Since the late nineteenth century, psychologists, social scientists, historians, and theorists of the nation, have redefined the idea of the nation around assumptions about collective psychologies or psyches, gender-specific national subjectivities, and the universal psychological tendency to national forms, even as they have attributed to different peoples and races historically — and biologically — specific capacities for evolving into political nations. Science and philosophy did not imbue women (nor the working-classes and non-Europeans) with personalities or the capacity to exercise will, or, by extension, self-determination. Rather, it was their difference that designated the particular role of men and of the European world in the task of civilisation. Before, during, and after the First World War, these assumptions were the seemingly solid ballast that allowed the suspension of disbelief in the realism of nationality. As they were used in preparations for peacemaking and at the Paris conference, psychological terms such as consciousness, sentiment, and will had been almost emptied of precise meaning, but they were replete with political significance, naturalising the interiority of nationality, and national subjectivities. Despite the banality of these terms, they were used by newly-fashioned experts to establish nationality as the key to democracy, to limit the political purchase of female self-determination, to order the hierarchy of nation-states, and to mark out the boundaries of authority in the international domain — themes corroborated at the peace by diplomats, politicians, lobbyists, and the representatives of nationality causes themselves.1


National Identity National Difference International Politics Peace Process Interwar Period 
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© Glenda Sluga 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Glenda Sluga
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SydneyAustralia

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