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This essay will critically analyse the link between nationalism and racism in order to establish if there is a correlation. Racism is an important debate in contemporary society because it is widely perceived that racism in no longer prevalent but racism continues to exist. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, racism is defined as the, ‘discrimination against or antagonism towards other races.’ Barack Obama was the first black president of America in 2009 but is constantly greeted with criticism claimed by former president, Jimmy Carter because he is black and the ‘belief held by many whites that an African American is not qualified to be in the White House.’ (The Guardian)
In order to answer this question I will firstly discuss the role of nationalism and the effects that it has upon imagined communities in nation-states in order to establish links between racism. To illustrate my theory I will use examples of how nationalism was used to promote racist views and reinforce a particular set of ideals. My First example is of Nazi Germany who wanted to eradicate the Jewish race in Europe. The German nation was to be cleansed and leave a superior German race. I will specifically look at the reasons why the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (NSDAP) was elected and how they used nationalism in order to promote the party’s hatred for the Jewish race. I will also look at how Nazi propaganda was used to reinforce racist views in order to bring together the nation-state.
The final example will explore the connotations of what exactly constitutes you to be a member of a nation-state and whether you have successfully integrated into society. In 2000 in the coastal town of Nea Michaniona an Albanian student named Odysseus Cenai was given the reward to carry the national flag at a commemorative parade. (Tzanelli, 2006:27) I will look at the reasons why Cenai and others were discriminated against by looking at how Greece functions and looking at the history between Greece and Albania to associate a link.
I believe that nationalism reinforces a particular image of nation-states in order to create a sense of national pride. I believe that nationalism has stemmed from political movements, religions and the media. Nationalism is not entirely to blame for racism but has played a vital role in supporting it.
Nationalism is defined as the:
‘Politicised social consciousness centered upon an ethnic born out of shared commonalities, seeking to achieve unity, autonomy and group interest by mobilizing ethnic-based constituencies.’ (Norbu, 1992:181)
Norbu (1992) has identified the fundamental role of nationalism within a nation; nationalism has in essence sought to restore the original Latin meaning of nation, people or country. (Norbu 1992:25) Nationalism is an ideology of the state or a static ideology insofar as it identifies peoples (nations) with states. Anderson (1983) claims there are three causes of nationalism: religion, dynastic realm and print capitalism. The historical context will provide the background for nationalism in order to establish the key motivators such as: patriotism, national pride, bringing the nation-state together and creating a specific set of beliefs.
The nation is ‘an imagined political community and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.’ (Anderson, 1983:06)
According to Anderson;
‘The nation is imagined because the member 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 lives the image of their communion.’ (Anderson, 1983:06)
Hitler’s rise to power had fundamental consequences for the German state as well as the persecution of Jews. The German public elected the National Social Workers Party (NSDAP) which was controlled by Hitler in order to lead them through a hard period in time due to the great depression and the economic and national casualty of World War I. In 1920 Anton Drexler published the “Twenty-Five Points” programme which set out the NSDAP policies. Bizarre combinations of political thought were in common in Germany in 1918. The growth of Nazism was undoubtedly helped by a climate of relatively similar ideas.’ (Eatwel, 2003:126)
This was pivotal to the party gaining control of the state because the morale of the nation was low and the economic crisis made it difficult for the nation. This program had set out how the German nation needed to take back control and create equality amongst a superior race by the removal of inferior races. The program was very negative and critiqued what was wrong with Germany at the time and was the reason why it became so appealing to the imagined community.
National pride ƒ Superior race
Hitler brought the German state closer by bringing back national pride to the imagined community, which had been missing for so long. He believed that the Aryan race was the superior race and everyone else was inferior. Drexler used Charles Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest and radicalised it by claiming that the inferior individuals should be eradicated. It was not just the Jews who were discriminated against but also the Slavs and the Blacks were ‘deemed inferior people, destined for conquest or servitude.'(37) Hitler used nationalism in order to discriminate against other races because they were seen as below them, by making the German race seem more important or worthy then everyone else he reinstalled national pride in the imagined community. In his 25 point programme he spoke of how he wanted to unite ‘all Germans in a great Germany’ and that “German people have rights to those equal to those of other nations and the Treaty of Versailles and St. Germain shall be abrogated.” Nazi Germany were rallied by this belief of their importance and wanted to take back what was rightfully theirs, sovereignty resides with the Aryan race (volksgemeinscharft)
Hitler believed that over time it was becoming ever more difficult to distinguish Jews from the Germans apart from their religion as they took on European identities which he believed was wrong because the Jews who held important positions were exploiting the nation for the own selfish needs. ‘Under Nazism Katz argues ‘racism became metaphysical and the destruction of the Jews was essential for the preservation of the German nation if not their salvation.’ (68)â€¦
Nazi propaganda ƒ Encourage them
Nazi propaganda played a significant role in keeping the nation state strong and to reinforce the state main policy, which was to create a superior race. Nazi propaganda was used to encourage everyone that what they had set out to do was the correct thing and the nation should be proud for cleaning society. ‘Publicity was designed to galvanize the population, to enforce continued adherence and group loyalty.’ Hitler constantly spoke of how he wanted to remove the Jewish race in Europe. Nazi ideology was consistently used with the aim of maintaining high national pride in the imagined community. In a popular weekly magazine, Der Angriff had a circulation of some 300,000 wrote, ‘the war will end with the extermination of the Jewish race’ and in another widely read article, Das Reich made an identical prediction: ‘the Jews will pay with the extermination (aussrottung) of their race in Europe.” The repetition of hated towards Jews in the press would become synonymous in the imagined community and therefore would support the German cause.’
Nazi Germany not only promoted propaganda but when they realised they were starting to lose grip on the war they tried to rally the nation by inciting fear. Nazi Germany tried to convince the imagined community that it was not just them who played a role in the effort to destroy European Jewry but it was the German public too. NSDAP believed that by intimidating the German nation, they would have no choice but to support and encourage their efforts. NSDAP claimed that ‘Jewish acts of revenge against the entire German people, and not just the Nazi leadership, should the war end unsuccessfully.’ This clearly shows the nation-state employed these fear tactics in order to rally the nation and convince them that what they were doing was for the greater good.
Hitler used nationalism in order to convince the public that what he set out to do was for the Aryan race. The two most important factors of Nazi ideology were anti-Semitism and racism, Nazi ideology was committed to the creation of a master race and hence the elimination of what it deemed ‘life unworthy of living’ among the Germans such as ‘mentally retarded, emotionally disturbed, and physically handicapped Germans, along with Gypsies and Jews. Hitler’s used nationalism to enforce his ideals by claiming that the Aryan race were superior and that the Jews were the eternal enemy of the German people.
Political movement ƒ History
ƒ Hitlers anti-Semitic view
Hitler was an anti-Semitic leader, who wasn’t afraid to publicize his radical hatred towards the Jewish race and Hitlers ‘ideas regarding anti-Semitism must be total removal of the Jews.’ Hitler alone is not to blame for the devastating crime committed to the persecution of an entire race but the NSDAP party who believed in the Nazi ideology and the people who were involved in it as well as the people who stood by and watched. ‘
Greece (2000-2004) there were several cases of racial prejudice, which brought to the foreground questions of national identity, racism and discrimination. Traditionally the best pupil of the school in recognition of that pupil’s excellence holds the Greek national symbol. This was not the case in 2000 because in the costal town of Nea Michaniona the Michaniote found out the best student was not Greek but in actual fact Albanian, whose family migrated to Greece a few years before in search of a better life. Odysseus Cenai (Odhise Qenaj) is the student in question, which caused uproar from his peers and their parents. The main reason for such hostility was because of his race, he was Albanian and not Greek. This racism towards Cenai and many others who inhabit Greece has stemmed from historical events, religious views and patriotism towards their country. Firstly I will discuss the context in which the events occurred because it provides us with an insight to the beliefs of the imagined community. The reason why the Greek nation were so adamant not to see Cenai an Albanian to carry the flag was because of the significance of the flag. The flag and the national anthem are emblematic references to the Greeks with its own myth of common origins and history (Smith 1981, p. 66). The Greek flag (blue with white cross) dates back to a decree issued during the Greek Independence War (1822), and ‘entwin[es] national sentiments with religious convictions’ (Karakasidou 2000, p. 226). The Greek anthem operates along the same lines, as both its history (as a piece of poetry composed by the Greek ‘national poet’, Solomos) and its content refer to the process of Greek ethnogenesis.’ Greek ethnogensis derives from the Greek Ethnos, which means ‘groups of people’, or ‘nation’ is the process by which a group of human beings come to be understood or understand themselves ethnically distinct from the wider social landscape from which their grouping emerges. This is an important concept because the Greek culture is very patriotic and consider themselves distinct from other races due to their belief towards Greek orthodox. The national flag according to Firth today plays a symbolic function, being a ‘condensation symbol’ and ‘a focus for sentiment about society. (Firth 1975:356) The national flag symbolises the sacred character of the nation; loyal citizens revere it. The national flag plays an important role in maintaining the patriotism and love for Greece. Michael Billig suggests that “the place of national flags in contemporary life bears a moment’s consideration” (1995, p. 117). These moments of thoughts towards the flag and the significance that they play are fundamental in creating a strong sense of national pride. National pride could be considered ideologically racist because you adore your country and you don’t want anyone tarnishing its image.
The parade itself is very important because it is too commemorate the Greeks strength and their determination not to give in to the Italian ‘ultimatum’ and surrender to the Axis Forces on the 28th October 1940. Throughout Greece the imagined community remembers the legendary ‘Ohi’ (No) that the Metaxas fascist regime (1936-1941) allegedly delivered to the Italian fascist regime. The conflict between the Greek and Albanians supported by Italy that followed the ‘ohi’ and the short-lived Greek victory before the German invasion and occupation (1941), are registered as a great patriotic act. Parading thus symbolizes the triumph of the ‘Greek spirit’ over its ‘enemies.’ (Karakasidou 2000:241) patriotism towards their country is clearly high among the Greeks and this is evident in there battle against having a non-Greek carry the flag which means so much to them and in this was they are honouring their victory. However this may be good for the Greeks that they love their country but this has also created barriers between other cultures. According to Nadia Seremeta-kis then adviser to the Greek Ministry of Public Health discovered an association between Albanians and other immigrants to Greece after the opening of EU borders and stories about ‘waves of infections crossing Greek frontiers.’ (Seremetakis 1996:489) This creates a sense of imagery in that the infections are the immigrants crossing the Greek border. The connotation of the term infection describes the immigrants as if they are invading the host country, the racist tone towards other cultures is evident and this is due to national pride. Albanians have even changed their names to Greek traditional ways in order to fit into society so they wouldn’t be stigmatised. Furthermore it was from Greek perceptions that if you were a different ethnicity to them, then you are Albanian. (ibid) The fact that they cant distinguish between different races reinforces the Greek nation’s attitude towards other races and their racist views.
There was a possibility of granting Cenai Greek citizenship so that he could participate but some Greeks argued that would not erase his ‘alien’ identity. Two mothers of Michaniote pupils gave voice to such reservations by shouting in a local meeting ‘I will not let an Albanian touch MY FLAG or sing MY NATIONAL anthem!!!’ (Raptis 16 November 2003). The racial tone was evidence of their dislike of Albanians and their unwillingness to assimilate other cultures into their society. For example, senior members of the conservative party Nea Dimokratia (New Democracy) suggested that bearing the flag is a question of birthright, thus overriding the civic conception of the nation. The substitution of civic with ethnic understandings of the nation figured again in 2003, when the Prefect of Thessaloniki, Panagiotis Psomiadis, declared that ‘You are born a Greek, you cannot be turned into a Greek!’ (Raptis 16 November 2003).
Firth, R. (1975) ‘Symbolism of flags’, in Symbols Public and Private, Cornell
University Press, Ithaca, New York.
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