American nationalism has slipped into a state of relative disunity during this century, Professor of Education and Social Structure Nathan Glazer said yesterday in a panel on "Nationalism and the Politics of Identity."
More than 40 people attended the panel, one of a series of symposia offered to faculty, alumni and invited guests, in honor of President Neil L. Rudenstine's inauguration.
There was little debate between panelists, who spoke on separate subjects based on personal experience as well as research. Members of the panel discussed nationalism and the search for national identity in various countries.
Glazer said that the common belief in the 1920s that "all the children could be Americanized" no longer holds true. Immigrants are no longer pressured to dress, think, and eat "like Americans."
In contrast, he said, there is now a legitimate fear of disunity since students in this country can be educated in their native languages, and since agencies that work with minorities can advise and confer with them in them in their native tongues.
Glazer said that the old style "willingness to assimilate and homogenize," and the "self-confidence in so assimilating on the part of nations" had dissipated throughout the century.
Other panelists included Professor of Afro-American Studies K. Anthony Appiah, Warburg Professor of Economics Emeritus John Kenneth Galbraith and Gurney Professor of History and Political Structure Adam B. Ulam. The debate was moderated by Afro-American Studies Chair Henry Louis Gates Jr.
The other panelists focused more on nationalism in other countries.
Galbraith spoke of the loss of nationalism among Canadian immigrants to the U.S. He noted the difference between the Canadian and Indian communities in this country, asserting that the latter had made a much stronger effort to preserve its own identity, and less of an effort to be an integral part of American society.
"It is unfortunate that the very large Indian community has not moved more easily into the American culture and the American sense of community," Galbraith said.
Ulam spoke of the Soviet Union, saying, "Never before have we seen a great empire dissolving due to internal forces." He added that "national identity is crucial to what we see before us now."
Ulam stressed the importance of nationalism in the Soviet Union, saying that it was the force that both enabled the Bolsheviks to take over power, and that which set the stage for the present revolution and fragmentation in there.
"Full national self-development is the right of any nation," Ulam said, stressing Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's error in refusing to recognize the existence of various cultures and "ethnic diversity" within the Soviet republics.
Appiah addressed the issue of nationalism based on his experience in Ghana. He said that in the absence of a strong and trusted government, there was a "recognition that organizations were taking over in situations formerly reserved for governments," adding that "proliferation of non-state organizations is a universal phenomenon in South Central Africa.
He spoke of nationalism as working for the people, using examples of clubs and associations which facilitate access to the democratic system for women, whose participation in political affairs is greatly reduced by the government of Ghana.