The problems caused by ethnic nationalism

by Naoko Yamada

There are 2 kinds of model of nationalism; Ethnic nationalism and Civic nationalism. Ethnic nationalism is principle in which belonging to the nation is rooted in descent, and it is related to race and language.  On the other hand, Civic nationalism is the principle in which belonging is tied to rights and a Universalist, voluntary political membership. Japan is nearly homogeneous nation, so almost Japanese distinguish Japanese and foreigner by their looks and language. Therefore the model of ethnic nationalism describes Japan. Now, conflicts caused language as symbol of ethnic nationalism have happened in the world. I’d like to describe about the problems caused by Ethnic nationalism thinking about 3 cases of EU.

In July 2010, a mass demonstration by self-governing body of Catalonia to advocate independence from Spain was held in Barcelona, Spain. Millions of people took part in this demonstration, and they required protection of their language and their culture. 4 kinds of different languages exist in Spain, especially Catalan was object of persecution and Catalan people are persecuted politically and culturally. They consider themselves as aggregate which has different culture and autonomy, and so they go on with movement of independence.

In 1945 Polish was authorized as the language of Poland, in addition using languages of ethnic minorities as official language was prohibited. Therefore policy of an innate respect for cultural assimilation was adopted in Poland. Then, academic meeting about the language of Polish was held in Poland at its participation to EU. In this meeting main discussion became the topic about cultural exchange, on the other hand, possibility of loss of identity by influence from other language was discussed. Not only language of ethnic minority but also the language of country is facing to the loss of its identity because of affiliation to EU.

From 19th century, a lot of Turkish people have worked in Germany as immigrants. Most of them don’t speak German and live in Germany without German. German people think that Turkish should become familiar with German customs, so needless to say, German people want them to speak German. The point of view likes “If Turkish work in Germany, they should be German” causes this problem.

Multiculturalism has expanded, and the problems of language and citizenship have changed to more complex. The problems Catalonia and Poland show us the importance of language as identity. Moreover the problem between Germany and Turkey show the importance of language as citizenship. Ethnic and Civic nationalism have exclusive aspect.


Kenjiro, S. (2005). 欧州諸国の言語法(欧州統合と多言語主義).Tokyo: Sangensya.

Kouji, O. (2011). エティック国際関係学.Osaka: Toshinsya

Yasuteru, O. (2010). EUの言語教育政策. Tokyo: Kroshio

Ethnic and Civic Nationalism in Japan

by Sakiko Maruyama

In the class, we learned there are two nationalisms; one is the ethnic nationalism and another is the civic nationalism.  While the ethnic one pays attention to the roots or ethnicity, the civic one emphasizes the attitude to obey the law. Then, we link the ethnic one with intolerance, while the civic one with tolerance for immigrants. In this way, both nationalisms seem to be opposite, but in fact, they can be seen in the same nation; there are some nations which their nationalisms change depending on the conditions, even if they have strong biases to one side. Japan is one of those countries which close to ethnic nationalism. We tend to regard the Japanese government as intolerance for immigrants and think the citizen is tolerant. But this matter is more complex than we think. We sometimes take more ethnic attitude than the government. I want to describe this situation by comparing the position of us and the government about two problems surrounding Korean school in Japan.

The first problem is about the compulsory education. Korean school isn’t authorized as the school participates in the system of compulsory education. Even though children graduate from Korean school, that doesn’t mean they meet compulsory education. On the other hand, many Japanese universities accept their applications because they have scholastic ability which is worth to take the entrance examination. In this problem, the government seems to be more ethnic and universities take more civic position.

The second one is the discussion about the free tuition of Korean school in Japan. Comparing to the first problem, we can find the government has different opinion about this discussion. The government seems to think seriously about the adoption of free tuition of Korean school, while some local governments obviously against it. The local governments independently focus on the question whether they give a subsidy to Korean school or not, and the local government which decides to cut it off is caused by ethnic reasons. For example, Osaka prefectural government cut it off because Korean school hold portrait of Kim Jong Il. Most of citizens agree with this policy, and free tuition may be out of the question for them. Therefore, in this case, the citizens support ethnic citizenship and the government sees the matter from the civic perspective.

In conclusion, we citizens sometimes take firm ethnic stance. We generally see the policy of the government as important to solve the question of immigrant. But seeing the above two discussion, I think the later problem is more serious. This is because we citizens seem to have a greater influence in this problem.