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A critique of academic nationalism

Amie Austin Macdonald, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The focus of this dissertation is to identify, analyze, and critique what I take to be a fundamental contradiction between the ideal mission of the university to serve as the site for the pursuit of truth and the function of Traditionalist humanities curriculums. I argue that because nationalist education makes it nearly impossible for students to engage in the critique of ideology, nationalist education is antithetical to the university's mission. With anything less than the ability to engage in this critique of ideology, there is no way that students can participate meaningfully in the ideal of the university. In the opening chapter I argue first, that the development and preservation of national culture stands in a dialectical relation to the preservation and contestation of national identity; second, that post-secondary education in the arts and humanities is largely education in the national culture; and third, that nationalism mediates the dialectical relation between national culture and national identity. In the second chapter I critique nationalism on the grounds that underlying every nationalist movement (including curricular Traditionalism) is a universalist project which denies the reality of complex personal identity formation. In the third chapter I show that the Traditionalist position (articulated by Bloom, D'Souza, and Searle) seeks to support through curricular control nationalist versions of culture and identity. In the fourth chapter I critique Marx's and Mannheim's theories of ideology since they seek to devise methods for evaluating ideology through epistemic standpoints removed from the site of the production of ideology. And thus I conclude this chapter by asserting that in order to be a critic of ideology one must struggle with and acknowledge multiple and complex social identities. In the final chapter I defend the claim that nationalist education undermines the process of teaching students to be critics of ideology since such an education prevents students from engaging the complexity of the encounter between the knowing subject and the object of knowledge. Moreover, I argue that a decidedly non-nationalist multicultural education offers the possibility of developing heterogeneous group identity without the deleterious consequences invariably brought forth by nationalism.

Subject Area

Philosophy|Educational theory|Womens studies|Higher education|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Macdonald, Amie Austin, "A critique of academic nationalism" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9721476.