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Books - History - Historical Study - Books About Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Identity

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    The Ethnic Origins of Nations
    by Anthony D. Smith
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 June, 1988)
    list price: $39.95 -- our price: $39.95
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    Reviews (1)

    4-0 out of 5 stars title says it all
    In this book Anthony Smith does exactly what he sets out to do, namelyshow how important ethnic groups have been for setting the foundation ofmodern nations.Neglected by such modernists as Anderson, Hobsbawm andKedourie, ethnic groups have been around for as long as the written word:Smith digs into the past and comes out with gobs of them in the ancientMiddle East alone, some of them quite obscure: you definitely deserve aprize if you've heard of the Arameans, Hurrians, Urartians andAmorites.

    Smith creates a whole typology about ethnic groups.He claimsthat all ethnic groups (or, as he calls them, 'ethnies', from the Frenchfor 'ethnic community') have several key aspects, including a name, commonmyth of descent, shared history and culture, territory and a sense ofsolidarity.They also fit into two main categories: lateral ethnies, whichare based on an aristocracy and clerisy and rule over an indefinite butoften large area, and the vertical ethnies, based on a urban, priestly orartisan class which rule over a small but clearly marked area.

    Smithdiscusses the development of nations in the context of the FrenchRevolution, when the modern concept of citizenship entered the picture, andhere his narrative lets up a bit.Devoting most of the book to ethnicity,when he comes to discussing the two main types of modern nations -territorial (or non-ethnic) and ethnic - he spends too much time on thelatter and not enough on former.This is an important flaw, since hethereby almost dismisses those nations like the U.S. which do not have anethnic foundation and thus do not fit his theory.

    Nonetheless this bookis useful for the sole but important purpose of reinforcing the linkbetween many nations and their ethnic pasts. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0631161694
    Sales Rank: 472573
    Subjects:  1. Anthropology - General    2. Archaeology / Anthropology    3. Sociology   


    $39.95

    The Invention of Tradition (Canto)
    by Eric Hobsbawm, Terence Ranger
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (31 July, 1992)
    list price: $19.99 -- our price: $19.99
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    Reviews (4)

    3-0 out of 5 stars Informative, but somewhat misguided
    The basic thesis of all essays in "The Invention of Tradition" is that many of the mass, public traditions in various societies of the world (from Scottish kilts to the very concept of tribes in Africa) are well-crafted ("invented") constructs of the 18th/19th centuries, and are not as ancient or immemorial as they are generally believed to be. Parenthetically, the very expression "invention of tradition" is somewhat redundant, since all traditions, as products of human behavior and human imagination rather than the result of natural forces, are invented in one way or another. All of the essays in the book show how this is so, providing an excellent analysis of the origins of these traditions. As such they are very valuable contributions to contemporary social/political history. However, although the tone of the book is that such "invented traditions" were frequently almost imposed and/or used as instruments of political manipulation, it can't be denied that they also very often gave expression to very real feelings - as editor Hobsbawm concedes in his concluding essay. Thus, rather than demonstrating some sort of arbitrary "invention" and manipulation, Prys Morgan's chapter on the Welsh also shows how previous traditions in Wales were revived, reformulated and continuously adapted from the late seventeenth century on to meet various political, social and cultural challenges, thus making the process of invention seem quite "natural." On the other hand, Terence Ranger's essay on Africa is almost disturbing in that it seems to imply that almost every aspect of African politics and society today were bequethed by the continent's former European colonial masters. Hugh Trevor-Roper's chapter on Scotland is useful in that it pinpoints the exact origins of the "highland tradition" and all outer, visual identity markers used by the Scots, but the overall implication seems to be that now that the sham is revealed, the Scots should discard their kilts and bagpipes in shame. It would have been more useful if he had provided an explanation of why Scottish patriots, and others, so eagerly accepted these "invented traditions," and why they are so deeply entrenched and stronger than ever today. This goes for the entire book: it's main value may be in (unitentionally) showing how all traditions are in fact invented in one way or another, and that they become traditions because, at least at the time of their inception, they serve strongly felt political, social, cultural or even economic needs.

    4-0 out of 5 stars The truth behind the tartans!
    Hugh Trevor-Roper's contribution to this book is priceless.In his chapter "Invention of Tradition: The Highland Tradition of Scotland", he details for the reader where the supposedly "ancient" costume of Scotland came from.The kilt was invented by an English Quaker about 1726 to allow his Highland workmen to more easily move while smelting the iron ore he was extracting.The kilt was thus an expression of the Industrial Revolution rather than an ancient freedom of the heather.

    The "setts" of tartans purporting to show a particular pattern of plaid belonging to a particular Highland clan is an even more recent invention.The concept of a unified group wearing the same tartan began with the English formation of the Highland regiments in the 1740s and later.The Scottish cloth industry recognized a good thing when they saw it and with the help of the Scottish Romantic movement and with promotion by Sir Walter Scott, by the 1820s, Clan/tartan pattern books (which often disagreed with one another) were happily catering to this invented tradition.

    Invented by mis-guided or plainly fraudulent "antiquarians", the concept of particular tartan patterns being associated with a specific Clan is one of the long-running jokes played by the Scots on the rest of the world.Rather like the game of golf.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The real stuff of legend
    The principle argumentative thread running through each of this book's essays is that the traditions Europeans hold dear about their respective cultures date back merely to the turn of the 20th century.Far fromlegendarily old, things like Scottish tartans and the English monarchical love of pomp and circumstance date back only to the Victorian era.More tothe point, many traditions aren't even native to the land which celebratesthem.Tartans, the book concludes, are actually northern English ideas,and the "British" love of pageantry comes more from India than fromanything deeply rooted in the gardens of the House of Windsor.

    But sowhat?What is the importance of discovering the "truth" of a legend?Doesit make us less reverential of it?Judging by the continued popularity ofSanta Claus, no.Traditions, after all, aren't really about truth.Manytraditions are simply lies that have been repeated enough that they becomeennobled.The point isn't that they were once lies.The point is thejourney they have made from lie to legend.

    That is what is sointriguing about this book.True, there are other, more political subtextsin these essays-some of the authors clearly don't LIKE that the lies havebecome cultural "truth"-but all of the essays tell of the trek each ofthese myths made.Far from the "inconsequence" that another reviewer hasmentioned, these essays deepen our understanding of cherished myths andeven make them more endearing. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0521437733
    Sales Rank: 118662
    Subjects:  1. Anthropology - Cultural    2. Archaeology / Anthropology    3. Cultural And Social Anthropology    4. Customs & Traditions    5. Folklore    6. History    7. History: World    8. Manners and customs    9. Origin    10. Reference    11. Rites and ceremonies    12. Social Institutions    13. World - General    14. Anthropology    15. History / World    16. World history   


    $19.99

    Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism
    by Benedict Anderson
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Hardcover (01 September, 1991)
    list price: $59.95
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    Reviews (20)

    5-0 out of 5 stars A masterful study
    Anderson's reach is astounding; in a single work he crisscrosses the world studying the birth and development of nationalism. I have to disagree with one of the reviewers who has characterized this as a difficult essay, the language is quite straightforward and Anderson is very lucid.

    And the quips.

    i) While Anderson does a superb job of identifying the development of nationalism in different regions, he fails to account for the strength of feeling that nationalism engenders;

    ii) This one is only down to my ignorance but I wish the French quotations were translated;

    But the above notwithstanding it really is a masterful study. Some of the insights are so profound that they apply to instances not mentioned in the study. The case of the native finding that his/her way was restricted to the colony was true of the leaders in India.

    It is also an excellent antidote for those who view the world as a collection of Bantustans, with roots that date back to antiquity. The communities are imagined and countries are a result of historical contingency.

    3-0 out of 5 stars For a very specific reader.
    The popularity of this literary work in a certain few tiny social loops can be expected, but for the typical reader, this can not be recommended.

    This book gives a logical and insightful explanation to the definition, origins, and effects of nationalism. While it is a great book for political scientists, historians and those with an extreme interest in nationalism, I can not recommend it for anyone else.

    I fell asleep reading almost every chapter of it. There is a lot of material that is presented in such a complicated mess of logic that its importance to the typical reader becomes irrelevant. The writing style is absolutely distasteful to anyone who values simplicity. For many, reading the reviews here on Amazon will be more enlightening than reading the actual book because of the book's unbearable ultra-windedness. Fortunately, the author does put his major points in "summation" at the end of just about every chapter. I would recommend that someone read the end of each chapter of the book before considering its purchase.

    In a summation of this review I will once again iterate that this is not a book for everyone. It has to be something of an extreme interest to you or it will likely bore you or seem extremely superfluous.

    5-0 out of 5 stars "i cheers for democracy"
    Benedict Anderson's *Imagined Communities*, perhaps the most important work of political science published in the last 20 years, brings historical good sense and a panoply of meticulously organized facts to bear on the central problem of 20th-century history: namely, the growth and spread of nationalist sentiments in places that did not previously permit such for *several* reasons.Anderson's analysis "undoes" several commonplaces about the nation-state, chief among them that the concept originated in Europe: he locates the critical "fusion" of people and state as occurring with the anti-colonial movement around Simon Bolivar in 19th century Latin America, rather than the earlier movement for independence of the British colonies which formed the United States.

    However, to Anderson's mind the character of one of the modern world's more curious institutions is not entirely without import for understanding nationalist movements, as they almost without exception employ concepts of territorial and cultural integrity which did not exist prior to colonial regimentation: the scope and extent of today's India has more to do with the British Raj than the Moghuls.But perhaps this displacement is in truth somewhat not to the taste of contemporary "interrogators" of the intersection to truth and power, and the art of Anderson's book consists in his leaving the question of national unity unsolved. To my mind one of the most telling instances of democratic sentiment on hand, and a book whose way with you is so short on account of its often-tortured verbiage: gems such as this have other uses, and I can imagine almost no use for this book. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0860913295
    Sales Rank: 664362
    Subjects:  1. History    2. History & Theory - General    3. Nationalism    4. Political Ideologies - Nationalism    5. Political Science    6. Politics/International Relations   


    Biology As Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA
    by Richard C. Lewontin
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 January, 1993)
    list price: $12.00 -- our price: $9.60
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    Reviews (14)

    3-0 out of 5 stars Lewontin's Biology overcome by Ideology
    Some interesting and original points are made, but together with many flaws, in general attributing exaggerated weight to ideological influences on the scientific community (possibly concluding from his own strong political nature). Here are a few representative points:

    1. "What Darwin did was take early 19th century political economy and expand it to include all of natural economy" (p.10).

    On what does he base this allegation ? It is well known that Darwin was impressed by Malthus' reasoning on geometrical increase of populations, but this does not imply he adopted or expanded on the social, ethical or executive conclusions of some form of capitalist economy.
    Darwin wrote somewhere, "It is not the strongest nor even the most intelligent species that will survive, but those most responsive to change."

    Maybe Lewontin feels some resentment as he writes in the same paragraph: "Darwin... earned his living from investment in shares he followed daily...".

    2. When portraying the biological world view, he writes "Genes make individuals and individuals make society, and so genes make society. If one society is different from another, that is because the genes..." (p.14)

    This is a caricature of the Dawkins point of view. There are evidently different forms of governance and economic systems that humans can create, which still conform to their basic natures, even if this nature is genetically influenced and shared.

    3. "There is at present no convincing measure of the roles of genes in influencing human behavioral variation." (p.33, where he also discusses IQ and twin studies).
    And also "we know nothing about the heritability of human temperamental and intellectual traits." (p.96).

    That seems to be a very ill-informed reading of the evidence, but maybe this is due also to recent information missing to him as the book was written in 1991.

    4. "Sociobiology is the latest and most mystified attempt to convince people that human life is pretty much what it has to be and perhaps even ought to be." (p.89)

    It seems he has fallen here onto the 'naturalistic fallacy'. I don't think E.O Wilson ever alluded to that in his writings.

    5. "Sociobiological theory claims that all human beings share genes for aggression, for xenophobia, for male dominance, and so on. But if we all share these genes, if evolution has made us all alike in this human nature, then in principle there would be no way to investigate the heritability of those traits... (but) if there is variation then on what basis... is (this) universal human nature."

    Has he not contemplated the logical possibility that we share genes that differentially affect measures of tendencies for these traits, with small variation relative to their mean ? Why is it only black or white ?

    6. "It must be remembered that the nonreproductive homosexuals must help their brothers and sisters so well that those relatives have twice as many offspring as usual..." (p.103)

    I would have expected of him to contemplate the other, more reasonable possibility, that a homosexuality related gene (if indeed exists) may confer some (health) benefit on its bearers in the feminine line, and thus statistically avoid extinction (like the sickle-cell advantage to malaria) ? It doesn't have to do with kin selection.

    7. "The most famous theory of evolution before Darwin was... Lamarck... Darwin completely rejected this world-view and replaced it with one in which organisms and environment were completely separated" (p.108)

    Not so true. It is known that Darwin himself subscribed to some Lamarckian processes.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The Doctrine of DNA
    Despite some shortcomings, I was thoroughly impressed by this book that I read it two times in a row. I also chose to base a school project on it. I am quite convinced that "Biology as Ideology" might actually have been one of the most important books of the previous century (Yes, I mentioned this in my project). And although it is atypical of me to comment on other people's reviews, some things just warrant correction. Contrary to what one reviewer said, Lewontin never once suggests that "there is no such thing as race" in this book. And although Lewontin has a thing or to two to say about reductionism - - he does not completely resent it. He talks about an ideal view "that sees the entire world neither as an indissoluble whole, or as isolated bits and pieces". It's easy to miss this message because Lewontin does tend to have a propensity for veering off-topic once in a while. I also don't think that it's far-fetched at all to call Lewontin a Marxist. Although he only mentions Karl Marx once in this book, most of his views on society strongly cohere with Marx's.

    In our world today, any product of science is claimed and treated as a universal truth. Lewontin encourages the reader not to be mystified by science (don't just leave it to the experts!) And science has never been as "objective" and "nonpolitical" as it claims because it's a product of society. Scientists will view nature through lens molded by social experience.

    I thought it daring (and brave) that Lewontin - a luminary in the study of genetics today -should question Darwin's "natural selection", and see more sense in Lamarck's inheritance of acquired characteristics. This book is good because it makes you observe the other side of things. It makes you think.

    Perhaps the most excellent point made by Lewontin in his book is that of biological determinism as a way of social legitimization. Biological determinism has been used to explain and justify the inequalities within and between societies and to claim that those inequalities can never be changed. We are being taught that there is genetic differentiation between racial groups in characteristics such as behavior, temperament, and intelligence. We are also being taught that people's genes are connected to things like unemployment, eroticism, dominance, poverty, and homelessness. It really getting ridiculous! There is too much power being blunderingly put on the DNA molecule.

    I however, disagree with Lewontin that the genome project was a waste of time and billions. It has helped not only consolidate the theory of evolution...but it has also helped in areas like systematics, phylogeny, and taxonomy. Another shortcoming is that Lewontin's book is more than a decade old - many discoveries and advancements have occurred since then in molecular genetics.

    1-0 out of 5 stars A Nice Propaganda Piece
    This book claims that there is no such thing as race. While this would be nice, unfortunatly that is just not the case. Scientists can take a drop of blood and determine if its owner is Asian, African-American, European, Jewish, etc. If there is no such thing as race, then how is this possible?
    This book was used in a biased anthropology class that I took for my BA. I only bought it because I was forced to. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0060975199
    Sales Rank: 191929
    Subjects:  1. Biology    2. Life Sciences - Biology - General    3. Philosophy    4. Philosophy Of Biology    5. Science    6. Science/Mathematics    7. Social aspects   


    $9.60

    Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights (Oxford Political Theory)
    by Will Kymlicka
    Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
    Hardcover (01 June, 1995)
    list price: $35.00
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    Reviews (6)

    3-0 out of 5 stars Mixed-bag
    This book is a mixed bag- there are interesting and important arguments for a brand of multi-cultural citizenship, and for the idea that national minorities are morally distinct from immigrant groups.However, there are also serious problems.The historical analysis is often at least somewhat off- it's very odd to make a big deal that 19th centruy liberals supported nationalism w/o noting, at all, that this was largely due to their insidious racism, held even by liberals like Mill.That this isn't even mentioned or considered is a shocking omission.That's just one of many examples.Often the book seems to vastly over-generalize from the Canadian experience, w/o making this clear or noting what's being done.Much of the discussion of immigrant groups doesn't really fit that well w/ the facts, and lacks the sympathetic insite that Kymlicka displays towards national minorities.Several of the main thesies are challanged by the experience of the EU, and no mention of that is made at all.(Some of that is surely due to the book being nearly 10 years old, but even at that time some of the claims about what people what, what's possible, etc. were already being challanged by developments in the EU.)SO, the book should be read and considered, but the arguments are too full of gaps to be anywhere close to convincing now.

    4-0 out of 5 stars A strong argument for multiculturalism
    Kymlicka's arguement is both forceful and articulate, making Multicultural Citizenship a valuable work for both specialists and those simply currious about political though and multiculturalism. While by no means perfect, this book does an admirable and subtle job of reconciling the needs of individualism within a liberal political society with the recognition of miniority differences and culture.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Individual and collective rights
    Kymlicka covers the issues related to each of individual and collective rights, as well as comparing them to each other.He provides a really interesting outlook on the ways in which the quest for rights for any group of people can result in conflict.I suppose I like this book so well because it follows my own philosophical view on people claiming rights in general, that at some point if we were to claim all rights we believe we're entitled to, we would eventually come into conflict with someone else's human rights.As such, we must necessarily make sacrifices of some rights in order to live peaceably among all people.Kymlicka doesn't really say that as I do, but much of what he discusses seems to be related to it. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0198279493
    Sales Rank: 1130587
    Subjects:  1. Civil Rights    2. Ethnic groups    3. Liberalism    4. Minorities    5. Political And Civil Rights    6. Political Freedom & Security - Civil Rights    7. Politics - Current Events    8. Politics/International Relations   


    Indigenous Peoples, Ethnic Groups, and the State
    by David Maybury-Lewis
    Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (14 October, 1996)
    list price: $22.00
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    Reviews (1)

    5-0 out of 5 stars clear, informative, important work.
    Maybury-Lewis's newest work is incredibly clear and informative and offers non-anthroplogist and scholars alike a perceptive and important work ... Read more

    Isbn: 0205198163
    Sales Rank: 1017833
    Subjects:  1. Ethnic Sociology    2. Ethnic Studies - General    3. Ethnic groups    4. Ethnicity    5. Indigenous peoples    6. Individual And The State    7. Psychology    8. Social Science   


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