Sweeper: What is Nationalism?

This week we looked at the idea of Nationalism and how different groups will use medieval examples as symbols for their cause. Dr. Marc Saurette lent us his wisdom on medieval examples of chivalry, and how the context of the middle ages has made them a heroic symbol. One of our readings for this week paid particular attention to the extremist group the Ku Klux Klan, or the KKK. The KKK is known for seeing themselves as heroes and have adopted the idea of being ‘New Crusaders’, like those from the medieval past.

The first responders this week dedicated a lot of attention to the KKK reading, most likely because it was both the shortest, most comprehensible, and the most relevant reading assigned for the week. With the rise of Donald Trump, white nationalism groups such as this have made a profound return to the public eye. This made us begin to think about our own national identity, as the majority of our class is or most likely identifies as white. In Canada, however, we have a very large multicultural population to consider, many of whom are throughly Canadian. This has lead us to wonder what Canadian nationalism is and if we have one like other countries do. This transformed into our questioning of what nationalism is and how it develops in countries, and what the difference is between a constructed nationalism and a natural nationalism. Our questions kept leading to more questions and our group realized that like our questions, nationalism too has many branches which splinter. There is no one answer to the question of nationalism, but we would love to open this discussion to the class and hear your opinion.

The Middle Ages in the 20/21st Century Response

The introduction from the textbook From Populism to fascism in History provides an insight into the history of populism and fascism and where the terms come from.  One of the arguments that intrigued me most was how people from the media to pundits and to politicians misuse the terms when labeling politicians, they do not agree with.  The reading proposes that they do not know the historical context of these words which provides a danger in throwing them around when describing a right-wing politician whose ideological stripe does not align with them.  One can find many blogs and articles that describe former Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a fascist.  This hyperbole used to describe a democratically elected politician is damaging because it likens him to real fascists such as Mussolini and Hitler.  When describing moderate politicians as fascist one downplays the actual atrocities that are committed under ultraviolent regimes. Do pundits really believe far-right politicians are fascists or do they use the terminology for shock and awe to improve their audience base?


The reading from Amy Kaufman titled The Birth of a National Disgrace: Medievalism and the KKK discusses how the myth of medieval times that was constructed of a white male patriarchy affirms the roots of the ideology of the KKK and other white nationalist movements.   The myth of medieval chivalry is nothing but a form of blinders similar to those used by race forces to enforce the ideas of weak minded individuals to justify their actions.  If the white-nationalists would take a step back from their narrative of protecting white virtue they would realize how far behind their rationales are.  These people are trying to turn their America into a utopian Camelot by closing their minds to what is going on around them and not realizing that they are on the wrong side of the coin.  The movement of white nationalism reared its head during the Trump campaign but does it have the strength to continue on to 2020?

Riley Bowman


Week 2 Reading Reflection

At issue this week, is the discussion of how ideas about the medieval period have been incorporated into popular discourse. There are two main ideas that are relevant from this week’s readings. The first is the borrowing of chivalric values from the middle ages and the problems that lie with this. The second is the idea of the constructed nation, and how the use of texts and ideas from the middle ages help in the construction of these groups.

It is important to consider how ideas of chivalry affected the actions and ideas of groups, such as the KKK, as mentioned in Amy Kaufman’s article. She discusses the idea that these ideas are appropriated in order to make the members of these organizations feel more secure because they are looking back and dreaming of the patriarchal society of the Middle Ages. However, it is important to look at how these ideas have been taken out of context, warped and applied in ways that are not in keeping with historical fact.

This leads to one of the other main themes that I saw in these readings – the construction of groups (as nations, or social groups) based on “facts.” It is clear from what Patrick Geary says in both his article and podcast that these ideas are constructed to suit certain groups, and by extension disadvantage others. If we understand these histories as being constructed we must ask ourselves: who is telling this story, and to what end? It seems to me that the ultimate goal of these narratives is control and to assert that control by creating an identity.