Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

The Democratisation of National Self-determination Seminar

10 February 2011 | 4:00pm | Seminar

Room 9.11, Social Sciences Building

Ephraim Nimni is Reader in Politics at Queen's University Belfast. His research interests include the study of comparative ethnic conflicts, theories of nationalism and minority rights, models of national self-determination, multiculturalism and the study of the Israeli Palestinian conflict from the perspective of conflict resolution. He is a member of the international board of the journals, Nations and Nationalism and Politikon. He has been a Jean Monnet Fellow at the European University Institute, Florence. He is currently writing a book on Multicultural Nationalism and his publications include National Cultural Autonomy and its Contemporary Critics (2005); The Challenge of Post-Zionism (2003) and Marxism and Nationalism (1991; second edition 1994).

National self determination and democracy are kin terms.  However, the practice of national self determination narrowly understood in international law as the formation of national states severely undermines the kin relation. There are 192 states represented in the UN which contain close to 3,000 nations. The majority of nations are stateless and of these a very large proportion cannot build nation states because they reside in territories that overlap with those of other nations, or, they cannot dismember an existing state.
Consequently, if narrowly understood as the formation of nation states, national self determination damages democracy because it securitirizes communities, creates problematic borders as national communities cannot be surgically isolated into territorial spaces, and furthermore, it contradicts the normative ethos of democracy because this narrow understanding of national self determination can only be exercised by a minority of nations to the detriment of others.

In order to revitalise the democratic credentials of the idea of national self determination, broader interpretations are urgent and necessary, a veritable paradigm shift in democratic theory and the way that democratic national self determination is understood and practised.  This paradigm shift in an embryonic form already began (Catalonia, The Basque Country, Quebec, Northern Ireland, Indigenous peoples just to mention a few), and the aim of this paper is to discuss these novel practises and theories of democratic self-determination and how democratic theory is shifting to incorporate mechanisms of asymmetrical representation that ensure that national states and stateless national communities can govern themselves without undermining each other.

Location Details

Room 9.11, Social Sciences Building

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