Why do nations matter? The struggle for belonging and security in an uncertain world

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(Corresponding author email: m.skey@uea.ac.uk)

Abstract

This paper explores the reasons why national forms of identification and organization (might) matter in the contemporary era. In contrast to the majority of macro-sociological work dealing with this topic, I develop an analytical framework that draws together recent research on everyday nationalism with micro-sociological and psychological studies pointing to the importance of routine practices, institutional arrangements and symbolic systems in contributing to a relatively settled sense of identity, place and community. The second part of the paper focuses on the hierarchies of belonging that operate within a given national setting. Of particular interest is the largely taken-for-granted status of the ethnic majority and the degree to which it underpins claims to belonging and entitlement that are used to secure key allocative and authoritative resources.

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