Philosopher and cultural theorist Kwame Anthony Appiah argues against a mythical and romantic view of nationhood, saying instead it should rest on a commitment to shared values.
The philosopher and cultural theorist Kwame Anthony Appiah argues against a mythical, romantic view of nationhood, saying instead it should rest on a commitment to shared values.
He explores the history of the idea, born in the 19th century, that there are peoples who are bound together by an ancient common spirit and that each of these nations is entitled to its own state. He says this idea is a mistaken one, illustrating his argument through the life story of the writer who took the pen name Italo Svevo - meaning literally Italian Swabian. He was born a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and became a citizen of the new republic of Italy, all without leaving his home city of Trieste. Appiah argues that states exist as a set of shared beliefs rather than membership of some sort of mythical and ancient group. "What binds citizens together is a commitment," he says, "to sharing the life of a modern state, united by its institutions, procedures and precepts."
The lecture is recorded in front of an audience at the University of Glasgow. The series is presented and chaired by Sue Lawley. Future lectures will examine the themes of colour and culture.
The producer is Jim Frank.