Nationalism for all? Depends who you are

This week’s readings focused mainly on the interesting (and for me fairly unknown) historical aspects of differing regions sharing and joining forces on the nationalism front. Of particular surprise to me centered mainly with David Motadel’s “ The Global Authoritarian Moment and the Revolt against Empire” chapter which was a detailed discussion with regards to the shared interests in seeing the growth nationalism and nationalistic tendencies in differing countries and regions around the world around the time period of the second world war. This was particularly shocking to me, especially while reading passages such as “ Let us think as rulers and let us see in these peoples at best lacquered half monkeys who want to feel the knout” and  “even worse were his and the Nazi elites’ resentments against the peoples of Central Asia and the Caucasus, who were routinely dismissed as subhuman “Asiatics” from the Germany point of view (at least early on during the war). This certainly did not point towards an attitude of someone or a group looking to build massive international coalitions. Another example of this, is described by Ben-Ghiat’s “Conquest and Collaboration”, with the focus specifically on Italian involvement in Ethiopia. For me, given my African background (born to Ghanaian parents), it was intriguing to attempt to read and understand the reasoning behind what the Italians were attempting to do, especially with attitudes expressed such as “‘numeric and geographic expansion of the yellow and black races’ meant that ‘the civilization of the white man is destined to perish’”.

This attitude was apparently not shared to the same degree with the Germans, as space was provided for their disdain of the people residing in the African continent, given the quote from Motadel provided, as “during the war, the Germans showed similar pragmatism when working with Caucasian and Central Asian as well as, though to a lesser extent, sub-Saharan African nationalists.” I suppose, the final quote of the paragraph with the above quotation summarises the sheer confusion and hypocrisy surrounding this policy with the fact that “the Nazi state proved to be increasingly flexible in its racial policies, showing that racisms in practice are often situational, contingent, even arbitrary.” As a result, one of the biggest things I took away from both readings was the contrast between the attitudes seemingly of the German Foreign Ministry to pursue and support a more purely nationalistic agenda withing the numerous countries with their racist attitudes being quite “flexible”. Meanwhile with the Italian model as described by Ben-Ghait, the attitudes towards the region they were looking to exploit was less arbitrary, in addition to the fact that rather preferred to use the country “to perform as a laboratory of the fascist social engineering projects”.

The theme continues, (to a lesser extent) right in to modern day, with Motadel’s shorter NYT article “The Far Right Says There’s Nothing Dirtier Than Internationalism – But they Depend On It”, although I found it rather ironic that the countries one would think would have more similar and shared ideologies, continued to have such deep disagreements between each other.  Perhaps as Motadel explains, this may have to do with the widening of the nationalistic ideology with “the gulf between parochial nationalism and cosmopolitan internationalism (being) too wide to bridge”.

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