“All identities are legitimate in France, except for the national identity”. At this point, few doubt remains about the ability by Alain Finkielkraut (1949) to spark intense debates. The Parisian philosopher, enjoying some degree of media exposure, is inspiring new passions among the French with the release of L’identité malheureuse (‘The Unfortunate Identity’), a book written in a tone that is “more pamphlet-like than ever” and that “plays with fire”, as Jean Birnbaum has written in Le Monde. It is the fire of the debate o then French identity, the fire of a “noble debate”, as Nicolas Sarkozy put it in 2009.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has just finished collecting the date of its first post-war population census, which most likely will depict a quite different landscape -in terms of national identity- if compared to the last census that was held in the Balkan country. Reasons for this range from Bosnia’s independence impact in people’s minds to the effects of the 1992-1995 war -including ethnic cleansing of many regions, people who fled from the country and, of course, casualties. Continue reading
In an interview to Spanish newspaper El País, Honorary Director-General of the European Commission, Francesc Granell, has used the case of Somaliland as both an example of a failed state and a warning of what could happen to Catalonia if the country decides to declare independence. Five notes on the opportuneness (or not) of the comparison between both territories:
Linguist and occitanist Marçal Girbau was writing a few weeks ago an interesting article in VilaWeb on Aran Valley’s place in an eventual independent Catalonia. Some people would prefer to adjourn any important decision on the Catalan state until independence is declared. On the contrary, I consider that it is right to pose these questions now. To paraphrase Joan Fuster, it can be said that, at some point, either you make independence or it is made upon you.
Girbau said that “if we Catalans really believe the discourse of respect and Aranese self-government”, then the logical conclusion is that the would-be sovereign Catalan state should be “a confederation, with two associated states: Catalonia and Aran”. I believe this to be an appropriate approximation to the level of self-government that the Occitan-speaking valley should enjoy, bearing in mind that Aran has a thousand year old story of autonomy and own institutions. But, is a confederation the most suitable political architecture in this case? Continue reading
I am starting to discover a set of very interesting video lectures from the University of Kansas Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies (CREES). For all those of you who would like to learn a little bit more about such places as Kosovo, Central Asia, Poland, the Baltic Republics and so on, I am quite sure that you will find something that catches your attention if you go through the files that the people at CREES have uploaded to their Youtube channel.
As an example, one of the most recent available videos contains a lecture by Austin Charron on the issue of identity in Crimea. I have embedded the full video here -and I strongly recommend you to watch it, especially from minute 17 onwards- since it contains an original piece of work by Charron himself: a 2011 survey of almost 800 Crimeans (including Russians, Russian-speaking Ukrainians, Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians and Tatars) about their identities and their political attitudes towards what Crimea’s political status should be. As an appetiser of the survey’s results, I will tell you that:
- The sense of attachment to Crimea is highly remarkable among all ethnic groups, so there is a strong regional identity that coexists with national identities.
- Ethnic Russians give importance to a Russian-Soviet-Russian narrative on Crimea.
- All ethnic groups want Crimea to remain an autonomous republic, but
- Almost half of ethnic Russians would like Crimea to join Russia as an autonomous republic.
- Remaining as an autonomous republic within Ukraine is more popular among ethnic Russians than joining Russia as a province.
- One third of Tatars would like Crimea to become an independent state.
More details inside. Enjoy!
Pessimism. Maybe of moderate intensity, but still pessimism. This is the feeling that I got a couple of weeks ago after attending a speech on Libya by political scientist Moncef Djaziri (Institute for Political and International Studies, University of Lausanne) at Barcelona’s European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed). My pessimism was not drawn from what he said about the Libyan national identity, but because prospects for women there seem to be rather complicated. Because some progress achieved during Gaddafi era in relation to women’s rights are being lost. And because Djaziri understands that the most likely scenario is “an Islamic state” for Libya, a scenario that is “continuously enhanced” given that Islamists “are very well organized”.
I would say that Djaziri is not much satisfied with that prospect. From what he said, it seems that he would prefer another hypothesis for Liby’as future, what he calls “the republican state”. According to him, “there is not much chance” for this possibility to see the light of day, even if it has some level of support in Tripolitania, the region that was Gaddafi’s centre of power. Vested with large powers, a president “who embodied national identity” could be one of new Libya’s most powerful symbols. But, the professor recalls, this is not what Islamists want. They rather prefer a parliamentary system, “more coherent” with their political preferences.
Is it possible to make a shift from a centralised to a truly multi-ethnic and decentralised understanding of the Zimbabwean nation? The African country seems ready to explore a new national path after a new Constitution has been drafted by the Constitution Parliamentary Committee (COPAC). The final version of the text was adopted in January 31st, and the date of a referendum on its ratification is expected for 2013.
The new Constitution is supported by the two largest parties in Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC. If finally adopted, the text could mark a milestone in Zimbabwe’s history, since for the first time ever presidential powers will be somewhat limited. It also opens the door to the establishment of a decentralised state, including the devolution of legislative and executive powers to provincial and metropolitan councils. As usual in other African states, a “cultural” and “customary” role will be given to traditional leaders. Continue reading
The Parliament of Catalonia (right image) is likely to pass tomorrow a declaration on the sovereignty of the Catalan people. This will be a milestone text in the history of the country, given that for the first time since autonomy was restored, Catalonia could be defined as a “sovereign political and legal subject”, if the proposal by three parties CiU, ERC and ICV is taken forward.
A declaration of sovereignty does not necessarily mean that independence is going to follow suit. Sometimes it is used as a preliminary legal text where the reasons for self-determination are put forward, and later on (maybe years) a declaration on independence follows. On other occasions, the process does not lead to the establishment of an independent state, but to a new agreement between the self-declared sovereign territory and the state. Continue reading
Are certain regional identities (for a terminological clarification on this, please refer to what I explain at the bottom of this post*) posed to become the dominant ones within their regions in Europe, pushing national identities into the background? Maybe it is too soon to definitely answer this question, but census results released by the end of 2012 have shown that several regional senses of belonging are indeed cementing themselves as a strong option for the citizens in their territories and that, in some cases, they are starting to challenge the centuries long dominance of national identities there (or are even becoming one of them, as could finally be the case in Northern Ireland).
Perhaps one of the most remarkable data contained in the Northern Ireland 2011 census is the fact that for the first time it has clearly shown that the links “Protestant=British” and “Catholic=Irish” are not accurate. Continue reading
Egypt is a state that is part of the Arab nation. No traces of other non-Arab peoples are worth to be mentioned. These are two principles contained in the draft Constitution that is about to be voted in Egypt, and that is being contested by laicist and leftist sectors of the Egyptian society. In fact, none of both principles comes as a surprise: the official declaration of Egypt as a piece of the Arab nation already guided the provisional 2011 Constitution, the 1971 Constitution under Anwar El Sadat and, of course, the previous 1956-1971 constitutions under Gamal Abdel Nasser. Continue reading