|Summary of Brian Walker's contribution “Social Movements as Nationalisms, or, On the Very Idea of a Queer Nation”.|
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Jocelyne Couture, Kai Nielsen, and Michel Seymour, editors
viii + 704 pages
Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Supplementary Volume XXII (1996)
About the Book
Table of Contents
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Introduction [p. 505]
Old nationalisms were racial or ethnic, but new nationalisms (such as those advocated by Kymlicka, Margalit and Raz and Margalit and Halbertal are culturalist. BUT, if nations are defined culturally, three questions arise:
Culturalists have dodged the above questions by implicitly assuming that the stock of nations is constant and more-or-less overlaps old ethnic lines. But they should, if they take culturalism seriously, abandon the old and allow all sorts of new ones in, whether or not they are established. (In fact, the newer and more fragile they are, in theory, the more they need protecting, and if the rights granted to nations are specifically to protect fragile cultures, then the more novel ones, like Gay and Lesbian groups, are most in need.)
Nationality Claims and Intergroup Politics [p. 510]
Theorists who defend nationalism have two tasks:
Three major “justificatory matrices”: Religious (e.g., Herder [p. 512]), Racial and now cultural
Cultural defense: cultures are like “environmental habitats” [p. 514] that play crucial roles in developing basic human capacities, in particular the kind of abilities that liberals value – the capacity to determine one’s life-plan and live autonomously, for example. Furthermore, not just any culture will do, it has to be one’s own culture.
This is not a problem for members of the majority culture – it is practically impossible to isolate oneself from, e.g., mainstream US culture. But, precisely for that reason, minority cultures are likely to be threatened.
HOWEVER, under the “fragile context of choice” rubric, FARMERS, FUNDAMENTALISTS and GAYS & LESBIANS appear to count. Can culturalists find an exclusionary strategy to count them out?
The Very Idea of a Queer Nation [pp. 518]
Reasons to count gay nationalism as legitimate:
Challenge: gay “culture” is much too thin in comparison with “real” national cultures.
a) This underestimates depth of gay culture. [pp. 521-530]
1) Gays have collectives, discussion groups, bookstores, magazines, political lobbying groups
2) Gays are “unmoored” from mainstream culture by important differences in lifestyle, legal coverage, et al., which also makes developing a self-concept difficult. Gay culture provides gays with a social good that others take for granted: a “sense of belonging” where there are “things that one doesn’t have to explain” [p. 527]
3) Gays are victimized by others
4) For reasons like (2) and (3), gays have a “duty of rescue” towards others
Also overestimates depth of non-gay cultures
Cultures in Diaspora [p. 537]
One could reject Gay and Lesbian claims to nationhood by arguing as follows:
BUT: Problems with rejecting Gay nationhood as above:
Problems with “ethno-territorial model” of nationhood:
This model associates nations with particular territories, and demands that the nations be allowed to leave a ‘cultural imprint’ e.g., by naming streets, etc. BUT:
Conclusion [pp. 543-547]
Modern communication technologies allow more and more scattered groups to identify themselves as cultures. If, therefore, nationhood is culturalist, diasporic groups should be able to form nations. With that in mind, we should move away from aspirations to territorial control for every nation (as this is impractical for diasporas) and concentrate on the right each cultural group has to the “common pot” to “promote their ways of seeing and living the world, thereby increasing their sense of self-respect and well-being” [p. 545].