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Child and Nation

A Study of Political Socialisation and Banal Nationalism in France and England

Edited By Katharine Throssell

Where do feelings of national belonging come from? Why is it that this belonging often seems both fundamental and banal, both intangible and omnipresent?
This book argues that the answers to these questions lie in childhood and the socialisation to the nation that we experience as children. It suggests that the banality of our own everyday nationalism is due to the fact that we have spent our lives learning to take it for granted. Just as our first understandings of reality are learned during childhood socialisation, so nationhood and national belonging are internalised as natural and necessary from the very beginning of our lives. The specific nature of this early socialisation is what confers upon banal nationalism its characteristic combination of omnipresence, inscrutability and self-evidence.
To try and get around this self-evidence and explore this socialisation and its results, this study has adopted an innovative methodology involving semi-directive projective interviews with young children in France and England. This book presents an analysis of how this early socialisation to the nation plays out on young children’s visions of national belonging and its justifications and implications. It also looks at what this transmission in childhood means for nationalism as an ideology and the power and pertinence of the nation today.
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is thus focused on the themes and issues that appeared to be the most relevant to the issue of the nation and national socialisation but there is material enough here for several studies detailing various aspects of these children’s lives. However, the downside of these extremely bountiful interviews was that they were naturally also extremely complex to analyse; a complexity exacerbated by the use of the projective materials, drawings and activities which also had to be analysed and integrated into the overall analysis. Ultimately this turned out to be a very difficult process, in which the use of computer based software tools proved to be of little assistance. The analysis thus underwent a number of stages, evolving towards an iterative inductive approach that enabled both the individuality of each child and their perspective to be preserved, as well as allowing a global comparison between the children, and between the two national groups.

Others have argued that the method of analysis must be suited both to the material and to the researcher1. After a certain amount of trial and error I found a method that I felt was suited to the material and to my own predispositions and strengths in terms of analysis. There were more traditional methods that I tried and abandoned, such as systematic coding using computer software like Atlas.ti. I initially began to code the interview transcriptions in this way but found that it didn’t help me gain either a perspective of the child as a...

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