Geography Nations and Nationalism
Fiona Davidson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0050


Nationalism is a term that is generally used to describe either the attachment of a person to a particular nation, or a political action by such a group to achieve statehood (or national self-determination). Although there is some debate about the origin and antiquity of the idea of a nation, the political manifestation of national identity as nationalism is widely accepted as a relatively modern concept. The importance of nationalism as a political force in the 20th century led to an increase in scholarly attention with the development of several different schools of thought as to the mechanisms of national origin. Primordialism, perennialism, modernism, and ethnosymbology all emerged as competing theories of how, why, and when nations form. What is not disputed, however, is that during the 19th and 20th centuries, institutionally driven nationalism ultimately led to the fusion of state and nation in the form of state nationalism, resulting in a corresponding, state-led drive toward state-nation fusion and intra-state national homogenization. Reponses to this included colonial (or liberation) nationalism to create nation/state identities separate from imperial powers and, later in the 20th century, peripheral or substate nationalism, which is a response of marginalized minorities within modern nation-states to the cultural and institutional homogenization of state nationalism. This proliferation of forms of nationalism led to a corresponding proliferation in nationalism research. Although there is an ongoing interest in theorizing this complex political and social phenomenon, the wealth of nationalist activity (state, peripheral, liberation) has also provided a fertile research field for scholars engaged in both regionally specific and thematically specific (ethnicity, religion, popular culture, gender, colonial, postcolonial, etc.) nationalism studies. Nationalism research is a relatively contemporary field of study, rooted largely in sociology, anthropology, political science, and geography, and because of its interdisciplinary nature the works cited in this bibliography are drawn from a wide variety of disciplines and fields of study.

Reference Works

This small and interdisciplinary field has few major reference works, but those that do exist provide comprehensive information either as specially written anthologies such as Delanty and Kumar 2006 or more focused texts such as Özkırımlı 2010, an accessible introduction to nationalism, as well as the more exhaustive Herb and Kaplan 2008 work on the historical development of nationalism and Minahan 2002 on cataloguing ethnic and national groups. In addition, there are collections of influential primary works such as that by Hutchinson and Smith 1994 as well as the web-based Nationalism Project, which is the primary bibliographical source for nationalism research. This section also includes the most useful journals that focus on nationalism research.

  • Delanty, Gerard, and Krishan Kumar, eds. The SAGE Handbook of Nations and Nationalism. London: SAGE, 2006.

    This comprehensive text covers nationalism through three interrelated sections on theory, themes, and case studies. The contributors successfully weave together theories of nationalism with a wide variety of case studies that illustrate the impact of nationalism on the political and social life of modern societies. Ideally suited for more advanced students and researchers seeking material from outside their immediate expertise.

  • Herb, Guntram, and David H. Kaplan. Nations and Nationalism: A Global Historical Overview. 4 vols. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2008.

    An outstanding reference work that examines nationalism in a chronological framework with comprehensive and detailed thematic essays and country case-studies. The clearly written and consistently formatted essays make this an invaluable work for upper level undergraduates and graduate students.

  • Hutchinson, John, and Anthony D. Smith, eds. Nationalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.

    A comprehensive and wide-ranging text that provides an accessible introduction to the theory and history of nationalism. The authors have selected almost fifty of the most influential writings on nationalism and identity, collected into seven sections that provide exhaustive coverage of academic and intellectual thought on nationalism over the last two centuries.

  • Minahan, James. Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations: Ethnic and National Groups Around the World. 4 vols. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2002.

    A comprehensive guide to more than three hundred developed or emerging national groups that remain stateless in the early 21st century, this text is a useful source for researchers interested in gaining an introductory perspective on national groups that are largely unknown in the wider world of nationalism research.

  • The Nationalism Project.

    This encyclopedic website is an invaluable resource for nationalism scholars at all levels. It provides book reviews, a bibliography of journal articles, a subject bibliography, as well as notification of upcoming conferences and a link to the online discussion forum H-Nationalism. It should be noted that although the site was still active as of 2012, many of the pages have not been updated since 2007.

  • Özkırımlı, Umut. Theories of Nationalism: A Critical Introduction. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

    An outstanding new look at the theorizing of nationalism over time, this book covers not only the traditional theoretical foundations of nationalism, perennialism, modernism, primordialism, and ethnic attachment but also details the newer feminist, post-colonial and constructivist analyses. The discussion of each of these theories is enhanced by a comprehensive summary of the criticisms of each theory.

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