TS: Ethnogenesis and Nation-Building

Course Description: 

The course goal is to present new developments in the research of ethnogenesis processes and the questions of nationalism and nation-building in a longue durée perspective. Questions of ethnogenesis have been intensively dominated by national historiography and closely linked with the political processes of the European nations. The nineteenth century witnessed the birth of nations as political units and the entry of history into the world of serious sciences at the same time. The idea of ethnogenesis played a crucial part in national histories and still continues to do. It is only during the last 30 years that these patterns were refuted by a new model of ethnogenesis that accentuates the heterogeneity of ethnic groups in early medieval times. The concept of peoples is no longer accepted as a fixed point for understanding the building of political units. Instead, most areas of historical science suggest a strong distinction between concepts of linguistic, archaeological, biological, and political aspects. The questions of national identity are no less fuzzy when it comes to the study of more recent historical phenomena. Historians have been divided over the issue of early modern “nationalism”: how can one differentiate appeals to national solidarity in the context of pre-modern polities to modern, fully-fledged nationalism? The question of the universalist and particularist constructions of nationhood, often projected on the shift between Enlightenment and romantic modalities, has been also challenged and a more nuanced understanding of the transformation of national discourse has been formed. As for the twentieth century, major discussions focus on the different modalities of linking the national framework to the state (federalism, totalitarianism, national communism) and exploring their common genealogical roots and intertwining.

Learning Outcomes: 

This class offers the opportunity to follow in detail a research debate that reflects the rise and fall of new paradigms in historical research. The problem of ethnogenesis is a central issue for understanding the principal patterns of modern historiography concerning the Early Medieval Ages. The interdependence between the political circumstances and the directions of research makes clear how far the historical debates are in fact political ones even when they concern subjects of the past. Besides the precise subject, the course intends to demonstrate how historical research works within a self-identifying system. Ethnogenesis can be taken as an example of other similar processes concerning all kinds of new tendencies in historical research, which can sometimes become the dominating paradigms or often just short-lived fashions. The aim of the course is not just to get detailed knowledge about ethnogenesis as a subject of research. Looking at the different concepts of ethnogenesis processes shows how developments in science work. The results can be used even when the thesis does not have a clear relation to the subject of ethnogenesis. By following the patterns of the scientific community the participants will be able to contribute themselves to a still-ongoing discussion. Summary of learning outcomes: 1. Specific knowledge: Familiarity with the historical development of the concept of ethnogenesis and its modern applications 2. Ability to employ higher-order thinking skills: Individual essays integrating course material with students’ own research 3. Ability to synthesize publications using critical reading skills: Presentations of articles


10% Class participation

40% Presentation of articles

50% A short essay that combines the subject of the course with the student’s own dissertation project