Nationalism, Ethnicity, Citizenship: Multidisciplinary Perspectives

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Nationalism, Ethnicity, Citizenship: Multidisciplinary Perspectives

Edited by Martyn Barret, Chris Flood and John Eade

Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2011, 203 pages, ISBN 9781443824813.

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This book originated from the second annual conference held by the Centre for Research, Ethnicity and Multiculturalism at the University of Surrey. The preface informs readers that it is "based on a selection of the keynote addresses presented" at this event, which suggests that the conference must have involved many keynotes (nine are published here) and numerous other papers. Edited volumes from conferences are notoriously difficult to produce to a high standard and often contain inconsistent papers with varying lengths, as well as lacking clear focus. This particular volume falls into all of these traps. The longest essay stretches to 34 pages, while the shortest is a mere 12. Some of the papers are certainly of a high quality, while others are simply pointless. It is disappointing that the editors did not look beyond the keynotes to some of the numerous other speakers who attended the event from which the book evolves. Not only did less established scholars not get the chance to publish their findings, many of the essays under consideration here represent summaries of the work of extremely established scholars. The best edited books from conferences use the best papers presented. The editors claim that the essays come from "a genuinely multidisciplinary event" which included "anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, psychologists, geographers, economists and educationalists". What about historians? How can a volume or a conference on nationalism, ethnicity and citizenship have no input from historians? At the same time, despite this multidisciplinary claim, the essays in the volume come from a small range of social science disciplines, including psychology, political science and education. There is also a heavy focus upon Great Britain.

As the essays consist mostly of keynotes, few of them come from any innovative methodologies and tend to consist of overviews. Some of these general pieces are certainly of the highest quality. The piece by Hans van Amersfoort, for instance, entitled "Citizenship, Ethnicity and Mainstream Society: The European Welfare States Navigating between Exclusion and Inclusion", is an all-embracing essay written by one of the pioneering scholars in the study of migration and citizenship in Europe. Some scholars producing these overview pieces take a specific theme and dissect it in a variety ways. Nira Yuval-Davis, for example, in an essay entitled "Nationalism, Belonging, Globalization and the 'Ethics of Care'", approaches the topic suggested in the subtitle from a range of perspectives. Ulf Hedetoft's article entitled "Is Nationalism an Anachronism? Notes on the Mutations of National Idealism in a Global Age" is precisely what its subtitle suggests, with the author thinking out loud. …