'Anatomy of a 'Political Chameleon': re-examining fluid shapes and solid constants of nationalism and nation building'.


In light of mounting failed efforts aimed at rebuilding institutions in post-conflict societies, this research provides a fresh approach to nation-building and calls for 'bringing the nation back in' to the study and understanding of peace building, post-conflict reconstruction and state formation. Taking a theoretical perspective, the author argues that nation building processes are best understood through language, history and other knowledge systems that become critical to identity formation and cohesive social development within specific geographic areas. The state is the key driver of these processes, with outcomes determined largely by the role and actions of elites.

In the post-Cold War period, states have become increasingly willing to intervene in domestic affairs of other states, and particularly those considered to be post-conflict or failing. However these efforts have had little success - partly due to an emphasis on the state whilst neglecting the nation and partly due to a narrow focus on 'capacity building' and 'institutional reform'. This research reveals the need for policy makers and academics to explore the inextricable links between 'state building' and 'nation building'. It demands that they consider more closely issues of political identity if they are to have a reasonable chance of success in processes of nation-state formation.


Discussion Paper 17 (Series 2), London, UK; Crisis States Research Centre, 32 pp.

‘Anatomy of a ‘Political Chameleon’: re-examining fluid shapes and solid constants of nationalism and nation building’.

Published 1 January 2009