Nation And Nationality


The term nationality is derived from the Latin word natus, which means ‘to be born’. Therefore in its derivative term, nationality means belonging to the same racial stock or being related by birth or having blood relationship.

This understanding of nationality is however misleading. There is today not a single nation in the world whose people belong to the same racial stock. Every nation has people of mixed racial background. It is very difficult to find racial purity because of increased racial combinations due to immigration, inter-caste and inter-racial marriages.

The development of nationality is definitely more of a psychological phenomenon neither political nor racial. In the words of J.W. Garner, Individual and the State nationality is a culturally homogeneous group that is at once conscious of its unity.

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According to Ramsay Muir, a nation may be defined as a body of people who feel themselves to be naturally linked together by certain affinities, which are so strong for them to live together, they are dissatisfied when disunited and cannot tolerate subjection to people who do not share the same ties.

The development of nationality is definitely psychological phenomenon or as Hayes says, it is primarily cultural, conscious of unity.

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Distinction between Nation and Nationality

The distinction between the nation and nationality is a thin one. This is more so because both the terms are derived from the same word. Some even consider them as interchangeable. But certainly there are differences between the two, which can be summed up as follows:

1. Nationality is a psychology, which is generated in a group of people having geographical unity and who belong to a common race, common history, religion, customs and traditions, economic interests and common hopes and aspirations. The people of a nationality must have a sense of unity. They must feel that they have something in common which differentiates them from other people.

Nation is a people organised; a people united. What unites people in a nation are feelings of oneness. Nation gives an idea of an organisation; nationality gives an idea of sentiment.

2. Nationality is basically a cultural term; it is ‘political’ only incidentally as Hayes tells us. Nation is basically a political term, cultural only incidentally. This, however, does not mean that nationality is not political and nation is not cultural/concepts.

3. The evolution of the state has shown that there may be states with more than one nationalities and there may be nationalities spread over more than one states.

  • The former USSR, as a state, had a considerable number of nationalities;
  • The Korean nationality is spread over two states.

Thus a state may or may not co-exit with nationality.

4. Some use the term ‘nationality’ to signify the principle or characteristic that creates a nation. This means that nationality precedes the nation. In terms of origin, therefore, they are not at par. The Jewish nationality created the Jewish nation.

5. If we use the term ‘nation’ to mean a population of the same race, language and tradition, inhabiting the same territory and constituting the larger part of its population, we may, and in fact, have the Britishers as the nation.

If on the other hand, we use the term ‘nationality’ to mean one of the several distinct ethnic groups scattered over an area and forming but a comparatively a smaller part of its population, we may, and in fact, have the Welsh nationality; the latter as a nationality becomes a part of the British nation.

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Elements Of Nationality

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Bibliography : NIOS – Political Science

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