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”.

Populism v Fascism: Return of The state?

Written by Conrad Yiridoe

The theme of this week’s readings focused primarily on the terminology of populism and fascism. With a few of the readings, the main focus was on the comparison of fascism to the modern day and why this may not be the most effective strategy to address current events. In the United States specifically, the comparison of the republican party (or rather this specific version of it) and especially soon to be former president Donald Trump has become to the historic days of fascist regimes (Italy’s Mussolini) has become rather “fashionable”. De Grazia, Moyn and Gordon all argue (to differing degrees) that the constant comparisons may in fact actually dilute and even to some degree even insult the “actual fascism” that was present in the past. Moyn and Gordon argue with a broader approach, that the trend of comparing current events (regardless of their degree of horror and general disapproval), may in fact serve to be counter intuitive to a certain extent.

With regards to Moyn’s analysis, I am inclined to both agree and disagree with his opinion. Specifically, I concur with his overall message that the main objective with comparisons to the past need to take into consideration not only the context of what occurred, but also examine the weight with which these comparisons should be taken into account. As Moyn states, “charging fascism does nothing on its own. Only building an alternative to the present does…” and hence the idea that simply drawing the comparison between Donald Trump and fascism without actually providing context for why specifically the comparison is being made and furthermore what should be done about it, needs to be readdressed.

As a final note, I also agree with De Grazia’s main point which I feel was the fact that once again, another “trendy” term (this time being fascism) is in a sense not being fully appreciated, due to many of those using the term, not fully appreciating its weight. As a question going forward, I wonder if perhaps these analogies to historic events would become more useful and meaningful by first ensuring that the definition of the term (fascism in this case) is fully understood by the audience (whether it be a specific person, or the general public). Furthermore, I postulate if perhaps it would be worth while to always follow up said comparison with more actionable concepts

Onwards to populism briefly and here I found the DEMOS study to be quite surprising (at least to my less historically experienced eyes) in that they were able to divide up the different movements into four distinct types of populism. In addition, these types were all over the political spectrum, from the far left and right, to in-between, which surprised me as I figured based on the limited definition of populism (essentially charging a “the people” vs “the elite” anti-establishment mentality), that the specific ideology of populism was fairly rigid (which of course is not the case). I also do not completely understand the significant difference between the illiberal compared with the anti-establishment populist movements. In particular, I wonder about the “radical democratic appeal” that the authors charge is present mainly in the anti-establishment movement yet lacking in the illiberal movements. I also wonder how the use of “conspiratory explanations” with the illiberal charges is also not strongly reflected in the anti-establishment movements.


Written by Conrad Yiridoe

Hello everyone! This intro’s cutting it close but better late than never eh?…

My story is a little different (unique? unusual?) than everyone else’s. Neither of my previous degrees were focused chiefly in policy, geography or even history. My first degree is actually science based (Microbiology), while my second degree is in healthcare (Pharmacy).  At the moment, I am a first year M.A. student in the EURUS program. While I was studying during Pharmacy, I was fortunate to spend some time abroad, specifically in Madrid, Spain. Having kept an eye on the situation in the region of Catalonia (after their recent push for independence), I was further inspired to continue to follow up on European affairs after the trip (specifically with regards to policy and integration issues). Partnering this experience with my previous trip to western Europe a few years prior, where I was fortunate enough to visit among other places, the Palace of Versailles in France, the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands, and Checkpoint Charlie in Germany, my curiosity for European affairs has never been fully satisfied. As a result, given my passion for certain policy focused issues in Europe (from the Catalonia independence movement to Brexit), I felt as though this class would provide a fantastic opportunity to better solidify my understanding of the history in the continent in order to better understand the policy decisions and political stances of today.

In terms of hobbies, thanks to Covid-19 I have gone from venturing outside to experiment with photography on a weekly basis, to picking up yoga and meditation (very helpful after a long day at the pharmacy dealing with stressed out patients), to currently considering adopting a kitten after debating it for a couple years (my close friends have all strongly been pushing me to do so, so I guess we’ll see…).