Grading guidelines fall semester 2018

General comment: The short questions are supposed to test whether the students read the syllabus and followed the lectures. Long answers are not expected, everything between a paragraph and a page should suffice, as long as the core points are made. The essays are designed to favour students who have read, understand, and are able to use theory in empirical analyses. In case of an unclear grade, the performance in the longer essay is decisive.

I. Short questions.

What does Anderson mean when he calls the nation an ‘imagined community’? How does he explain the emergence of the nation?

The first question demands an answer that provides Anderson’s definition of an imagined community, emphasizing that ‘imagined’ does not mean ‘imaginary’. An answer that does not make this point is not full. It should list all the characteristics that this author includes: Imagined political community – inherently limited & sovereign. A good answer should also explain what these notions mean in Anderson’s view.

The second question should show that the candidate is familiar with the chapter from ‘Imagined Communities’ where Anderson explains the emergence of a conjuncture of historical, cultural and technological factors that together allowed the modern nation to emerge, e.g. concepts such as a common idiom emerging from vernaculars, contemporaneity, a growing public space, the role of printed books etc.

What is a nation, and what, if anything, sets it apart from the ethnic group?

There are different ways to go about answering this question, but the take-home message is that there is no clear answer.

One possibility is to distinguish between a political, a socio-cultural and a subjective nation concept, and then look at how the different generic conceptions of nation relate to ethnicity. A common distinction is between ethnic category, ethnic group and nation, with degree of subjective identification as an important differentiating element. A second differentiating element is political aspirations. (This is covered in lectures).

A second possibility is to compare and contrast A.D. Smith’s working definitions of nation and ethnie, and to focus on what sets the nation apart from the ethnie.

A third possibility is to look at how different scholars’ conceptions of the nation relate to ethnicity.

What do Brubaker and Cooper mean by ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ conceptions of identity? How does that relate to A.D. Smith’s conception of national identity, and how can we conceptualize individual and collective affiliation with nations if not as ‘identities’, according to these authors?

The first part should indicate that the candidate has read the article or the lecture notes, and needs to contain a general distinction between two ideal typical ‘extremes’ in identity research. Hard: Identity is something all people/groups have or ought to have; you can have identity without being aware of it; Implying strong group boundedness and homogeneity. Soft: Identities are multiple, unstable, in flux, contingent, fragmented, constructed, negotiated etc. A good reply should already signal the problems with both, e.g. that a ‘soft’ identity concept might be too weak for theoretical and empirical work.

The second question should depart from the concepts of reification and essentialism, juxtaposing Brubaker’s and Cooper’s reflexive approach to the more essentialist approach that Smith illustrates.

Finally, the last part of the question should ideally list the strategies that Brubaker and Cooper propose, and discuss them: Identification and categorization; Self-understanding: Commonality, connectedness, groupness.

Describe briefly a) the main tenets of populism as an ideology as presented in the literature and b) the core ideology of populist radical right parties.

According to Mudde (2010), populism is a thin centered ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, ‘the pure people’ and ‘the corrupt elite’, and which argues that politics should be an expression of the volonté générale” or general will of the people.

The core ideology of populist radical right parties is a combination of what Mudde calls nativism [an ideology which holds that states should be inhabited exclusively by members of the native group (‘the nation’) and that non-native elements (persons and ideas) are fundamentally threatening to the homogenous nation-state], authoritarianism [the belief in a strictly ordered society in which infringements of authority are to be punished severely] and populism [see above], including anti-establishment sentiments.

IMPORTANT: Parties can be populist without being radical right: to fit into this party family, all three elements have to be present at the same time.

Rydgren (2007) likewise writes that populist radical right parties share an emphasis on ethno-nationalism rooted in myths about the distant past and anti-establishment populism embedded in a general sociocultural authoritarianism.

Populist radical right parties are thus radical rather than extreme: they accept popular sovereignty and majority rule and work within the system, but are anti-pluralist and do not support constitutional limitations to popular sovereignty (oppose liberal democracy). They also tend to prefer strong executives. They are rightist in socio-cultural terms, relating to issues like national identity, law and order, immigration, abortion, same-sex marriage etc., but not necessarily in socio-economic terms. Finally, they are populist: they divide society into the (pure) people and the (corrupt) elite, and claim to side with the people. Empirical examples are welcome, but not necessary.

Syllabus: Mudde (2010), Rydgren (2007).

What do Hobsbawm and Ranger mean by invented traditions? Provide examples covering at least two empirical cases from the syllabus.

The candidate should discuss the idea of ‘invented traditions’, that is those traditions, customs and rituals which appear long established but are in fact relatively recent. ‘Traditions that appear or claim to be old are often quite recent in origin and sometimes invented’. This should ideally be combined with discussing the role of ‘traditions’: Ritual, ‘Responses to novel situations referring to old ones’, providing social stability and/or legitimacy. It should also list the three functional types of invented traditions: Establishing social cohesion or group membership; establishing/legitimizing institutions; socializing.

The empirical example should draw on the lectures and readings, and two of the many cases discussed.


II. Essay

1. Main paradigms

Theories of nationalism can be classified according to paradigm. How would you label the theories of Brubaker, Gellner, Smith, Hobsbawm and Hroch? Choose at least two of these theories, and discuss similarities and differences between them, with special emphasis on a) nation concept and b) how they explain the emergence of nations and nationalism. Please use empirical examples.

From the summary lecture: Scholars according to paradigm



Main cause (primary focus)


Modernism (socio-cultural)

Industrialisation, high culture


Modernism (constructivism)

The modern state ++


Modernism (constructivism)

Print capitalism + language

A.D. Smith


Ethnie (+ modernisation as catalyst)


Between modernism and ethnicism

Nationally relevant conflicts





Students should be able to place each of the scholars in the correct paradigm, and preferably also say something about why they label the theories the way they do.

Any combination of scholars is fine in part 2, however, it is probably easier to get a good discussion out of it if they choose scholars that differ on the two dimensions they are asked to discuss. A minimum of two is required; some may choose to cover three or more. It is not recommended to cover all, both due to time constraints and because it is difficult to compare five theories in a systematic way. Besides, Brubaker does not have much to say about causes.

It is probably necessary to start with an overview of each of the theories. A comparison of modernists should focus on what they have in common, and where they depart from each other. A comparison between Smith and any of the modernists should focus on the role of modernisation in their theories as well as their different nation concepts.

They are also asked to provide empirical examples, and good students will be able to use the chosen two (or three) theories to discuss empirical cases. This can be Norway or the Central European cases that are covered on the syllabus, but other cases are also fine (Italy, Germany, or Sweden, for instance).

Plus for systematic, well-informed and well-argued accounts of differences and similarities and illuminating empirical examples.

Syllabus: Brubaker (2004, 2015), Gellner (1983), Hobsbawm (1992), Hroch (2015), Smith (1998, 2010).

2. Contents of identity

Scholars of nationalism often distinguish between a civic and an ethnic nation concept. What characterizes a civic nation concept as compared to an ethnic nation concept? These nation concepts correspond to two different paths to nationhood in Europe. Discuss the differences between these in terms of agency and nation-forming process, using at least one of the theories on the curriculum as a point of departure. How well does the Norwegian/Polish/Czech/Slovak case [choose one or two] fit into this picture?

The essay should begin with a definitional section, sketching the differences between civic and ethnic nationalisms, including e.g. the emphasis on citizenship or bloodline, political or cultural factors, the role of language etc. The definitions should have a comparative character, that is, the two types should be contrasted. The way civic/ethnic and Western/Eastern nationalisms correspond to each other can be mentioned here.

The following part should discuss the historical differences between the experience of nation forming of nations usually subsumed under the ‘civic’ label, e.g. France and those representing an ‘ethnic’ variant of nationalism, e.g. Germany. This should mention the role of the state or the desire to have it for revolutionary 19th century nationalisms. 

In the third part the students have most space to show their mastering of the curriculum and improvising with structure and empirical material. Historical illustrations should be employed within the framework of at least one theory. The role of agency, especially nationalist agitators for ethnic nationalisms, needs to be mentioned, and contrasted with the more bureaucratic practices of established nations.

The final part should show the candidate’s knowledge of the selected illustrative cases as well as the ability to critically engage with the concepts and theories, to indicate the ways in which ideal typical concepts can be used for analysing empirical reality.

Published Jan. 21, 2019 2:51 PM - Last modified Jan. 21, 2019 2:51 PM