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Primordialism or perennialism is the argument which contends that nations are ancient, natural phenomena.[1]

Primordialism can be traced philosophically to the ideas of German Romanticism, particularly in the works of Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Johann Gottfried Herder.[2] For Herder, the nation was synonymous with language group. In Herder's thinking, language was synonymous with thought, and as each language was learnt in community, then each community must think differently. This also suggests that the community would hold a fixed nature over time.

Primordialism encountered enormous criticism after the Second World War, with a few scholars of nationalism coming to treat the nation as a community constructed by the technologies and politics of modernity.[1] Though largely rejected by most theorists of nationalism, some of its ideas have found parallels in ethnosymbolism.



  1. ^ a b Jack Hayward, Brian Barry, Archie Brown (2003) p 330
  2. ^ Dominique Jacquin-Berdal (2002) p 9

See also


  • Jack Hayward, Brian Barry, Archie Brown (2003) The British Study of Politics in the Twentieth Century, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0197262945
  • Yehouda A. Shenhav (2006) The Arab Jews: a postcolonial reading of nationalism, religion, and ethnicity, Stanford University Press, ISBN 0804752966
  • Dominique Jacquin-Berdal (2002) Nationalism and Ethnicity in the Horn of Africa: A Critique of the Ethnic Interpretation Edwin Mellen Press, ISBN 0773469540

Further reading

  • Barth, Fredrik 1969: Ethnic Groups and Boundaries
  • Smith, Anthony D. 1998. Nationalism and modernism: a critical survey of recent theories of nations and nationalism, London; New York: Routledge.
  • Özkırımlı, Umut 2000. Theories of Nationalism, London: Macmillan Press.
  • Espiritu, Yen Le: Asian-American Panethnicity: Bridging Institutions and Identities.
  • Appadurai, Arjun 1996: Modernity at Large


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