The field of study that comprises nations and nationalism is often seen as riven by a conflict between ‘modernists’ and their opponents. In fact, the field is far more fragmented than such a characterisation suggests.
From the very first normative critical essays 150 years ago, it has been composed of shifting landscapes in which different approaches and perspectives overlap and cross-cut each other like intersecting monologues. While there was a short period of engagement in the 1980s, a ‘classic debate’ between modernists, perennialists and ethno-symbolists who embraced a macro-analytic framework and a causal-historical methodology, the familiar landscape has radically shifted to reveal a series of deconstructionist strategies and techniques; and while rational choice theories, among others, continue to embrace causal-historical analysis, there has been a rejection in many quarters of both macro-analytic narratives and causal-historical analysis. The new anti-essentialist strategies include feminist critiques, the study of everyday nationhood, the hybridisation of national identities, and debates about the ‘ethics of nationalism’ which echo earlier critiques. Above all, there is a new concern with the application of globalising trends to nations and nationalism, and especially with the role of nations without states, and the impact of supranationalism, large-scale migration and ‘religious nationalisms’.