Benedict Anderson defines nation as an imagined political community, both inherently limited and sovereign. A nation is based on the notion that there is a certain degree of homogeneity and connectedness among the members of the community. It follows from this that nationality is inclusive for a specific and defined social group, but is exclusive when viewed from an external perspective. In accordance with this logic, the demarcation and defence of territorial and symbolic borders has a particular significance as invisible markers of the imagined community.
The concept of nationality is therefore closely associated with notions of ethnicity, in the sense of a shared culture, and serves to demarcate one nation from others. Education, cartography, museums and census are all vehicles by which to determine nationality and (re)produce thinking and knowledge about it.
Nationality is generally viewed as a given and as a “natural” property. The idea of nationality did not take hold, however, until the late 18th century and expanded globally in the 19th and 20th centuries under the influence of colonialism and the effects of the two world wars. However, it is incorrect to refer to “nationalism” as a single concept: rather, historical, social and cultural contextualisation is essential to understand the various national projects fully.
Coupled with Darwinian concepts, nationalist discourses were always associated with classifications and value judgements throughout European history, the outcomes being racism and xenophobia.