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Cultural nationalism is a form of nationalism in which the nation is defined by a shared culture. It is an intermediate position between ethnic nationalism on one hand and liberal nationalism on the other.
"Cultural nationalism" does not tend to manifest itself in independent movements, but is a moderate position within a larger spectrum of nationalist ideology. Thus, moderate positions in Flemish, Hindu nationalisms can be "cultural nationalism" while these same movements also include forms of ethnic nationalism and national mysticism.
Cultural nationalism encompasses the feelings of cultural pride that people have in a society. This society is typically an ethnically diverse makeup of people who have common cultural beliefs and a common language but not a common race or ancestry. An "ethnically diverse" society usually defined as one with multiple ethnic groups that each comprise a substantial percentage of the population. These societies thus have a shared culture even when they do not share the historically common characteristics of a national group. These characteristics mainly being race and ethnicity, the way groups have typically been separated throughout history. Hence, the ideas and feelings of cultural nationalism are built upon shared cultural ideals and norms among a society. These shared ideals and norms may include political ideologies, recognition of holidays, a specific and unique cuisine, etc. The other main idea of cultural nationalism is the shared language of the groups of people. While societies that are ethnically and racially homogeneous usually also share a common language, culturally nationalistic societies typically have a common language and different races of people who also speak a native language from a previous society or country along with that common language.
As previously stated, feelings of cultural nationalism are not limited to ethnically diverse societies, although it is more common and much easier to define as different ethnicities co-existing with each other in such societies create a cultural umbrella. People in an ethnically homogeneous society may feel pride for the society’s political ideologies, for example, but not care for or identify feelings of pride towards the common ethnicity of that society, giving a technical definition of cultural nationalism.
The history of cultural nationalism throughout the world tends to be more prevalent in modern and contemporary history, i.e. late 19th century to the present. This is the case because before this time, societies that included multiple ethnic groups were typically not unified culturally. Since the early empires of ancient Rome and Greece in which diverse groups were under the control of one governing body, many conquered people’s retained their own culture and traditions while their use under the governing body was mainly for labor, taxation, soldiers, etc. Some empires such as the British, created systems in conquered and occupied lands to specifically avoid sharing of culture, such as segregation of races, limited access to certain works of literature, etc. Empires, many of which didn’t collapse until World War I, were limited in their ability to brew cultural nationalism because even with the great many ethnic groups, a unified culture wasn’t typically sought after, the ethnic groups usually being seen as opportunities for diversity of labor and resources instead of culture.
Cultural nationalism thus relies on integration of differing ethnic groups, a lot of which didn’t happen until the mid-twentieth century. Civil rights movements in the mid-twentieth century gave ethnic and racial groups in multiracial societies more of the same rights as their other peers in society, giving more unity and thus more of a shared culture instead of a separated one. This integration isn’t limited to separate races, gender and women’s movements were very key in the twentieth century as many advancements in the rights for women such as suffrage in 1920 in the United States, and equal pay midway through the century. Segregation and separation are great deterrents to unified cultural nationalism as it perpetuates certain groups fighting for different things, creating disunity. Many systemic segregation and separation policies did not end until the mid to late twentieth century in many parts of the world, especially in the West, where cultural nationalism is the strongest presently.
Cultural nationalism has seen its heaviest increase in the late twentieth century as many totalitarian regimes and nations have fallen, giving way for people to move freely throughout the world and migrate and diversify other societies. The fall of the Soviet Union for example in the early 1990s allowed for millions of people to leave the previously blocked in "Iron Curtain" and move to western nations, adopting the culture of the new nation, as many disagreed with the culture of their communist Soviet state.
During this time in the last quarter of the twentieth century there were also many waves of immigration from Asia and South America to western nations, especially the United States, where American culture was adopted typically quickly by many of these immigrant groups.
While cultural nationalism is present in many areas of the world, Western cultures are where it is the most prevalent. While some western nations and societies, especially those in Europe, have just recently acquired demographics and culture that constitutes growth of cultural nationalism, some societies such as those of the United States were founded on principles of cultural nationalism that have remained and strengthened to this day.
Western nations normally experience stronger sentiments of cultural nationalism due to the high levels of diversity in these nations. Immigration to these nations from typically more impoverished or dangerous nations is widespread due to many of the common open-door policies of Western nations to accept a certain amount of immigrants, refugees, students, etc. These immigrants who are generally grateful for the ability to settle in these nations typically adopt the culture of their new nation, mixing with their own heritage, and typically conforming more and more to their new nation’s culture as new generations are born in that nation.
The greatest example of cultural nationalism in the Western world is that of the United States. The scale of diversity within the United States is unprecedented compared to other nations, though in recent decades, many European nations have experienced similar waves of immigration and thus levels of diversity.
When founded, the United States was populated mostly by British settlers who inhabited the then British controlled American colonies. However, when declaring its independence, the United States specified equal rights for all men, which became a defining ideology of the nation, eventually making the land enticing to outsiders for the decades to come who thought of the nation not just for freedom but also promise in terms of success
This promising outlook for outsiders caused many waves of immigration through the centuries, bringing in millions of people from Europe, South America, and Asia. With each wave and the generations that followed, cultural nationalism grew as each immigrant group learned the English language and while many heritages are still celebrated from their home countries, most immigrants adopted uniquely American cultures and customs, such as celebrating American holidays like Thanksgiving, eating American created cuisine such as hamburgers and hot-dogs, and many becoming American citizens and/or naturalized, abandoning their birthright citizenship from their home nation.
One of the biggest examples of cultural nationalism in the United States is the many wars that were fought over the history of the nation. The soldiers that fought in the wars came from all different racial origins and ethnicities but fought for the culture of America. In both World Wars, many Americans fought against countries in the Axis powers, Germany, Italy, and Japan that they had ancestral and ethnic roots too, but fought for the culture that they and other soldiers of different origins identified with.
Positive effects on society
Racial unification: in a typical culturally nationalistic society that has multiple racial groups all living in the same society, race tends to be less of an importance in dominant culture. Although there are still many racial divides throughout such nations for many reasons, the general idea of cultural nationalism puts the shared nationality of multiple races at the forefront, thus letting, for example, a black soldier fight along a white soldier, or a black president have a white vice president, etc., thus unifying different races in many instances.
- Nielsen, Kai. (1999). Cultural nationalism, neither ethnic nor civic. In R. Beiner (Ed.), Theorizing nationalism (pp. 119-130). Albany: State University of New York Press.
- "History of Europe: Cultural nationalism". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-02-16.
The counterpart of this political idea in the 19th century is cultural nationalism. The phrase denotes the belief that each nation in Europe had from its earliest formation developed a culture of its own, with features as unique as its language, even though its language and culture might have near relatives over the frontier.
- Kymlicka, Will. (1999). Misunderstanding nationalism. In R. Beiner (Ed.), Theorizing nationalism (pp. 131-140). Albany: State University of New York Press, p. 133; Nielsen, Kai. (1999). Cultural nationalism, neither ethnic nor civic. In R. Beiner (Ed.), Theorizing nationalism (pp. 119-130). Albany: State University of New York Press, p. 126
- Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, one of the main votaries of Hindutva has stated that it believes in a cultural connotation of the term Hindu. "The term Hindu in the conviction as well as in the constitution of the RSS is a cultural and civilizational concept and not a political or religious dogma. The term as a cultural concept will include and did always include all including Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Muslims, Christians and Parsis. The cultural nationality of India, in the conviction of the RSS, is Hindu and it was inclusive of all who are born and who have adopted Bharat as their Motherland, including Muslims, Christians and Parsis. The answering association submit that it is not just a matter of RSS conviction, but a fact borne out by history that the Muslims, Christians and Parsis too are Hindus by culture although as religions they are not so." Quoting RSS General Secretary's reply to the Tribunal constituted under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 to hear the case on the RSS, Organiser, June 6, 1993
- David Aberbach, 2008, Jewish Cultural Nationalism: Origins and Influences, ISBN 0-415-77348-2
- Kosaku Yoshino, 1992, Cultural Nationalism in Contemporary Japan: A Sociological Enquiry, ISBN 0-415-07119-4
- J. Ellen Gainor, 2001, Performing America: Cultural Nationalism in American Theater, ISBN 0-472-08792-4
- G. Gordon Betts, 2002, The Twilight of Britain: Cultural Nationalism, Multiculturalism, and the Politics of Toleration, ISBN 0-7658-0731-9
- Yingjie Guo, 2004, Cultural Nationalism in Contemporary China: The Search for National Identity under Reform, ISBN 0-415-32264-2
- Mike Featherstone, 1990, Global Culture: Nationalism, Globalization and Modernity, ISBN 0-8039-8322-0
- Starrs, Roy, 2004, Japanese Cultural Nationalism: At Home and in the Asia Pacific. London: Global Oriental. ISBN 1-901903-11-7.