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Religion and nationalism: four approaches


  • *  Thanks are due to Matthew Baltz and Kristen Kao for their assistance, to anonymous referees for their comments, and to Bernd Giesen and Philip Gorski for the opportunity to present an early version of this article at a conference on ‘Nation/Religion’ in Konstanz.


ABSTRACT. Building on recent literature, this article discusses four ways of studying the relationship between religion and nationalism. The first is to treat religion and nationalism, along with ethnicity and race, as analogous phenomena. The second is to specify ways in which religion helps explain things about nationalism – its origin, its power or its distinctive character in particular cases. The third is to treat religion as part of nationalism, and to specify modes of interpenetration and intertwining. The fourth is to posit a distinctively religious form of nationalism. The article concludes by reconsidering the much-criticised understanding of nationalism as a distinctively secular phenomenon.