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What is Nationalism?

  • Level All levels
  • Age 21 and older
  • Price $315
  • Location Online Classroom

Start Dates (0)

  • $315
  • Online Classroom
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Class Description


What you'll learn in this society class:

Long regarded as the stuff of 19th century romanticism and 20th century warfare, nationalism is resurgent on the global stage. Despite—or, perhaps, because of—globalization, instant communication, and the seeming erosion of state supremacy, ideas about national sovereignty, national economies, and the preservation of national character have gained greater purchase at the ballot box. 

Moreover, though historians widely agree that the division of peoples and states into nations is a decidedly modern phenomenon, nationalism is often regarded as the “natural” political order. Why is this the case? And how can examining the history of nationalism shed light on its continued salience?

This course will offer an introduction to nationalism in both historical and theoretical terms. Drawing on an assortment of sources, students will examine the material conditions that made it possible to conceive of political identity in national terms. We will ask: How did people come to think of themselves as naturally divided into distinct nations, and why has such thinking become so pervasive? What types of identity existed prior to the age of nation-states? What is the relationship between national identity and the institutions of the modern state, from the public school to the army? What are the fault lines between nationalism, patriotism, and other forms of civic association? Is nationalism necessarily exclusionary or chauvinistic? 

Finally, we will examine how a range of contemporary issues are threatening the logic of nationalism as a form of identity and type of statecraft—from ethnic and religious difference to the limits of sovereignty in the face of mass atrocities, and problems like climate change that require coordination on a global scale.

Readings will include selections by Johann Herder, John Stuart Mill and Ernst Renan in addition to canonical studies by E.J. Hobsbawm, Ernest Gellner, Benedict Anderson, and Eugene Weber, among others. Students will also examine more recent attempts to Make Nationalism Great Again alongside the critical reception such efforts have generated.

There *is* no physical Brooklyn Institute. We hold our classes all over (thus far) Brooklyn and Manhattan, in alternative spaces ranging from the back rooms of bars to bookstores to spaces in cultural centers, including the Center for Jewish History, the Goethe-Institut, and the Barnard Center for Research on Women. We can (and do) turn any space into a classroom. You will be notified of the exact location when you register for a class.

Remote Learning

This course is available for "remote" learning and will be available to anyone with access to an internet device with a microphone (this includes most models of computers, tablets). Classes will take place with a "Live" instructor at the date/times listed below.

Upon registration, the instructor will send along additional information about how to log-on and participate in the class.

Refund Policy

  • Upon request, we will refund less 5% cancellation fee of a course up until 6 business days before its start date.
  • Students who withdraw after that point but before the first class are entitled to 75% refund or full course credit.
  • After the first class: 50% refund or 75% course credit.
  • No refunds or credits will be given after the second class.

In any event where a customer wants to cancel their enrollment and is eligible for a full refund, a 5% processing fee will be deducted from the refund amount.

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Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research was established in 2011 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Its mission is to extend liberal arts education and research far beyond the borders of the traditional university, supporting community education needs and opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the...

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Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

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