Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, March 03, 2006

Citizenship, Ethnicity, and the Nation-State – Perceptions of Identity Explored

March 2, 2006

The Woodrow Wilson Center – Co-author the new book Citizenship and Ethnic Conflict: Challenging the nation-state and Turkish scholar Haldun Gulalp, along with Irish scholar John Coakley, discussed conflicts between national and ethnic identity, using Turkey, the European Union and Iraq as three case studies.

Gulalp addressed the need of state authorities to simplify complex identity factors within a society by forcing every facet into a cohesive national identity. While Gulalp said that “nation-states aim to create a coincidence between nationality and state sovereignty,” not all citizens are tied together by an ethnic, racial and religious core. As a result, this trend by governments toward assimilation has fomented the rise of identity movements throughout the world.

According to Gulalp, “Citizenship is universal and inclusive – but that is only a partial picture.” National communities, he continued are bounded and based upon homogeneity, which conflicts with the reality of ethnic diversity within them. This creates a fundamental tension and an uneasy marriage, or “cultural straightjacket,” between multiculturalism and assimilation.

The European Union, Gulalp said has moved toward “liberating citizenship from nationality,” providing a “super national” model.

Coakley examined the changing notions of citizenship in the countries profiled in Gulalp’s book, comparing Germany’s transitional definition of a citizen as stemming from right of blood to one of right of birth; Greece’s move from a religious to secular definition of citizenship and doing away with ID cards listing religious affiliation; Turkey’s concept of citizenship being tied to a ‘shared Turkish culture’ of religion and language; and Iraq’s troubled legacy of the Baathist regime, with its power base built on ethnic divisions.

Gulalp, Coakley and members of the audience debated various issues tied to citizenship, including the idea of a state based on a social contract and the right to self-determination. Coakley quoted political scientist Dankwart Rustow, saying that in regard to self-determination, “The people cannot decide until somebody decides who are the people.”


Post a Comment

<< Home