Nationalism: A catalyst for violence?

qZ4ZbT9I find it impossible to separate the notion of conflict with nationalism. Conflict spawns from the very meaning of what a nation is. Anderson describes nations as being imagined political communities(Anderson,1983,p.15). These communities have imagined limitations(Anderson,1983,p.15).The imagined limitations in my opinion create conflict as there will always be subaltern histories as regards to who has power over what land. This can be seen in the Serbian Context in Jansen’s piece. Matijia (the interviewee of Jansen) was an extreme Serbian Nationalist who saw most of Bosnia as being a part of Serbia and stressed Serbian Unity(Jansen,2003,p.216). However this Serbian unity could be perceived as a Serbian invasion of Bosnia. Due to finite limits it is difficult for compromise to come about and violence is the consequence.

National Essentialism is a huge factor in the creation of violence. This concept means that there is something innate and inherent that makes someone a certain nationality. For example the Serbs have a very proud history where they speak of having been wealthy with ‘golden cutlery'(Jansen,2003,p.216). This can also be negative though and encourage conflict as nations often have negative notions of other nations. Matijia claims in Jansens piece that Bosnian muslims are descendants of turks who betrayed their primordial national loyalty for private gain(Jansen,2003,p.218).This pits nation against nation and also encourages a blind and dangerous loyalty. This is a blind form of loyalty where people will deny anything negative to do with their nation. Matija in this case denied that the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of over 7000 muslim men happened claiming that it was ‘fictitious propaganda'(Jansen,2003,p.223-224). He goes on to say that ‘Many real massacres occurred in Serb towns'(Jansen,2003, p.224). I find this blind faith alarming. While we have people willing to ignore morality and justice for the sake of nationality, conflict and violence will remain prevalent.


  • Anderson, Benedict. 1983. ‘Chapter 1: Introduction,’ (pp.1-7) in Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.
  • Jansen, S. 2003. Why do they hate us? ‘Everyday Serbian Nationalist Knowledge of Muslim Hatred. Journal of Mediterranean Studies, 13(2), 215- 238.

Trauma: A social or medical issue?.

missedinhistory-podcasts-wp-content-uploads-sites-99-2014-09-Cultural-Revolution-1-600x350Trauma is a problematic word used as an umbrella term for a range of examples of ‘social suffering’ . The term is too generalized and often delegitimizes a victims experience. When we medicalize a victims experience we totally ignore the individual narrative(Kleinman & Kleinman,p.275-276). The paving over of personal experiences can have detrimental consequences for victims as can be seen in Hwang Zheng’s story (Kleinman & Kleinman,1991,p.280).

During the cultural revolution in China , Hwang Zheng was forced to confess to crimes he did not commit (Kleinman & Kleinman, 1991,p.280-281).This brought shame to his family and haunted him as he became an adult. As a man in his 20’s ,Zheng still suffers from depression . The lines between the social trauma of the cultural revolution and the physical blur as Zheng claims to suffer from dizziness linked to trauma(Kleinman & Kleinman,1991, p.282 ). The consequences were predominately mental, as Zheng suffered from a lack of self esteem and normal development. I believe that in many cases a psychiatric analysis of trauma can be beneficial such as learning coping mechanisms, in my opinion the freedom of victims often lies in the telling of their individual story. I maintain that psychiatric treatment of sufferers of trauma can also further ostrcise them from the wider community and can dehumanize victims .

Paradoxically, I acknowledge that the answer to seeking help for trauma is not always public recognition. As can be seen in the greek cypriot versus turkish cypriot representations of missing persons in the 1960’s and 70’s, photography and individual stories of traumatic events can be used for a political agenda(Cassia,p.23-46). There is no sweeping generalization that can encapsulate what trauma is. The truth is that trauma is purely human experience and it should be dealt with on an individual basis. Unfortunately nothing is ever simple and even in harrowing events , there are benefactors.


  • Cassia, P. S. 1999. Piercing transfigurations: Representations of suffering in Cyprus. Visual Anthropology, 13(1), 23-46.
  • Kleinman & Kleinman, 1991. ‘Suffering and its Professional Transformation: Toward an Ethnography of Interpersonal Experience.’ Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 15(3):275-301.

Unheard Voices: The application of Papadaskis’ theory on memory to Post Apartheid South Africa.

race-and-identity-in-post-apartheid-south-africaHistory and memory have a dynamic relationship. While memory is something lived out by individual victims daily, history is what is deemed worthy of remembrance for society. However as pointed out by Papadakis, while memory can be used to present a version of the past, forgetting also performs the same function(Papadakis,1993,p.139). Applying Papadakis to a totally seperate context in post apartheid South Africa we see how memory can be used strategically in history.

Papadakis claims that memory can only work if it focuses on relatively few and concrete events(Papadakis,1993,p.142).However I believe it is a decision made based upon time constraints and that victims are not the focus.This can be seen in the testimonies during the truth and reconciliation council of 1996. Many people argued that the TRC’s demands that testimony be confined to incidents of gross human rights abuses diminished the councils effectiveness(Coombe,2010,p.443).The council addressed key issues but in order to create a better future it ignored the daily realities faced by victims such as the constant fear of forced removals and the introduction of derogatory ‘pass laws'(Coombe,2010,p.443).

Papadakis claims that production of any narrative inevitably requires the suppression of certain events(Papadaskis,1993,p.140). I believe the supressed memories of unheard voices should be a part of the wider narrative. For example during the TRC testimonies, there was a focus in Coombe’s work on Womens Testimonies. While this can be seen as excluding men, Women’s accounts had never previously been heard. They added a structurally necessary dimension to the understanding of the memories of the lived experience of apartheid(Coombe,2010,p.444). Rather than focusing on what the government deemed worthy of granting reparations to, individual stories were heard. I believe that when it comes to the relationship between memory and history, we focus on what is conveniant rather then what has been lived out by suffering agents .


  • Papadakis, Y., 1993. “The Politics of Memory and Forgetting in Cyprus”. Journal of Mediterranean Studies 3 (1): 139-154.

  • Coombe, Annie E.,2010, The Gender of Memory in Post-Apartheid South Africa,

pp. 442-458, Fordham University.

Political Rituals and Symbolic Enactments: Maintaining tradition or creating conflict?


Rituals and symbols lack adaptability. This key aspect has created tension as it is in harsh contrast to an emerging inclusive world. According to Durkheim ‘we don’t feel the influence of our past selves as they are so deeply rooted in us'(Bourdieu,1992,p.56). If this is the case, are people blindly performing acts of self sacrifice in Israel or flying flags with no meaning in Northern Ireland?

In the case of the latter, Bryan describes in his research how flags and murals symbolize entire imagined communities(Bryan,2000,p.12). However in my opinion these tokens of past conflict cause unnecessary division. While commemoration is essential for the peace process, defining oneself based upon a shared history without questioning is dangerous. Rituals can be positive and do encourage solidarity, however if the message continues to promote underlying agendas against past grudges, true progress will never be made.

According to Weiss, the Israeli ministry of education has become a ‘national cult for memorializing death'(Weiss,1997,p.97-99). The obsession is represented in a detailed remembrance day and was originally partially held as a way to legitimize the Israel state(Weiss,1997,p.99). Martyrs were seen as unquestionable evidence for the right to a state(Weiss,1997, p.99). The ideas of ‘sacrifice’ and ‘heroism’ are central to the Israeli grieving process. However this also causes marginalization. Those who do not join the army are marginalized from society.

The body being offered as a sacrifice for the nation is also present in Palestine. Pitcher describes how Palestinian youth value dignity over life(Pitcher,1998, p. 9). The palestinian body is a collectivized body that is encoded with social meaning(Pitcher, 1998, p.14). By seeing themselves as one body, the youth believe their sacrifice is for the greater good.

Overall while rituals and symbols have a positive impact for heritage and culture generally, I believe that the mix with politics can be dangerous as it leads to blind faith and further marginalization.


  • Bryan, Dominic.2000, Chapter 2: Northern Ireland: Ethnicity, Politics and Ritual. Orange Parades: The Politics of Ritual, Tradition and Control ,London: Pluto Press.
  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1992. ‘Structures, Habitus, Practices’ in The Logic of Practice. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Pitcher, Linda M. 1998.‘“The Divine Impatience”: Ritual, Narrative, and Symbolization in the Practice of Martyrdom in Palestine.’ Medical Anthropolo gy Quarterly.
  • Weiss, M. 1997 . Bereavement, commemoration, and collective identity in contemporary Israeli society. Anthropological Quarterly, 91-101.

US V.S THEM: How history and culture create enemies and encourage violence.


History and culture create enemies. During a tutorial that particular idea was ringing in my head. The fear of the ‘other’ and protecting sacred values help produce violence. “We define who we are by defining who we are not” – was a statement in Valentines piece on ‘Heritage and History’ and that perfectly encapsulates this fear of ‘otherness’.

What distinguishes these differences? Essentialism is the belief that things have set characteristics that make them what they are. National Essentialism is a key aspect of Serbian ‘Knowledge’ in Jansens piece and also plays a part in the tension in Sri Lanka between the Tamils and Sihalas. The importance of history and heritage varies in the Sri Lankan context. While Sihala Buddhists see the Tamil’s as ancient enemies from their glorious past, a Tamil child would not likely be able to name a past king. The Tamil’s base much of their ethnic identity on their heritage. These different perspectives lead to misunderstanding and violence.

I find that this idea of National essentialism is becoming outdated in our society and wonder if the way forward is the dissolution of the nation state? Yoffee claims in Simons piece on Somalia that ” if all institutions were to fold, nothing would remain.” In my opinion by allowing the concept of the nation state to dwindle like many theorists in the 90’s thought it would, inclusiveness would increase and our globalized society would benefit. However as freeing as the dissolve of the status quo can be, it would also bring with it terror, uncertainty and possible anarchy.


Ethnic violence is a tragic constant. The Muslim Rohingya people of Myanmar are being violently persecuted .The United Nations has acknowledged that ethnic cleansing is taking place. But this is not a surprise as Buddhist nationalists have carried out Islamophobic media campaigns for years. Overall History and culture have helped fuel this new upsurge of nationalism and create even more division globally.