Call for Abstracts - Majority Nationalism in Plurinational States: Responding to Challenges from Above and Below

13th June 2018

globe25 - 27 February 2019

Centre on Constitutional Change, University of Edinburgh


Dr Daniel Cetrà, Centre on Constitutional Change, University of Aberdeen

Dr Coree Brown Swan, Centre on Constitutional Change, University of Edinburgh

Professor Alain-G. Gagnon, Université du Québec à Montréal

Programme description:

While populist leaders and movements make headlines worldwide, an often more subtle majority nationalism remains an endemic condition of the modern world. Majority nationalism is minimally understood as ‘the articulation of a national community that usually has its core within the majority group and/or within the representations of the state’s national identity’ (Lecours and Nootens 2011). Majority nationalism is pervasively institutionalised in state practices (Brown 1999, Kymlicka 2001, Yack 2012, Dieckhoff 2016) and through an unspoken set of assumptions about the national order (Billig 1995, Fox and Miller-Idriss 2008).

Calls to ‘take back control’ reflect nationalist aspirations to regain political authority often from supranational bodies, while left-wing pleas for greater redistribution between rich and poor regions presuppose a national community of citizens sharing solidarity and a mutual sense of belonging. In plurinational contexts, these presumptions to nationhood and shared belonging cannot be taken for granted. Moreover, the aspirations of majority nationalists can conflict with the aspirations of minority nationalist movements, leading to conflict over resources, symbolic recognition and the structure of the state.

Majority nationalism in a plurinational context has not yet received sustained attention. This workshop will look beyond concepts of banal and everyday nationalism (Skey and Antonsich 2017) to explore majority nationalism in plurinational states which are in, or have recently experienced, crisis. Plurinational states are characterised by the presence of at least two territorially distinct communities with a shared understanding of being a separate political community (Gagnon and Tully 2001; Keating 2001). As the nationalities question is a live one in Europe and beyond, these crises often take the form of challenges from below – in the form of demands for independence, internal self-determination or state reforms which may challenge the dominant conception of the state and the sustainability of the state itself. They also take the form of challenges from above – in response to perceived threats at the erosion of national autonomy in the face of transnational political authority. It is in these moments of crisis in which majority nationalism may become explicit and observable. This presents us with the opportunity to study its characteristics and internal logic (Fox 2016).

Drawing on scholarship on nationalism, comparative territorial politics, party politics, and political theory addressing majority and minority rights, the proposed workshop will invite scholars to examine this phenomenon across a variety of cases, in single or comparative case studies, and to address, conceptually, the phenomenon of majority nationalism.

Research Questions:

  • How do state elites construct and promote the majority nation and the state in the twenty-first century? To what extent do territorially complex states manage the coexistence of majority and minority national communities?
  • How do state-level elites justify the political union in contexts of crises or challenge to the unity of the state?
  • Under what conditions is the identity of majority nations politicised?
  • Are the drivers of majority nationalism similar or different from the drivers of minority nationalism?
  • What are the strategies that majority nationalisms adopt when facing self-government demands, and how do they vary? Why do states respond differently to similar territorial demands?
  • Can majority nationalism be accommodated without marginalising minority nations or diluting or undermining the plurinational character of states?
  • What explains the variation in the ways that statewide parties construct and frame the state and majority nations? How are these constructions influenced by multi-level dynamics and the dynamics of party competition?

Key cases:

These research questions will be explored by participants in a variety of cases, taking the form of either comparative research or focussed, single-case analyses. We welcome and encourage submissions that look beyond the usual suspects and explore majority nationalism in under-researched cases, as well as theoretical contributions.

Project outcomes:

Proposed outcomes for the project include an edited volume (special issue in peer-reviewed journal or edited book) with contributions from workshop participants, a special series of blogs on majority nationalism in plurinational contexts, published and promoted by the Centre on Constitutional Change, and the facilitation of networking and future collaboration among workshop participants.

Participant profile:

Submissions are welcome from early career researchers as well as more advanced scholars in the fields of political science, political sociology and political theory. Participants from groups underrepresented in the domain of social and political science are particularly encouraged to apply.


Funding is available to cover up to £400 of travel expenses and hotel accommodation will be provided for workshop participants.

Submission information:

Abstracts of 300-400 words should be submitted to and by 15 September 2018.

News Category: