Showing posts from June, 2018

Letters from Eastern Europe

Nationality cannot be observed in the blood, nor in the soil, nor even on the tongue. “Nationality exists in the minds of men,” a Dutch historian explained, in the wake of the last Great War. “Outside men’s minds there can be no nationality, because nationality is a manner of looking at oneself not an entity as such. Common sense is able to detect it, and the only human discipline that can describe and analyse it is psychology. . . . This awareness, this sense of nationality, this national sentiment, is more than a characteristic of the nation. It is nationhood itself.” Nations, in other words, are not natural entities but social constructs, like race or gender, resting on sometimes insidious assumptions about the essential characteristics of their members. Today a revival of nationalism is reshaping the postwar order of Europe. These nationalist impulses emerge from a basic human desire for the perceived safety of a strong group identity, and for perceived homogen