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Nationalism, Self-determination and Secession

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Nationalism, self-determination and secession (https://flic.kr/p/4kWzeV) by Richard Howes (https://www.flickr.com/photos/9186045@N02/) used under a CC-BY-NC license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/)

Description: What makes a ‘nation’ and what makes peoples strive for nationhood? This unit will provide you with an introduction to studying political ideas by looking at how people who see themselves as nations challenge the existing order to assert their right to a state of their own. After studying this unit you should be able to: grasp the concepts of nation, nationalism and self-determination; have a better understanding of the role they play in current political disputes; think about the problem of how to take democratic decisions about secession; relate political theory to political practice more rigorously; take a more informed and active part in debates about national and international politics.

Author: Geoff Andrews, Open University, Michael Saward, Open University

Original source: www.open.edu

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Review this book

Reviews for 'Nationalism, self-determination and secession'

Number of reviews: 3
Average Rating: 4.2 out of 5

1. Reviewed by: Joshua Labove
  • Institution: Simon Fraser University
  • Title/Position: Sessional Lecturer
  • Overall Rating: 4.7 out of 5
  • Date:
  • License: Creative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

The text is pulled out of a larger text the authors use in their teaching at the Open University. It manages to cover all the theoretical bases of a topical and current issue without being narrowly limited to headlines or events of the present-day. Rather, the text can be thought of as a strong theoretical introduction to the concepts of nationalism and secession. Reviewing this text in the month during (and after) a Scottish independence vote, it becomes clear that this text avoids political technicalities of the Scottish case and instead provides a useful lens through which to understand independence and secession movements. It is comprehensive and provides a useful philosophical guide while remaining engaging and approachable.

Comprehensiveness Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

By staying just outside the political, the authors approach secession movements with a kind of academic distance that usefully allows the content to be richly comprehensive and accurate. While many texts do take sides, this piece does not do that, instead opting to examine the mechanics of nationalism and independence movements. The result is an impressive introduction and supplement for students.

Content Accuracy Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

The authors have stepped outside of current events in a useful way--the text reads usefully precisely because they have chosen to examine the mechanics of separation without feeling the need to be weighed down by the individual case studies around the world. While references to particular separatist or independence movements are referenced, the 'chapters' are divided not by space or time but by particular theoretical and ideological facets of separation. Given these authorial choices, the text will be able to serve students for a long time. I began reviewing the text under the backdrop of Scottish independence and it reads as useful and important today long after the votes have been tabulated.

Relevance Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

The text does suffer a bit from Open U-ese, that sometimes theory-rich prose that is somewhat endemic to the Open University and its prolific scholars. In particular, the 'chapter' headings are a bit cumbersome and may be a bit to negotiate for BC students. The theory-heavy, technical approach to separatist movements demands a more obtuse writing style--some of the things discussed are highly conceptual. Thankfully the authors match the theory with engaging writing and storytelling so students needn't muck through dense verbiage for very long.

Clarity Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

While terminology and framework are consistent, it is important to note this is less of a full textbook and more of a subdivided book chapter. The authors call it a 'unit' and that's a fair descriptor. As such, we should take 'framework' with a grain of salt--its a fairly condensed read--but the terms used and the way concepts are explained remains consistent.

Consistency Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

While the authors attempted a division of the material, some of these segments feel unnatural or forced. As a 'unit' more than a 'text', it doesn't break apart as easily as larger, more expansive texts. The headings used by the authors to divide 'chapters' or 'sections' are bit cumbersome--"The prioritisation of a particular group – the nation – as a key constituting and identifying framework for human beings and their practices" starts a one page discussion on nation-states and territory, for instance. So if that material was to be seen as modular, awkward subject headings make that modularity more difficult.

Modularity Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

There is a great sense of flow to the text--perhaps at the expense of modularity. Given the brevity of the text, it is neatly organized and presented in a logical order to build on past learning outcomes.

Organization Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

The Pressbooks interface the authors use is one of my favourite. Very uncluttered, the emphasis is on the text with a easily accessible table of contents on every page.

Interface Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

There are no grammatical errors that I could find.

Grammar Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive.

Cultural Relevance Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

2. Reviewed by: Rosemary Hitchens
  • Institution: Simon Fraser University
  • Title/Position: Teaching Assistant
  • Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
  • Date:
  • License: Creative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

This is not your standard introductory textbook, but a provocative and intellectual engagement into the subjects covered. This text critically analyzes both the good and the bad concerning the key concepts discussed. Drawing strongly on a philosophical and theoretical framework, the authors provide an adeqaute lens for students to gain insight into nationalism, self-nationalism and/or succession. I appreciated how they critically approached concepts, like "community" that can be manipulated or poliically taken advantage of due to their ambitious nature. Furthermore, the text is useful in that it makes reference to many of the familiar theoretical arguments and scholars prominent to this discourse, allowing undergraduate students to get an introductory level of theory if they are not yet fully accustomed to it. For example, they discuss the objective vs. subjective definition of nation in their attempt to contextualize it within a criteria of "nationness."

Comprehensiveness Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

The text quotes from political theories, such as Hobsbawn, but uses a secondary citation rather than referring to the original text, which in this case seems as if it would be simple to do, conferring a weakness in resource gathering. Nevertheless, the authors use a wide range of prominent theorists, across disciplines, creating a well-rounded and non-biases analysis that is overall, error-free.

Content Accuracy Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

The text is up-to-date in that it addresses the subject in a longer timeframe, highlighting issues people and states faced throughout history. Contemporarily, the authors incorporate examples, such as the concept of "queer nation" that would not make the text obsolete within a short period of time. Furthermore, the text was written in a straightforward manner.

Relevance Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

There is a bit of theoretical jargon that is thrown into the text without a proper explanation. For example, they note various school so thought, such as "contract theorists" and "utilitarians," as well as the names of theorists, without accompanying descriptions. Furthermore, acronyms are casually mentioned, such as "FLN" without reference to a full name. Therefore, this text may be more appropriate for students who can easily ask questions regarding this terminology, or who are already accustomed to it.

Clarity Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

I felt as if the text sometimes jumped around a bit, and could have been more consistent in structuring a framework that provided a bit more clarity. For example, the rise of the modern nation-state is the historical foundation for this text, as they so mention, yet, it is placed within the community section, rather than receiving a deserving section of its own at the beginning of the text. This would perhaps not be an issue I was drawn to, if not for the very small and rather undeserving sections near the end of only a paragraph or two.

Consistency Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

I felt as if the text was over-sectioned at times. Some of the sections were only a paragraph and could have been included in the former sections. Nonetheless, their modules created a "clean" look to the text, allowing for an easy read.

Modularity Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

The topics were presented in a logical and clear fashion.

Organization Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

The links did not work, and I received an error when redirected to the website from the PDF. Moreover, some of the pictures were disturbingly blurry. However, if they did/do work, then I enjoy the idea of a hyperlink interaction with the reader.

Interface Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

Other than some awkward sentence structure, more so near the beginning of the text, there were not many grammatical errors I noticed. There was a contraction placed mid-text (don't), which I thought was inconsistent as they were not used anywhere else, and some repetition of phrases, such as "political theorists," which was used multiple times in one paragraph. Also, maybe another proofread would be helpful, as there seemed to be some unnecessary commas, and random code placed within the text.

Grammar Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

The text is not culturally insensitive; however, there was some overuse of examples, such as Israel/Palestine. Although I understand they are the typical examples, I would have enjoyed to see less redundancy, and more challenging/controversial notions of empirical examples.

Cultural Relevance Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

Focusing prominently on nationalism, Quebec serves as a solid example, and thus, was incorporated in differing contexts throughout the text, making it appropriate for a Canadian context.

3. Reviewed by: Dale Martelli
  • Institution: Simon Fraser University
  • Title/Position: SFU PhD student
  • Overall Rating: 3.9 out of 5
  • Date:
  • License: Creative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

The text covers a variety of topics related to nationalism, self-determination, and secession. The text clearly delineates its content to include primarily philosophical and theoretical content as opposed to historical examples. Within these boundaries the text successfully introduces some of the basic principles and thought around these areas. The subsections on Succession (Section 16 & 17 pdf version/ 6.5 and 6.6 in the online version) could be expanded to be more comprehensive. There is no index or glossary accompanying the text.

Some background knowledge of the applied examples of the text is assumed which could hinder the reader’s understanding of the text if they had no awareness of these historical events.

Comprehensiveness Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

The authors have dropped some of the nuances of their arguments in a trade for readability as an introductory text. This leaves the content mostly accurate but the lack of details and particularly of historical exceptions, does weigh against the content accuracy.

Content Accuracy Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

As the authors have limited their text to primarily the philosophical and theoretical issues related to Nationalism, Self-determination, and Secession, the content is up-to-date. The applied examples and historical examples the authors used are recent enough and received enough international attention that many readers will have some background knowledge of the events and therefore the content is relevant and up-to-date and is likely to continue to be so for a reasonable amount of time.

Relevance Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

The clarity of the writing is excellent. The text is easy to read, clear, free of jargon or unreferenced terms. The text, however, is almost colloquial in tone in some places, which could detract from its academic tone.

Clarity Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

The text is clear in its terminology and the context for this terminology. The text is internally consistent in its use of these terms and in its structure.

Consistency Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

The text is divided into many small sections. While most of these sections are adequate in size and substance to be of use to a reader and to the formation of a unit, some sections are too short to stand on their own or be of much use. These smaller sections give the chapter a “choppy” appearance and read, and would not be of much use separately if one was trying to form a unit (again section 6.5 and 6.6 in the online version could be cited as an example).

Modularity Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

The authors are very clear about what readers should be able to learn from the text. The learning objectives and chapter summary notes are concise, clear, and helpful.

Organization Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

The online version of the Table Of Contents on the home page is awkward to navigate, however, the Table of Contents on the left hand side of the screen when inside the textbook was easy to navigate. The images throughout the text were not particularly clear, and many were missing any information under the “Long Description” tabs (i.e. Fig 1 & Fig 2). The map key in Figure 4 is illegible due to image blurriness. The images, in general, do not really contribute to the understanding of the text. More appropriate and better quality images is suggested, as well as additional image information under the appropriate tab

Interface Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

– The text contains no grammatical errors.

Grammar Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

The text is not culturally insensitive and is inclusive in its selection of applicable examples. Again, a more nuanced text might be helpful in furthering the cultural relevance and accuracy of the text.

Cultural Relevance Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

The text is particularly relevant in the Canadian context as the authors make frequent reference to Quebec.