The essence of nationhood: how ordinary people make sense of nationality, and how essentialist beliefs create acculturative problems

Nigbur, D., Franz, A., Hocking, I., Hilton, D., Charalambides, L., Zagefka, H., Gonzalez, R. and Tip, L. (2012) The essence of nationhood: how ordinary people make sense of nationality, and how essentialist beliefs create acculturative problems. In: BPS Social Psychology Section conference, 21-23 August 2012, University of St Andrews.

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Objectives: Two studies (one qualitative, one quantitative) introduce new conceptual and methodological angles on national identity.
Design and Methods: The qualitative study used a focus group approach in order to examine how nationality operates as an individual as well as collective experience. British, German and French volunteers talked about their national identities in six nationally homogeneous groups (3-6 participants each) and in their native language. The quantitative study asked a British opportunity sample (N = 90) to complete an online questionnaire on the relationship between acculturation attitudes, national essentialism, and rejection of immigrants.

Results: The qualitative study shows how conversations between ordinary nationals can serve as a valuable method for researchers to understand the everyday meanings and feelings involved in national identity. People individually made sense of their nationality and their affective relationship with it; but they did so with reference to shared experience of how it feels to belong to a particular nation. We argue that this allows insights into the individual and systemic levels of national identity and productively joins discursive notions with a phenomenological approach. Meanwhile, the quantitative study brings together ideas from the literature on acculturation, essentialism and prejudice in showing that essentialist beliefs relate to feelings of cultural adaptation among immigrants being at once highly desirable and extremely difficult. This discrepancy, in turn, was associated with rejection of immigrants.

Conclusions: Our work adds new conceptual and methodological perspectives to a genuinely social-psychological analysis of complex national identities, to complement less empirically based, interdisciplinary accounts.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology > HM1001 Social psychology
Divisions: pre Nov-2014 > Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > Applied Social Sciences
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Dr Dennis Nigbur
Date Deposited: 23 Oct 2012 14:06
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2014 14:10

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00