways irreducible to the structural changes from agrarian to industrial societies. This is even more so the case during the recent changes in the context of globalisation. Nationalism is an important factor in sport as observable at several levels of analysis.

Sport can be broken down into three levels: national, transnational and local levels. Much literature has been written on the connection between sport and globalization - in particular soccer and globalization. In Un) bounded soccer demonstrates nationalism on a national level,' Ben Porat discusses the interrelationship between football (soccer) and globalization in Israel. Globalization has, as many scholars would argue become a part of everyday life. The link between globalization and sport deserves attention and study because sport is big enough to not only reflect the process of globalization, but to also leave an imprint and affect the way globalization as an idea is thought about. Porat examines the development of soccer in Israel through several stages, adopting the view that globalization does not 'pound everything into the same mould' (Mittleman, 2000) but instead its process is not even and the outcomes are affected by developments on a global and local scale. Porat believes Israeli soccer, like the rest of society is affected and altered by the changing global context and key interactions between globalization and the local structure and dynamics. He(?) argue that soccer in Israel came about under certain boundaries within a state-centred economic and political context that outlined a 'political model' for the organization of soccer. As Israel gradually became more capitalist and as globalization took place this lead to a transformation from a 'political model' towards a 'economic model'- as Israel went through the process of becoming capitalist this ultimately lead to it opening up to globalization


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When they studied the impact the globalization had on soccer they broke it down into three categories: the flows of capital, labour and culture. It is logical to initially assume that the impact of globalization probably is uneven and certain flows may occur first or be more dominating. The article is based on a general study of globalization in Israel (G. Ben Porat 2002) and the transformation of soccer from a game to a 'commodity' (A. Ben Porat 2003), all of the information was gathered from the Israeli soccer association (IFA), the Wingate Institute, The soccer budget control authority and the sport sections of daily newspapers and finally interviews with IFA officials. They begin with a brief theoretical overview of globalization, then in the second part talk about Israeli soccer and it's setting as an institution. In the final part they analyse the change or transformation of Israel soccer- the three global flows capital, labour and culture.

Nationalism can also been found in sport at local levels and this is shown in the article 'Territory, Politics and Soccer Fandom in Northern Ireland and Sweden' by Alan Bairner and Peter Shirlow- they compare two completely unconnected football clubs in two very different societies and show how in fact they are very similar in the way nationalism is observed and demonstrated at each club on a local level. It has been noted on several occasions that football fandom and identity politics are linked and widely interchangeable. How their linked more is more complex than it may initially seem. In this paper two sets of fans are analysed and they are complete polar opposites in terms of the societies them come from. The first group are 'Linfield' supports who come from Northern Ireland and use their team as a means of expressing cultural resistance where the club and stadium is a safe haven for people with similar views due to the division of political and religious views in Northern Ireland- it has become their own (as Bairner and Shirlow put it) 'imagined community'. The second group is a set of AIK supports from Sweden- they show than soccer fandom can turn a group of supports into a 'collective self' which can turn in defiance against a perceived threat of the 'other'.

For a large number of people in the modern world, sport plays a vital role in the construction and reproduction of part of people's identity and partially more in males. Two Australian sociologists Roy Jones and Phillip Moore argue that in a football stadium ethnic minorities can reinvent their identity to become part of the wider group. Even though players can detach themselves for the social and political aspects of the game, for the supporters Vic Duke and Liz Crolley (1996) believe that football matches never take place in isolation:''The participants (the fans) do not cut themselves off from external matters. In a sense, football does not cut out external factors but acts more like a sieve that a solid wall, and the sieve is that only selecting but modifying what it filters' (Duke and Crolley 1996)

Linfield is supported to almost in its entirety working class protestant men. They use their football clubs as a means of expressing and vocalising there 'resistance'. The Swedish club identity is equally tied up with its affection towards a particular stadium and it's landscape or territory that it is suppose to represent. Just like the Northern Irish fans, fans of AIK- 'the black army' have been involved, even if subconsciously with the creation of iconographies and an 'imagined community' and there expressions of devotion to it. The article conveys a sense of the localised nature of politics of territorial control and resistance

Fletcher explores nationalism in sport on a transnational scale. The article commentates on the events that took place in the historic cricket group of Lords in 2009 (citation).

The article explores 'British Asians' sense of nationhood, citizenship, ethnicity and how they manifest themselves in relation to sports fandom. Fletcher uses the example of Cricket and how it is used as a way of expressing 'British Identities'. He looks to Norman Tebbit's "'cricket test' to help understand the intricacies of being a British Asian supporting the English national cricket team. The first section looks at Tebbit's test and attempts to locate its place within the wider issue of multicultarism. Later the analysis focuses on the discourse of sports fandom and the idea of the 'home team advantage' placing forward the concept that sports venues represent sites for the expression of nationalism and cultural expression due to their connection for national history. The article states that supporting 'anyone but England' and therefore ultimately rejecting ethically exclusive notions of 'Englishness' and 'brutishness' continues to define British Asian's cultural identity.

The inspiration for the paper came on the 14th June 2009 when England played India at Lord's the 'Home' of English cricket. Despite of the fact England won comfortably the contest was overshadow by the day's earlier events off the pitch. In the warm up match prior to the game it was revealed that the team had been jeered and booed by hundreds of British Asians who had come to support the Indian team (Indian Express). Following this event there was uproar within the cricket community as to British Asians sporting allegiances, their British citizenship.

The data was collected during fieldwork undertaken between June 2007 and January 2010 with two amateur cricket clubs in south Yorkshire. One was mostly white in membership, the other British Asian. The predominately white club is known in the local area to be middle class and had been criticized by those within the game as failing to move with the times. Those from the British Asian club had either been born in Britain or had emigrated during the late 1980's and early 1990's. Research was based on semi-structured interviews, focus groups interviews and participant observation. Match's training sessions and even social gatherings were attended (when possible). Yorkshire cricket had been known to be racist and suffer from racial inequality for a long time. The north of England on the whole had been plagued with a number of racially motivated civil disturbances such as the Bradford Riots (1995) and the Oldhan Riots (2001).As recently as August 2010 Bradford- known for its large south Asian communities, hosted English defence league demonstrations. This highlights the interaction between nationalism at the local level.

Interestingly Scotland's whole sporting identity is formed around their hatred of England- "We are the England Haters" is a common chant which is sung about football and other sporting events. Whether this chanting is self-parodying or a genuine attempt to antagonise the English fans it is ironic that there whole identity is reliant on England's existence. Perhaps more sinisterly the scots hatred of England runs deeper than just in football and is in fact a part of their national identity as a whole. It could be argued that Scotland's attempt in recent years to become a independent nation and be free from the crown represents this.

To a large number of people in America sport plays a important role in creating a sense of what it means to be an "American". It also represents a field where individuals can assert their dominance over their subordinates. Probably one of the clearest examples of this in American sport is in Ice Hockey, where its actually legal in the game if "the gloves are thrown off" to fight each other and the referees will often let them fight until one is tripped over.

Hockey is a sport created by the Canadians. However it didn't gain the popularity it has now in the country overnight. It wasn't until the earlier 20th century that it really become recognised as an international sport. However it has become so popular in the country that in terms of its symbolic power it has been placed alongside other national institutions such as the federal government the public health care system and the Canadian broadcasting corporation. So it has encorporated what it means to be a candian "Canada is hockey" is a common slogan which can apparently be found on t-shirts being sold on many NFL games.

In conclusion it can be seen that nationalism is prevalent in the world of sport, and it seems to be ever present regardless of how big the stage is. As I discussed earlier nationalism can be found at a local, national and transnational scale. Nationalism put simply is a ideology where individuals are linked by there strong identification with their home nation. Nationalism can be observed in many parts of society not only in sport but in many parts of culture. Out of the two perspectives which were discussed throughout this essay (gellner's structuralist perspective) and Bendicts anderson's "imagined communities" his more culturist argument seems to have more substance and is more of a solid argument. It was interesting to seem just have nationalism was engrained in the world of sport not just through Britain and the western world but seemingly throughout the whole world as well. Gellner diferiantes nationalism in the east as being "state enforced homogenisation" where he used his example of calling it a "empire of megalomania".