Historical Social Research

Steven Loyal and Stephen Quilley: State Formation, Habitus, and National Character: Elias, Bourdieu, Polanyi, and Gellner and the Case of Asylum Seekers in Ireland. [Abstract]

Synthesizing material derived from Norbert Elias, Pierre Bourdieu, Karl Polanyi, Max Weber, Benedict Anderson and Ernest Gellner, in Part I the concept of “national character” is delineated as a special case of “habitus” relating to the socio-spatial scale of the nation state. In relation to problems of state-formation, national character is shown to be a figurational and co-developmental function of the system of nation-states in which patterns of mutual identification and “imagined community” involve both the coercive codification and internalization of particular national narratives and origin myths which define “people like us” in terms of a symbolic family; and also, in relation to competing nation-states, the projection and internalization of national group charisma and shame. In Part II, these ideas are applied to the pattern of state formation in Ireland and the recent history of the reception, cultural accommodation, and treatment of asylum seekers.

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