Weekend Reading 08/25/2017

Justin Collier's picture

H-Nationalism’s Weekend Reading series highlights recent and thought-provoking reviews, blog posts, brief articles, and op-eds.  Have something to say about something you read?  Feel free to respond here or contact David Prior (prior@mail.h-net.msu.edu) and Justin Collier (collierjustin@gmail.com) about writing a blogpost. Follow us on Twitter @HNationalism.


Dear All,

Time has a piece on dueling rallies in Boston by White nationalists and counter-protesters that drew thousands of people. The Mercury News has a story on the growth of White nationalists in California. LA Daily News has an op-ed defending American nationalism. The New York Times has an op-ed written by Derek Black, son of the former Alabama Klan leader who now runs the largest White nationalist web forum in the world, on White nationalism and American history. VOX has an op-ed criticizing former chief strategist and campaign manager Steve Bannon’s economic nationalism. Financial Times has a  story on economic nationalism in the Trump administration after Bannon’s exit. Salon has an op-ed arguing that some conservative media is helping to usher White nationalism into the mainstream. Huffington Post has a story on American Jews’ response to the recent rise in White nationalism. CNBC has a story on recent comments made by a venture capitalist that Donald Trump wasn't a friend of business but a supporter of White nationalism.The Wire has an interesting piece on women joining the alt-right movement and women and nationalism. Business Insider has an op-ed arguing that there is very little difference between White nationalism and the alt-right. The National Review has an op-ed arguing in favor of culture-based national identity.

The Independent has a piece on recent comments made by Frans Timmermans, First Vice President of the European Commission, saying that nationalism leads to state weakness.

Forbes has a piece on nationalism, globalism, and the retail giant Amazon.

Herald Scotland has an op-ed arguing that changing the Scottish National Party’s name will not “wish away” the nationalism behind it. The Irish Times has an op-ed on how Irish nationalism needs to move beyond its past. The Scotsman has an op-ed arguing that voters in Scotland are moving past nationalism.

The Diplomat has a story on Bollywood’s encounter with nationalism in Nepal.  The Washington Post has an article discussing what it’s like for a Pakistani living in PM Modi’s Hindu nationalists India.

The New York Times has a piece on how the Barcelona attacks have impacted the relationship between the Spanish and Catalan government and the Catalan independence row. The Economist also published a piece on the same subject. The Guardian has an op-ed on how Catalonia’s reaction to the attack might suggest that it is ready to be independent.



Emmanuel Dalle Mulle and Justin Collier



Dear All,

My name is Nicholas James and I’m a MSc student in comparative politics. I’ve decided to begin making weekly commentaries on the Weekend Reading series to fill in some of the egregious free time which I’ve been faced with recently. After a discussion with some of H-Nationalism’s editors, we decided that the best avenue for these commentaries would be as direct replies to the original posts. These commentaries are meant to comment on general themes extracted from the week and so will cover 1-5 of the articles. They are purely for auxiliary reading and represent my own views and understandings. Feel free to reply to me here, on twitter @nicholasdjames, or on my H-Net profile.



For the past two weeks, I’ve grappled with how to best approach what happened in Charlottesville. The protests and counter-protests around the country exemplify cleavages in the American electorate. On “many sides,” questions are asked as to whether the nation ought to look forward towards “cosmopolitanism” or if it ought to salvage and strengthen various notions of “traditionalism.” I am going to discuss this tension between “traditionalism” and “cosmopolitanism” in the context of growing white nationalism by analyzing how white nationalists and supremacists (ab)use and build upon the American national mythos. I want to focus solely on the cultural turmoil found in the “statue debate” and for this reason won’t really comment on Trump’s presidency and policymaking as a legitimizing factor to this brand of white nationalism even though in many ways that is a key part of this movement.

The bigotry and hatred on display in Charlottesville betrayed American civic values outlined in the surrounding baggage and myth of the American creed. Yet, as many commentators have already rightly pointed out, America has long been a country of contradiction where white supremacy and nationalism have been key underlying components of the political system which tries to adhere to the American creed. For instance, presidents engage in coded racial language, voting districts are drawn to disenfranchise voters, and discrimination against People of Color marks media discourse. The bigotry on display is familiar for a reason. This “new” far-right formulation of Americanism and nationalism are among a band of old phenomena reacting to the new conditions and expectations of a changing world. However, the frightening and most striking thing about this iteration of white nationalism is that its practitioners are young and energetic torchbearers (quite literally).  

It seems that as cosmopolitanism and “globalism” spread, and as we inch ever forward towards a more global culture, regionalism and peripheral action increase as a response. Mass action against cosmopolitanism can often be explained in terms of economic anxiety and ethnic fears of “extermination.” Rhetoric coming from the far-right often includes a need to preserve history and the status quo from deterioration. In the US case, the preservation of a “glorious” past intersects with a long history of racial abuse and white hegemony. The far-right seemingly defines equality as the loss of economic stability and the loss of economic stability with white ethnocide—economic anxiety and ethnic xenophobia ensue. The proposed solution is a return to traditional values, to Make America Great Again, and a regression into further white hegemony. This rhetoric of mass action is taking form around some brand of ethnic traditionalism and seeks a return to a “proper” value system found in a glorious and immortal past exemplified by the pre-Civil War South and later in the Jim Crow era. In this form, ethnic traditionalism is intersecting with strong regionalism which is, of course, dangerous and facilitates the conditions around which factitious memories can form. So, it isn’t random that, for the far-right nationalist, white pride is synonymous with Americanism and “culture” and that the symbols of such Americanism are mostly in the South. Though the alt-right are part of a larger phenomenon in the world of far-right populism and nationalism, their flavor is distinctly American. They have elements of anti-globalism or cosmopolitanism and adopt some forms of regionalism—i.e., protecting monuments to “Southern pride” and wanting to have some semblance state (read: Southern) sovereignty.

Interestingly, Anthony Smith points out in Nations and Nationalism in a Global Era that ethnic legacies of core-peripheral tension will impact globalism as peripheral ethnic polities appropriate native histories and symbols and develop them against the core. This sort of core-peripheral tension is certainly found in constructions of Southern identity post-Jim Crow era—Confederate monument building exemplifies that tension. Southern peripheral identity grew at the expense of a core nationality and constructed a separate glorious destiny for itself—one which the far-right idolizes. Narratives which stress a dynamic between “Us” and “Them” in the context of ethnic competition build communities of exclusion. Currently, the “statue debate” is salient because of this “Us” and “Them” dynamic which, by its very nature, creates two differing sets of remembrances. The far-right deliberately latches onto symbols which exclude what they view as the Other, the globalist, or the cosmopolitan. Their idolizing of these statues does indeed glorify “brotherhood, history, and traditional values” just at the expense of other peoples. It’s a logic which tries to coalesce a “white nation,” preserve history, and protect an ethnic brotherhood. Indeed, this was heavily echoed in Charlottesville. The entire protest movement centered on “protecting history” by saving monuments to the Confederacy from being removed and at the same time, white nationalist protestors my age chanted, “you will not replace us.” Here, we have a rather telling response to civil rights and action through the intersection of historicism and traditionalism. Their narrative includes a belief that there is an erasure of “white culture” and “white destiny,” and the only way to rectify this is by returning to traditional values and beliefs.  White nationalists chanted slogans which formulated white destiny as separate from that of other races while protecting symbols devoted to that same idea of white destiny. This rhetoric helps create and sustain an internal dialogue which influences the construction of exclusive communities. In this way, the alt-right is certainly like other far-right ethnic nationalist movements. What we saw in Charlottesville was distinctly un-American in its violence and bigotry and yet, on the same grounds, clearly in line with the country's history.

The alt-right re-appropriates symbols of whiteness in a quest for authenticity—a central legitimizing factor of a nation. The average supporter of the alt-right might view men like Robert E Lee or Jefferson Davis as heroes of the past. They glorify men who fought for the cause of state’s rights and Southern sovereignty against Northern (read: cosmopolitan) oppression. It’s better for them, they seem to believe, to live in this constructed past than in the present where they feel left behind and alienated by an ever-modernizing public. A paradox exists in modernity where forces which ought to coalesce nations together actually help create peripheral nationalisms and regionalisms. Regions, peripheries, and entire national dialogues return to the traditional and the religious to make sense out of an expanding sphere of community and the opportunities and obligations that brings. Jack Jenkins has an excellent article on how the religious right has nationalist reactions against modernity and what these reactions mean for peripheral regionalisms in American politics. What does it mean to be an American if others are granted full citizenship rights? What happens to our grand destiny? The far-right tackles these questions with reactionaryism and outright xenophobia and racism. They cling to a white “culture” that never was and in doing so are constructing new forms of cultural dialogue using old motifs.