Blood and Belonging

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Blood and Belonging

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