Symbols of Defeat in the Construction of National Identity

Symbols of Defeat in the Construction of National Identity

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If nationalism is the assertion of legitimacy for a nation and its effectiveness as a political entity, why do many nations emphasize images of their own defeat in understanding their history? Using Israel, Serbia, France, Greece and Ghana as examples, the author argues that this phenomenon exposes the ambivalence that lurks behind the passions nationalism evokes. Symbols of defeat glorify a nation's ancient past, while reenacting the destruction of that past as a necessary step in constructing a functioning modern society. As a result, these symbols often assume a foundational role in national mythology. Threats to such symbols are perceived as threats to the nation itself and consequently are met with desperation difficult for outsiders to understand.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text | 200 pages
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1139200526
  • 9781139200523

Table of contents

1. Theories of nations and nationalism; 2. Totem sacrifice and national identity; 3. Symbols of defeat in national monument and ritual; 4. The defeat narrative in national myth and symbol; 5. Implications to politics and diplomacy; 6. Exceptions.
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Review quote

'In this rich account, Mock reinvents ethnosymbolic approaches to nationalism. Deftly navigating between the scylla of postmodernism and charybdis of rational choice, he hits the sweet spot between cultural studies and political science that has often been neglected by methodological tribalists. In bringing cultural sociology to bear on nationalist mythology, he reveals how these core myths serve as a surrogate religion for modern nations.' Eric Kaufmann, Birkbeck College, University of London 'Nations can be made out of defeat as much as out of victory - think of Israel and Masada, or Serbia and the battle of Kosovo Polje. These and other examples - some not as well known but equally instructive - provide Steven Mock with the material for a fascinating and persuasive account of this phenomenon.' Krishan Kumar, University of Virginia 'In this very well-written, highly accessible, and cogently argued book, Mock demonstrates the importance myths of sacrifice and defeat play in the formation and reproduction of nationalist ideologies. This is the first comprehensive comparative analysis of the role of symbols of defeat in the construction of modern nation-states and as such represents a major contribution to several research fields including nationalism studies, historical sociology, anthropology, politics, and religious studies.' Sinisa Malesevic, University College, Dublin 'Using a comparative case-study approach, Steven Mock develops a provocative theory about nationalism's adaptation of the religious blood-sacrifice myth as the key to its powerful grip on modern societies. This is a book that will be sure to engender animated controversy.' Aviel Roshwald, Georgetown University, and author of The Endurance of Nationalism: Ancient Roots and Modern Dilemmas
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About Steven Mock

Steven J. Mock is a Morrison Fellow in Peace and Conflict Studies at the Balsillie School of International Affairs and teaches courses on nationalism, ethnic conflict and power sharing in the Political Science Department of the University of Waterloo. Mock is a past chair of the Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism and a former editor and current member of the international advisory board for the journal Nations and Nationalism. Working on issues related to racism, ethnic conflict and genocide and traveling extensively in Europe the Balkans and the Middle East piqued his interest in methods and theories for modeling symbols of identity and the emotions they evoke in conflict situations.
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