How do we use Others to shape our own national identities?

How do we use Others to shape our own national identities?


– The nationalist doctrine says that the world is divided into nations, so no one nation, there could be no one nation of humanity, so the world is divided into nations. For one nation to exist,
there are other nations and even the principle
of self-determination has to do with the recognition
there are other nations, nations beyond ours. Nations do not exist in a vacuum, and they’re not
self-contained, they’re not… The feeling of national belonging, in my view, is a relative thing, it’s a relational feeling,
it’s not an absolute feeling. So it has to do with somebody else, and the Significant Other is that Other, that other group or other nation, that is very important for your in-group. The Significant Other is
not necessarily a threat. Of course, it is often a threat. But it can also be an
inspiring Significant Other. And again, if we look at the history, some nations, particularly at the time of
national formation in the late 19th century and early 20th century, the nations that had acquired independence and had formed their own states, were an inspiration for those nations that were still fighting for creating their own national state. On the other hand, for instance, Significant Others are often migrants. In some countries that have
a past of race relations, Significant Others are
people who are black. For countries that have suffered from colonialism, the Significant Other can be the “mother country” so to speak, the mother country that colonized them. So again, in there I think it is important to understand that you have different Significant Others at any one given point in time, and also that these
Significant Others can change. By definition, migrants or ethnic groups cannot be an inspiring
Significant Other for nations because they are a lesser thing. A nation has to be a nation, you know, being a migrant, within the
nationalism point of view, is a bad thing. Because ideally, nationals
are with their own nation, is what this famous French sociologist, Abdelmalek Sayad said, thirty years ago, he said, the migrant is
where he should not be, and he’s absent from where he should be, so, well, he was thinking
of Algerians in France. And Algerians in France
should not be in France, should be in Algeria. He wasn’t saying that
this was a good thing, he’s saying that’s the trouble, that’s why migration
upsets the national order. And if you think about it, it’s so blunt, but it is true. It is also the whole
question of citizenship. You as a migrant, you’re not
a citizen of the destination, you cannot vote, you are a citizen of your own country, but you cannot vote, you cannot
participate in your own country because you are absent. But the refugee crisis has been important in bringing again migration
to the foreground, but I don’t think that
the refugees as such are the Other in Europe today. It’s still unfortunately the Muslims. Nobody speaks very overtly about race. Not even the worst politicians,
the most racist politicians. But they speak very much about Muslims. I know most people will disagree with me, but I don’t think Islam is the problem, not at all. I think the fact that
they’re Muslims is played up because, talking about
the Significant Other, this is the only Other that
can now exist for the West. This is the Other that exists. This used to be the Soviet Union, this used to be capitalism and communism. But communism is no
longer a viable option, the whole what was the Other, then, has been dismantled or has imploded. Of course, now we see a
multipolar world coming up, but in terms of culture and in terms of political unity, Muslims provide for the Significant Other towards which the West can feel united. The refugee crisis is a catalyst or a symptom of something
much deeper and much longer that is happening in Europe and the world. The migrant does not come into a box, that is stable, defined, compact, and the migrant comes in
and they have to adapt. That’s actually assimilation. It’s not integration. But also this box is not homogenous, and it’s not compact. It’s very diverse, it’s very dynamic, it’s moving, and things are changing in themselves, in any case,
but also through migration. So the Greece where I grew up, in the 70’s and 80’s is very different from the Greece of today. Where a child might grow up,
and this is the same for Italy, and I would think it’s
the same for Germany, and even for Britain. We cannot think that
there is something called Italian society, or French
society, or British society, where the migrant comes
in and they have to unilaterally adapt. So integration is a two-way street. And I think the fact of it is. The challenge is that societies
have to rethink themselves while they are changing, and maybe a little bit change
their own self-definition. I think, in some countries in Europe, this has happened, I would say Britain, France, Germany has perhaps been one of the most recent cases. Spain, I think has achieved
to a large extent this. Other countries are
having trouble, thinking, “Okay, my country is no
longer what it used to be. It has changed and we
have to incorporate this into our self-definition.” And we have to a bit question
our position as a majority. And we have to open up, and that diversity is welcome. I think, that is… and
oftentimes politicians don’t help this, don’t help this work.

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