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 ideology, is a means of

sharing political power