Politics of Western Europe
November 17, 1994

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
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
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