The Centre of Excellence for National Security, RSIS, concluded its five-episode webinar series titled “Age of Rages: Nationalisms”, with two webinars on 14 July and 11 August 2020.
The penultimate webinar titled “Civic Nationalism and the Challenges of Integration” featured Dr Geoffrey Brahm Levey, Associate Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean (Research), Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales, and Dr Christian Joppke, Chair in Sociology, University of Bern. Dr Daphne Halikiopoulou, Associate Professor in Comparative Politics at the University of Reading joined as discussant. The speakers explored nuances of civic nationalism. Dr Levey highlighted the need to distinguish not only ethnic and civic nationalisms — the classic distinction — but also cultural nationalism from ethnic nationalism, and liberal nationalism from civic nationalism, ultimately arguing for an understanding of civic nationalism as an explanation for specific domains of state activity. Dr Joppke focused his presentation on neoliberal nationalism as key to understanding modern citizenship — making citizenship harder to . Dr Halikiopoulou concluded by emphasising the need to account for nationalisms as dynamic, with states and actors driving particular narratives of nationalisms to justify their political positions.
The series concluded with the webinar titled “Whither Civic Nationalism in South Asia?” by Dr Neil DeVotta, Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Wake Forest University, North Carolina as the keynote speaker. Delving further into the concept of civic nationalism, Dr DeVotta focused on recent Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism in Sri Lanka and Hindutva in India, and argued for civic nationalism as an antidote to the proliferation of ethnoreligious nationalisms in South Asia. The discussant, Dr Vineeta Sinha, Professor and Head of Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore, provided insights on civic nationalism and its failures in South Asia, which she proclaimed was partly due to a mismatch of the nation state as a postcolonial inheritance and cultural realities in the region. The discussion concluded with the acknowledgement that there are indeed difficulties implementing a civic nationalist state. However, civic nationalism can and should serve as an ideal that espouses the basic notion of equal treatment.