Though ethnie and nationality might be distinguished in any number of ways – size, attachment to territory, secular versus religious identity, ‘soft’ versus ‘hard’ boundaries – the most fundamental difference is not some ‘objective’ characteristic internal to the group, but rather the discursive universe in which it operates and realizes itself. A modern nationality, with all its familiar qualities and political claims – popular sovereignty, ethnicity as a basis for political independence, and a claim on a particular piece of real estate – are only possible within the modern (roughly post-American revolution)1 discourse of nationalism. Whatever Greeks in the classical period, or Armenians in the fifth century, were, they could not be nations in the same sense as they would be in the age of nationalism. The discourses of politics of earlier times must be understood and respected in their own particularity and not submerged in understandings yet to come.
—Ronald Suny (The Revenge of the Past, p. 13)
- Or post-French revolution, for that matter; might be more relevant to the construction of nations out of prior political apparatus. A minor quibble, and more due to my ignorance than anything else, I suppose. [↩]