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‘Dominant ethnicity’ and the ‘ethnic-civic’ dichotomy in the work of A. D. Smith

By Eric P. Kaufmann and O. Zimmer


This article considers the way in which the work of Anthony Smith has helped to structure debates surrounding the role of ethnicity in present-day nations. Two major lines of enquiry are evident here. First, the contemporary role of dominant ethnic groups within 'their' nations and second, the interplay between ethnic and civic elements in nationalist argument. The two processes are related, but maintain elements of distinctiveness. Smith's major contribution to the dominant ethnicity debate has been to disembed ethnicity from the ideologically-charged and/or anglo-centric discourse of ethnic relations and to place it in historical context, thereby opening up space for dominant group ethnicity to be considered as a distinct phenomenon. This said, Smith's work does not adequately account for the vicissitudes of dominant ethnicity in the contemporary West. Building on the classical works of Hans Kohn and Friedrich Meinecke, Anthony Smith has also made a seminal contribution to the debate on civic and ethnic forms of national identity and nationalist ideology. As well as freeing this debate from the strong normative overtones which it has often carried, he has continued to insist that the terms civic and ethnic should be treated as an ideal-typical distinction rather than a scheme of classification

Topics: polsoc
Publisher: Wiley
Year: 2004
OAI identifier:

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