Workshop: In the Name of Nation

Aren’t we all a bit nationalistic? Nationalism in Europe is getting stronger again, they say. Is that true? Where can we see it? And is it just “the others” who are getting more nationalistic? Are we, young, educated and tolerant people, really as liberal as we believe?

This is why former member of the Comité Directeur, Thomas Leszke, decided to organise a workshop on Nationalism at Zaragora.

AEGEEan: Thomas, why did you choose to organise this workshop?


I believe nationalism is one of the main problems in Europe. Nationalist sentiment is relied upon for many a wrong policy and we are not aware of it!

We, AEGEE members, are unlikely to be nationalists. Yet, even for many of us, nationalist attitudes are closer than we think. Of course, everyone has a national identity and the line between “having a national identity” and “being a nationalist” is very thin indeed. This is logical, because most identities (and certainly national ones) are based on social exclusion and everyone wants to feel like they truly belong somewhere. Still it is dangerous, because we may not realise that our feeling of attachment towards our home country may lead us to opinions that are discriminatory, unjust and even in conflict with human rights.

This is why it is very important to understand what nationalism is and to see how we can protect and cultivate our identities without getting into ethical trouble. However, I do not want to stand in front and preach abstract definitions of nationalism. Participants should find out for themselves in a more active way.

AEGEEan: Can you tell us something more about what your workshop will be like?

Firstly, participants are split into two groups (liberals and nationalists – this doesn’t reflect their own beliefs). They should try to put themselves in different political perspectives and use arguments that do not necessary reflect their own personal opinion. They will be put up with political problems that are of high relevance in different national societies in Europe today.

Furthermore, participants are separated again to three committees (consisting of both groups) where they discuss and decide about different issues, supporting their roles’ opinion (so not necessarily their own). This way, they can learn to distinguish between “national identity” and nationalism. AEGEE members in general have to realise how present nationalist ideas are in our common thinking and start thinking about what we as an association or as individuals can do about it.

AEGEEan: What do you expect from the participants?

I expect participants to realise that many of the problems that will be discussed in the workshop are in fact a reality in their own societies. The workshop is not a place for drafting activities, but for understanding problems. I am quite sure that most of the participants will leave the workshop with a lot of thoughts and that they will go on discussing about it, involving their friends in the topic as well. I would not be surprised and even very glad to see that participants develop ideas for projects of activities countering nationalism, whether it is on a local, national or European level.

Written by Lia Tuska, AEGEE-Kastoria