"National Identity: Personal Journey or Political Strategy"

"National Identity: Personal Journey or Political Strategy"

Friday, 6 February 2015 - 5:00pm
Pavilion Room, Fourth Floor, Gateway Building, St. Antony's College
Professor John MacInnes (University of Edinburgh)
Feng-yi Chu
Taiwan Studies Seminar Series

Abstract: Sociologists and other students of nationalism have become keen, even obsessive, students of national identity. However, as Brubaker and others have pointed out, the concept of identity, and even more so its empirical operationalisation, are problematic. I argue, following MacInnes (2004; 2006; 2011) that it is better to think in terms of the historical conditions within which people come to imagine 'identity' to be potent enabling 'identity entrepreneurs' to claim representation and leadership of their interests. These conditions seem to be largely absent in Scotland and very much stronger in Catalonia. The case of Taiwan is a fascinating test case for this argument. The rapid shift of identification from Chinese to Taiwanese demonstrates just how contemporary appeals to ancient historical 'roots' can be. However, the dearth of historical raw material available to work up a narrative of Taiwanese distinctness, together with the primacy of political and economic relations to the PRC perhaps suggest that the case of Taiwan is closer to the Scottish model than the Catalan one.

For background reading please take a look at the following links:
Castells’ Catalan Routes (MacInnes 2006): http://tinyurl.com/qgpd65b

Who are the British? (MacInnes 2011): http://tinyurl.com/oc7wvyr

About the speaker:

John MacInnes is Associate Dean (Quantitative Methods) and Professor of Sociology at the University of Edinburgh. From 2009 to 2014 he was the Strategic Advisor the ESRC on quantitative methods training overseeing the genesis and launch of the Q-Step programme. He is a member of the British Academy’s High Level Strategy group on Quantitative Skills, the Council of the Royal Statistical Society and the Progress Monitoring Group of the Scottish National Action Plan on Human Rights. His current research focuses on population ageing and the measurement of age structures of populations, and on national identity in ‘stateless’ nations such as Scotland and Catalonia. He also works as a statistical consultant on the monitoring and evaluation of development projects in Malawi and Ethiopia. He has held research grants from the European Commission, ESRC, British Academy, Leverhulme trust and British Spanish and Catalan government departments.