Ethnicity and Aboriginality: Case Studies in Ethnonationalism


179 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-8020-2918-3
DDC 305.8




Edited by Michael D. Levin
Reviewed by James S. Frideres

James S. Frideres is associate dean (research) in the Faculty of Social
Sciences, University of Calgary, and author of A World of Communities:
Participatory Research.


The focus of this edited volume is Walker Conner’s 1973 article “The
Politics of Ethnonationalism.” Eight papers by well-known
anthropologists who attended a conference on ethnonationalism address
the issue through the use of case studies. As the editor notes in the
introduction, “the papers reflect the complexity of the claims and
aspirations of different groups and the varying forms of expression of
these ideals.” The short introduction constitutes an important
contribution to the study of ethnonationalism. The discussion and
analysis of the concept and the arguments put forth to support or reject
it are both revealing and well presented.

The first four chapters focus on aboriginal peoples in Canada, as
Macklem, Asch, Weaver, and Tanner delve into such complex issues as
identities, self-government, self-determination, and culture in the
generation of ethnic nationalism. In successive chapters, Nagata takes
the reader to Malaysia as she looks at ethnonationalism both from within
the state and from the world beyond the state; Tremblay, using a
development perspective, looks at the cultural identity crisis among
Quebeckers of French descent; Abwunza shows how the self-determination
rights of ethnic groups in western Kenya appear to have been neutralized
through the political production of a national ideology; and Levin,
focusing on the Biafra and Bette in Nigeria, illustrates how the
creation of a state stimulated new forms of ethnic self-awareness.

Although there is a consensus among social scientists on the
desirability of studying the emergence of ethnonationalism, this book
illustrates the difficulty in doing so. Few of the essays consider the
process from an empirical basis, although most try to present a
historical context. Notwithstanding its weakness, the book is
interesting and makes a seminal contribution to the study of
ethnonationalism. The analysis of ethnonationalism will provide fertile
ground for the study of how history, symbols, strategies, power, and
mobilization interact in transforming a collective of individuals into a
collective outcome. In the end, the book may contribute to a better
understanding of the interplay between culture and strategic action.


“Ethnicity and Aboriginality: Case Studies in Ethnonationalism,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 4, 2023,