From nationalism to nativism

From nationalism to nativism

I work in a country, Scotland, where for many people nationalism is assumed to be a ‘good thing’. It’s a matter of national independence, of difference, of history, culture and accent; and also at times a slow burning resentment and anger. And of course, a version exists in England too, involving similar sentiments and incipient violences. I research in a country where in the past nationalism turned to nativism, to a deep-seated assumption of there being a natural and binary difference between white selves and black others and which produced the kind of society for which the covering term apartheid can serve. And this is also a country where more recently national pride and an accompanying sense of racialised identity produced another version of nativism, this time of black/south African citizenry in competition with interlopers from other parts of Africa, seen to be marked by a radical difference understood in nativist terms, a black on black nativism. The crucial event here is the 2008 killings of more than 60 people defined as foreigners and the displacement of many thousands more, a xenophobic rampage that remains a defining feature of life for many people from other parts of the continent, and there have been many smaller similar eruptions since then. But of course, nationalism in and of itself it Is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. It all depends on circumstances and it can slip from one to the other step-by-step and almost undetected until some precipitating event produces a kind of explosion among people likely to be feeling resentful/angry and who don’t see these others as fully human in the way that they are.

Last updated:  4 July 2019


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