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By Andreas Wimmer

Nationalism and the superiority of ethnic clash are gains of latest politics. Many commentators have seen such conflicts as a go back to a couple primitive impulse. Andreas Wimmer's booklet argues that nationalism is in truth attribute of the trendy international, deriving from the character of the nation. He argues that the geographical region rests on club of a specific ethnic or nationwide crew, and the exclusion of non-members, growing the opportunity of clash. Containing special reports of Mexico, Iraq and Switzerland, this is often an unique contribution to a topical debate.

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The founding mothers and fathers of anthropology were of course well aware of this fact and pointed it out in several programmatic statements (cf. Bruhmann 1999), but the idea of a somehow homogeneous nature, a single Gestalt of each culture, prevented them from drawing the necessary theoretical conclusions. The functionalist overpainting of the classical concept of culture, as found in British social anthropology of the thirties as well as in the Redfield school of American cultural anthropology (itself heavily influenced by Radcliffe-Brown’s writing), made a thorough analysis of intra-cultural diversity even more difficult, because it provided the previously rather vague notion of integration and cohesion with a solid theoretical foundation.

It somehow assumed that in their way of thinking, feeling and behaving, individuals follow the cultural rules that they learn during their socialisation process. Culture thus writes the script according to which individuals play their role on the stage of society. Critics like Maurice Bloch have called this the model of the oversocialised individual (Bloch 1985; 1991; 1993). 5 Anthropological research has shown the limits of the model of the oversocialised individual for the field of human behaviour.

It does not give an answer to the problem of intra-cultural variation; it cannot help to understand the relation between power and meaning; its concept of human action is largely inadequate; and it does not offer an adequate tool to analyse processes of cultural and social change. 9 Discourse has replaced culture as the master term in much contemporary anthropological writing. Following Foucault and other so-called post-structuralist writers, anthropology tries to understand how in a certain place – a village, a railway station, a neighbourhood – multiple discourses criss-cross each other, overlap, develop into bundles of meaning, dissolve again and disappear.

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