BLOOD AND BELONGING Essay Research Paper This

BLOOD AND BELONGING Essay, Research Paper This is a critique of the book, Blood and Belonging, by Michael Ignatieff. This paper will explain the subject of the book and its

BLOOD AND BELONGING Essay, Research Paper

This is a critique of the book, Blood and Belonging, by Michael

Ignatieff. This paper will explain the subject of the book and its

relevance, discuss Michael Ignatieff’s methods and conclusions on the

subject and finally include a personal critique of the book by the

author of this paper.

The author of the book travels on what he terms "the six

journeys." On these "journeys" he encounters different cultures, as he

travels to six different coinciding areas of the world. He examines

the unique expression of nationalism that each populace displays by

interviewing various members of that particular society. The six areas

that he travels to are specifically chosen for the clarity which

nationalism is expressed in society. Nationalism is a factor

contributing toward both present possible future instability in these

areas.

These areas are former Yugoslavia (specifically Croatia and

Serbia), Germany, Ukraine, Quebec, Kurdistan and Northern Ireland.

According to Ignatieff, in Croatia and Serbia there is a desire for a

separate identity between the two nations. The fear of losing one’s

national identity has caused ethnic hatred. A terror so strong and

historically persistent, it has driven people to a desperate state to

do anything. This is a large contributor to the reasons for the extreme

violence present there today. The author states, "A Croat, thus, is

someone who is not a Serb. A Serb is someone who is not a Croat."

This quotation profoundly expresses the short-sighted mentality present

in their conflict.

In his travels in Germany, the author points out an important

question. Does the nation make the state, or the state the nation?

This question by far does not stop here, especially when Germany is the

subject. The essence of the German people is seen by some as aggressive

and offensive, thus the existence of the German problem. If the nation

makes the state then Germany will always be a threat. If the state

makes the nation, then the aggressive nature of the German nation, which

lead the world into two global wars, can be harnessed and redirected.

The question has its roots and answers in the recent reunification of

Germany.

The Ukraine is concerned with not being Russian. It is here

Ignatieff receives a complete vision of what nationalism is. He states,

"I understand what nationalism really is: the dream that a whole nation

could be like a congregation; singing the same hymns, listening to the

same gospel, sharing the same emotions, linked not only to each other

but to the dead buried beneath their feet."

Quebec is a model that presents a possible future of the state

system. Ignatieff uses the example of Quebec to illustrate the

relationship between nationalism and federalism. He implies that "if

federalism fails in Canada it can fail anywhere." If the balance

between "ethnic and civil principles" is not maintained in Canada, who

is not an impoverished country and has a large, successful economy; then

perhaps the modern world has not transcended the grasps of nationalism.

The Kurds represent a nation without a state, who find

themselves surrounded by other nations who are more aggressive

nationalists. The term Kurdistan is a definition of the areas used by

Ignatieff to explain the area of major Kurdish populace concentration.

There is no real borders, no flag, no government and Kurds must

acknowledge the state in which they reside (i.e., – Syria, Turkey, Iran

and Iraq), of which, is not Kurdistan.

Finally, the sixth journey ends in Northern Ireland. He makes

the observation that this is the ideal place to conclude his project.

Northern Ireland contains a recurrence of the themes that seemed so

prevalent in the other journeys. In Ireland ethnicity, religion and

politics are all bound into one expression or identity. These are also

evident in the five previous studies.

Is Michael Ignatieff’s work relevant? The answer to this

question is, yes it is. The issue is important. Nationalism presents

itself as a phenomenon. The questions of why people need to retain a

cultural identity and the way they go about preserving it is still

unanswerable. Evermore unfathomable is the violence permeated through

nationalistic expressions, which are "necessary" by the parties

involved. The very existence of the enigma created by nationalism

dictates the need to explore the subject in more depth.

The situations in the book are not isolated events. Nationalism

exists in every state all over the world. There is a dichotomy

presented by Ignatieff between nationalism and federalism. He explains

the political doctrine of nationalism by stating "(1)that the world’s

peoples are divided into nations, (2) that these nations should have the

right of self-determination, and (3) that the full self-determination

requires statehood." Federalism, though not a particular ideology, is a

means of sharing political power among different peoples within a state.

The various systems of government which fall under the definition of

federalism are not problematic to the people; unless, of course, they

are not completely legitimate. If the government is illegitimate, then

ideally nationalism steps in to demand a completely self-determined

government, which renders proper representation to its populace.

Despite the diversity of a state’s population, theoretically, harmony is

maintained since the people are properly represented or controlled.

This situation with variation is experienced throughout the world.

States are dynamic, also their government and populace. If the dynamics

of the government or the state do not keep up with the pace of change in

the populace, then instability will rise in the name of nationalism and

shake the very foundation of the state if left unchecked or not

placated.

The method used by the author of the book was personal

interviews with both prominent people and the normal everyday person in

the areas visited. He also uses descriptions on the surrounding areas

to accent the point of discussion. His intent was to objectively take

the reader on a stroll through the areas he visited. Through his style

of writing, he allows the reader to sit in on his interview by

highlighting specific questions and the responses that take place in his

conversations. Finally, he creates visual images that he had viewed as

ironic and analogical in support of his observations.

Ignatieff comes to the conclusion that nationalism is not the

problem of this world. Continuing, he goes on to say that when one

loses their individuality to become a "patriot," that is where the

danger lies. Being yourself is something that ethnic nationalism does

not allow. Political ideologies can become blinding to its possessors.

At the beginning of the book mentions that he is a liberal. The

traveling and experiences did not change that at all. He notes the

importance of "liberal virtues – tolerance, compromise, reason," but

concludes in an observation about how these virtues are opposing human

nature.

Ignatieff addresses the violence factor that surrounds

nationalism like a plague, concluding that, nationalist rhetoric is an

excuse to commit acts of violence. He observed that most of the

violence is performed by young men between the ages of 18 to 25. His

explanation is that the liberal mind set forgets that not everyone hates

violence. He also says that there exists in males a basic loathing of

peace. Human nature is the reason for the violence or Ignatieff thinks

that it is specifically male human nature.

I personally enjoyed the book and found it to be interesting

reading. It had the aspect of a novel without losing its academic

nature. Michael Ignatieff’s writing style was creative and supported

his observations well. He portrayed the destruction that he found in

his journeys in a way that allowed the reader to experience the same

despair and hopelessness of seeing it first hand.

Another interesting perspective that the author added to the

book was his own identity. He traveled to places that he had either

lived at or where his family originally came from. His family roots

add a personal touch that would otherwise have been left out.

Religion and its role in society are important concerning

nationalism. It is in this author’s opinion that religions not be

viewed as a secondary facet to nationalism. The Islamic uprisings in

France and the peace talks in southwest Asia between Israel and Syria

are two different perspectives to the argument. Claude Barreau, advisor

to the minister of interior in France says, "Foreigners arriving in

France . . . now have a new fatherland. Islam has a place in France,

provided it is willing to stay discreet as the other religions. But

Islamist are coming as colonisers." This illustrates an underlying

principal that splits Europe down the middle. France is a

representation of Europe according to the late Charles De Gaulle.

France has adopted internal policies to control the growth of Islam by

limiting both social expressions of that faith and by specific

immigration procedures. Are not the three million plus population of

Moslems in France entitled to nationalistic expression of their identity

as French Muslims? Where does that leave the Bosnian Muslims, the

Turks or any other non Christian state located near or inside Europe?

The second point deals with Israel and Syria. The two countries

have been at odds with each other since 1947 when Israel was recognized

as a state. The main reason for the clash is the difference of

religion, not national identity. However, both countries have evolved

since their beginnings and have strong nationalistic tendencies. Both

countries are now leaning toward compromise rather than a holy war. As

the talks continue for the return of the Golan Heights to Lebanon the

Moslem Jew factor still remains tense. Of the recent peace talks is the

strip of land called the Golan Heights in north of Israel. Avoiding an

attempt to explain an extremely complex situation or to oversimplify the

matter, it is a fact that many heads of state in the region are choosing

political solutions to old religious problems. However, the foundations

of their society are religions, to be specific Islam and Judism. This

religious factor will never cease and always cause instability in the

region because of fundmentalism present on both sides.

In conclusion, the subject of the book, Blood and Belonging,

has been discussed. The relevance of the book’s theme was examined

along with the authors methods and style of writing. This critique also

addressed the conclusions drawn by Michael Ignatieff concerning

nationalism and its expressions in the world. Perhaps the world will

allways have to deal with the dichotomy dicussed in this paper, however

one can only hope that a long lasting solution will be found.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Ignatieff, Michael Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New

Nationalism. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1993.

2. "It Depends on Rabin." The Economist, 24th-30th September, 1994, pp.

42-43.

3. "Secularity Defied." The Economist, 8th-14th October, 1994, p.53.