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Renaud-Philippe Garner

Nationalism is a set of beliefs about the nation: its origins, nature, and value. For nationalists, we are particular social animals. On the one hand, our lives are structured by a profound sense of togetherness and similarity: We share languages and memories. On the other hand, our lives are characterized by deep divisions and differences: We draw borders and contest historical narratives. For nationalism, humanity is neither a single species-wide community nor an aggregation of individuals but divided into distinct and unique nations. At the heart of nationalism are claims about our identity and needs as social animals that form the basis of a series of normative claims. To answer the question “what should I do” or “how should I live,” one must first answer the questions “who am I” and “where do I belong.” Nationalism says that our membership in a nation takes precedence and ultimately must guide our choices and actions. In terms of guiding choice and action, nationalist thought proposes a specific form of partiality. Rather than treat the interests or claims of persons and groups impartially, the nationalist demands that one favors one’s own, either as a group or as individual persons. While nationalism does not claim to be the only form of partiality, it does claim to outrank all others: Loyalty or obligations to other groups or identities are subordinated to national loyalty. Together, these claims function as a political ideology. Nationalism identifies the nation as the central form of community and elevates it to the object of supreme loyalty. This fundamental concern for the nation and its flourishing can be fragmented into narrower aims or objectives: national autonomy, national identity, and national unity. Debate on nationalism tends to divide into two clusters, one descriptive and one normative, that only make partial contact. For historians and sociologists, the questions are explanatory: What is nationalism, what is a nation, how are they related, and when and how did they emerge? Philosophers and political theorists focus on the justification of nationalism or nationalist claims: Is national loyalty defensible, what are the limits of this loyalty, how do we rank our loyalties, and does nationalism conflict with human rights?


Latin America ranks highest in the world in markers of social and economic inequality, as well as in the negative effects of inequality on other realms of social life, such as access to basic services, political power, and, in many countries, unfair treatment by police and the justice system. Yet in Latin America it is not possible to talk about racism, ethnic-racial discrimination, and inequality without taking into consideration the hegemonic narratives of mestizaje and racial democracy that shape the way many Latin American nations think about themselves today. Can a region characterized by extreme levels of social inequality also be ethnically and racially democratic? The pattern of ethnic and racial relations in Latin America is marked by discrimination, but at the same time, it creates mechanisms that prevent individuals from recognizing the existence of discrimination against themselves. This reality carries several complications for census-taking and other forms of statistical data collection intended to measure ethnic-racial inequality. Because the main paradigms of analysis of social inequality prioritize economics and class, they have directly or indirectly strengthened the discourse that in Latin America, there is no racism. Certainly, the future of research on race relations and inequality in Latin America will benefit from new demographic data and public opinion surveys, carried out since the turn of the century, which include the identification of indigenous and Afro-descendant people. This trend may advance the production of studies grounded in more robust empirical evidence of ethnic-racial asymmetry.