Shifting National Identities. A comparative Analysis of Taiwan, Quebec and Flanders

Project Details


The Centre for Political Sciences (VUB) and the Institute for European Studies (KULeuven) have organised a common research programme (promoter: Bruno Coppieters, co-promoter: Frank Delmartino) on Social Sciences and Secession.This project started in 1997 and will be completed in 1999. Michel Huysseune, the researcher, is presently writing his doctoral dissertation on the Italian secessionist movement, Lega Nord. A conference on Social Sciences and Secession has been organised by both research centres in November 1998. It focused on the role of intellectuals and social science in secessionist movements (secession being defined in the broad sense, including movements striving for a broader autonomy or more sovereignty). It also analysed the specific normative methodological problems involved in analytical
and descriptive research on secession. The case studies included Quebec, Scotland, Flanders, Taiwan, Ukraine, Tatarstan,
Abkhazia, Padania and Biafra. The contributions will be proposed for publication to Routledge (editors: Bruno Coppieters and Michel Huysseune). A second conference/ book project (editors: Louis Vos and Frank Delmartino) will be organised in November 1999. It will focus on the relevance of the distinction between an ethnic and a civic conception of nationhood for historical research on nation and state building processes. The research project 2000-2003 would build on these years of fruitful cooperation. Studies on national identity recognise two ideal types of nationalism - ethnic nationalism and civic nationalism. The essential difference between the two emerges clearly if one asks two questions: 1) who constitutes the nation ? 2) what is the basis for legitimacy of nationalist demands ? I2thnic nationalism implies that nations are made up of ethnic groups and membership of the nation is accorded on the basis of ascriptive criteria such as common descent, language and
religion; civic nationalism sees individuals voluntarily constituting themselves as a collectivity with common values,
institutions and patterns of social interaction as the binding forces. When employing this distinction, students of nationalism never fail to emphasise that these two terms are 'ideal' types, i.e., pure ethnic nationalism and pure civic nationalism do not exist. In reality, the concrete national self-identification of different nation-states is situated at different points located along the spectrum between the two ideal types of nationalism. Hence the inevitable overlapping of thechnic and civic elements in the nationalism of any nation-state. Some authors are making a further differentiation between various forms of ethnic or civic nationalism (Creenfeld, 1992)..large number of comparative studies have been carried out on ethnic and civic nationalism. The method commonly used is to compare the origins, development and contents of nationalism and of the self-understanding of nationhood in
two (or more) n~.ons over a chosen period of time. One nation will serve as a means to understand ethnic nationalism,
another civic nationalism. Brubaker (1992) has, for instance, compared the German to the l~rench understanding of nationhood. Such understanding is seen to have emerged from deeply rooted cultural and legal practices. Hencc the idioms of nationhood have their own characteristics, which are either more ethnic or more civic, depending on the various factors at work. And these initial characteristics tend to persist throughout the whole process of nation-building Substantial changes take only place on the very long term.
Effective start/end date1/01/0031/12/03


  • government establishment
  • political history
  • nationalism

Flemish discipline codes in use since 2023

  • History and archaeology
  • Economics and business


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