The Use Of Nationalism In Ernest Renan's What Is A Nation

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“What characterizes these different states,” states Ernest Renan in his essay titled What is a Nation (Renan 2). In his essay, Ernest attempts to answer this question through the use of historical references such as the Roman Empire, France, Britain, Germany, etc. (Renan 1). However, Ernest utilizes such references not to describe what characteristics define what a Nation is, rather to depict what characteristics do not define what a nation is. Ernest’s definition of this characterization, however, does not prove its worth unless it is applied to a real world situation. To accomplish this, we will use Mexico and its quest to achieve nationalism and establish Mexicanidad. In Mexico’s quest for nationalism, and the drive to characterize Mexicanidad, …show more content…
However, in his article Ernest Renan proves that none of the above stated characteristics can be specifically tied to the characteristics that define what a nation is. Specifically, in regards to race, he asserts, “The truth of the matter is that there are no pure races; making politics depend on ethnographic analysis is to have it repose on a chimera” (Renan 5). On the topic of languages, Ernest claims, “Languages are historical formations that imply nothing in regards to those who speak them” (Renan 8). For religion, Ernest contends, “there is no longer any religion of states: one can be French, English, or German while being a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew, or someone who practices no religion” (Renan 9). For Mexico, at one time their race and language are what used to bind them together, but after the influence of the Spanish they lost their commonality in race, language, and religion. Author Octavio Paz confirms this by stating, “The Mexican state proclaimed an abstract and universal conception of man: the Republic is not composed of criollos, Indians, and mestizos but simply of men alone. All alone”, in his article titled The Sons of La Malinche (Paz 26). Therefore, Mexico too knows that these characteristics cannot define their nationalism. Mexico is rich in both past and present hardships that can be considered …show more content…
Though there a many benefits of having a group of people united under one national identity, there runs a risk of the idea of nationalism becoming radicalized. An example of this is the Mexican-American, “Chicanos” nationalist group known as the National Brown Berets (Anzaldua 5). This group, though they are not violent, is a militarized group that takes pride in its discipline and uniformity (Cuetalachtli). Radicalized is their classification due to the ideals behind their drive toward nationalism. As stated in their Political Stance, “Chicana/os, as Natives of this land, have the responsibility and the obligation to fight towards and proactively prepare for the day that our liberation will come. Everything we do and every resource must be committed to achieving that goal” (Cuetalachtli). Quoted above is a statement on the National Brown Berets website speaking about the anticipated reunification of Mexico and the territory that was claimed by the United States after the Mexican-American War. Once again, though this specific group has remained peaceful, it’s acts can give some a bad impression of Mexican nationalism as a whole. This is one of nationalisms biggest downfalls in characterizing a nation; it is that some of the over radicalized can ruin the

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