National Identity Essay Topics

National identity is one's identity or sense of belonging to one state or to one nation.[1][2] It is the sense of a nation as a cohesive whole, as represented by distinctive traditions, culture, language and politics.[3] National identity may refer to the subjective feeling one shares with a group of people about a nation, regardless of one's legal citizenship status.[4] National identity is viewed in psychological terms as "an awareness of difference", a "feeling and recognition of 'we' and 'they'".[5]

The expression of one's national identity seen in a positive light is patriotism which is characterized by national pride and positive emotion of love for one's country. The extreme expression of national identity is chauvinism, which refers to the firm belief in the country's superiority and extreme loyalty toward one's country.[1]

Formation of national identity[edit]

National identity is not an inborn trait and it is essentially socially constructed.[6] A person's national identity results directly from the presence of elements from the "common points" in people's daily lives: national symbols, language, colors, nation's history, blood ties, culture, music, cuisine, radio, television, and so on.[7][8] Under various social influences, people incorporate national identity into their personal identities by adopting beliefs, values, assumptions and expectations which align with one’s national identity.[8] People with identification of their nation view national beliefs and values as personally meaningful, and translate these beliefs and values into daily practices.[1]


Political scientist Rupert Emerson defined national identity as "a body of people who feel that they are a nation".[9] This definition of national identity was endorsed by social psychologist, Henri Tajfel, who formulated social identity theory together with John Turner.[10]Social identity theory adopts this definition of national identity, and suggests that the conceptualization of national identity includes both self-categorization and affect. Self-categorization refers to identifying with a nation and viewing oneself as a member of a nation. The affect part refers to the emotion a person has with this identification, such as a sense of belonging, or emotional attachment toward one's nation.[2] The mere awareness of belonging to a certain group invokes positive emotions about the group, and leads to a tendency to act on behalf of that group, even when the other group members are sometimes personally unknown.[2]


National identity requires the process of self-categorization and it involves both the identification of in-group (identifying with one's nation), and differentiation of out-groups (other nations). By recognizing commonalities such as having common descent and common destiny, people identify with a nation and form an in-group, and at the same time they view people that identify with a different nation as out-groups.[11]

Social identity theory suggests a positive relationship between identification of a nation and derogation of other nations. By identifying with one's nation, people involve in intergroup comparisons, and tend to derogate out-groups.[2][12] However, several studies have investigated this relationship between national identity and derogating other countries, and found that identifying with national identity does not necessarily result in out-group derogation.[13]


National identity, like other social identities, engenders positive emotions such as pride and love to one's nation, and feeling of obligations toward other citizens.[14] The socialization of national identity, such as socializing national pride and a sense of the country's exceptionalism contributes to harmony among ethnic groups. For example, in the U.S, by integrating diverse ethnic groups in the overarching identity of being an American, people are united by a shared emotion of national pride and the feeling of belonging to the U.S, and thus tend to mitigate ethnic conflicts.[15]


National identity can be most noticeable when the nation confronts external or internal enemy[4] and natural disasters.[16] An example of this phenomenon is the rise in patriotism and national identity in the U.S after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.[17][18] The identity of being an American are salient after the terrorist attacks and American national identity are evoked.[1] Having a common threat or having a common goal unite people in a nation and enhance national identity.[19][self-published source]

Sociologist Anthony Smith argues that national identity has the feature of continuity that can transmit and persist through generations. By expressing the myths of having common descent and common destiny, people's sense of belonging to a nation is enhanced.[11] However, national identities can disappear across time as more people live in foreign countries for a longer time, and can be challenged by supranational identities, which refers to identifying with a more inclusive, larger group that includes people from multiple nations.[20]

National identity as a collective phenomenon[edit]

National identity can be thought as a collective product.[21] Through socialization, a system of beliefs, values, assumptions and expectations is transmitted to group members.[11] The collective elements of national identity may include national symbols, traditions, and memories of national experiences and achievements. These collective elements are rooted in the nation's history. Depending on how much the individual is exposed to the socialization of this system, people incorporate national identity to their personal identity to different degrees and in different ways, and the collective elements of national identity may become important parts of individual's definition of the self and how they view the world and their own place in it.[21]


Ethnic Identity[edit]

In countries that have multiple ethnic groups, ethnic identity and national identity may be in conflict.[22] These conflicts are usually referred to as ethno-national conflict. One of the famous ethno-national conflicts is the struggle between the Australian government and aboriginal population in Australia.[23] The Australian government and majority culture imposed policies and framework that supported the majority, European-based cultural values and a national language as English. The aboriginal cultures and languages were not supported by the state, and were nearly eradicated by the state during the 20th century. Because of these conflicts, aboriginal population identify less or do not identify with the national identity of being an Australian, but their ethnic identities are salient.[24]


As immigration increases, many countries face the challenges of constructing national identity and accommodating immigrants.[25] Some countries are more inclusive in terms of encouraging immigrants to develop a sense of belonging to their host country. For example, Canada has the highest permanent immigration rates in the world. The Canadian government encourages immigrants to build a sense of belonging to Canada, and has fostered a more inclusive concept of national identity which includes both people born in Canada and immigrants.[26] Some countries are less inclusive. For example, Russia has experienced two major waves of immigration influx, one in the 1990s, and the other one after 1998. Immigrants were perceived negatively by the Russian people and were viewed as "unwelcome and abusive guests." Immigrants were considered outsiders and were excluded from sharing the national identity of belonging to Russia.[27]


As the world becomes increasingly globalized, international tourism, communication and business collaboration had increased.[28] People around the world cross national borders more frequently to seek cultural exchange, education, business, and different lifestyles. Globalization promotes common values and experiences, and it also encourages the identification with the global community.[29] People may adapt cosmopolitanism and view themselves as global beings, or world citizens.[30] This trend may threaten national identity because globalization undermines the importance of being a citizen of a particular country.[31] Several researchers examined globalization and its impact on national identity found that as a country becomes more globalized, patriotism declined, which suggests that the increase of globalization is associated with less loyalty and less willingness to fight for one's own country.[28][32][33] However, even a nation like Turkey that occupies an important geographic trade crossroads and international marketplace with a tradition of liberal economic activity with an ingrained entrepreneurial and foreign trade has degrees of ethnocentrism as Turkish consumers may be basically rational buyers by not discriminating against imported products, but they exhibit preferences for local goods that are of equal quality to the imports because buying them assists the nation's economy and domestic employment.[34]


In some cases, national identity collides with a person's civil identity. For example, many Israeli Arabs associate themselves with the Arab or Palestinian nationality, while at the same time they are citizens of the state of Israel, which is in conflict with the Palestinian nationality.[35]Taiwanese also face a conflict of national identity with civil identity as there have been movements advocating formal "Taiwan Independence" and renaming "Republic of China" to "Republic of Taiwan.[36]" Residents in Taiwan are issued national identification cards and passports under the country name "Republic of China", and a portion of them do not identify themselves with "Republic of China," but rather with "Republic of Taiwan".[37]


National identity markers are those characteristics used to identify a person as possessing a particular national identity.[38] These markers are not fixed but fluid, varying from culture to culture and also within a culture over time. Such markers may include common language or dialect, national dress, birthplace, family affiliation, etc.[39][40]

See also[edit]



  • Smith, Anthony D. (1993). National identity. University of Nevada Press. ISBN 9780874172041. 
  • Huntington, Samuel P. (2004). Who are we? : the challenges to America's national identity. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780684870533. 
Norwegians celebrating national day
American flag as a national symbol
Aboriginal groups protesting in Brisbane, Australia
Taiwanese protesting for independence
  1. ^ abcdAshmore, Richard; Jussim, Lee; Wilder, David (2001). Social Identity, Intergroup Conflict, and Conflict Reduction. USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 74–75. ISBN 0198031432. 
  2. ^ abcdTajfel, Henri; Turner, John C. (1986). "The Social Identity Theory of Inter-group Behavior". Psychology of Intergroup Relations. 
  3. ^"Definition of National Identity in English". Oxford Dictionaries. Archived from the original on 2015-11-17. 
  4. ^ abGuibernau, Montserrat (2004). "Anothony D. Smith on Nations and National Identity: a critical assessment". Nations and Nationalism. 10: 125–141. doi:10.1111/j.1354-5078.2004.00159.x. Archived from the original on 2015-11-23. 
  5. ^Lee, Yoonmi (2012). Modern Education, Textbooks, and the Image of the Nation: Politics and Modernization and Nationalism in Korean Education. Routledge. p. 29. ISBN 9781136600791. 
  6. ^Anderson, Benedict (1991). Imagined Communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. Verso. p. 133. ISBN 0860915468. 
  7. ^László, János (2013). Historical Tales and National Identity: An introduction to narrative social psychology. Routledge. p. 1917. ISBN 1134746504. 
  8. ^ abBar-Tal, Daniel; Staub, Ervin (1997). Patriotism in the Lives of Individuals and Nations. Chicago: Nelson-Hall Publishers. pp. 171–172. ISBN 083041410X. 
  9. ^Emerson, Rupert (1960). From Empire to Nation. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. 
  10. ^Reicher, Stephen; Spears, Russell; Haslam, Alexander (2010). The Social Identity Approach in Social Psychology. London: The SAGE handbook of identities. ISBN 1446248372. 
  11. ^ abcSmith, Anthony (1991). National Identity. University of Nevada Press. pp. 8–15. ISBN 0874172047. 
  12. ^Turner, J.C (1999). Social Identity Context, Commimtment, Content. Some Current Issues in Research on Social Identity and Self-categorization Theories. Oxford: Blackwell. 
  13. ^Hopkins, Nick (2001). "Commentary. National Identity: Pride and prejudice?". British Journal of Social Psychology. 40: 183–186. doi:10.1348/014466601164795. 
  14. ^Tajfel, Henri (1978). Differentiation between Social Groups: studies in the social psychology of intergroup relations. Academic Press. 
  15. ^Horowitz, Donald (1985). Ethnic Groups in Conflict. University of California Press. ISBN 0520053850. 
  16. ^West, Brad; Smith, Philip (1997). "Natural Disasters and National Identity: time, space, and mythology". Journal of Sociology. 33: 205–215. doi:10.1177/144078339703300205. 
  17. ^Ross, Michael (Jul 4, 2005). "Poll: U.S. Patriotism Continues to Soar". NBC News. Archived from the original on 2015-11-17. 
  18. ^Lyon, Grant (Sep 8, 2011). "Patriotism vs. Nationalism in a Post 9/11 World". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 2015-11-17. 
  19. ^Uko-Ima, Barrister (2014). National Identity: Pragmatic Solutions for Democratic Governance in African Nations. Xlibris LLC. p. 141. ISBN 9781499047950. 
  20. ^Adair, John; Belanger, David; Dion, Kenneth (1998). Advances in Psychological Science: social, personal, and cultural aspects. Psychology Press. pp. 250–251. ISBN 0863774709. 
  21. ^ abKelman, Herbert (1997). Nationalism, Patriotism and National Identity: Social-Psychological Dimensions. Chicago: Nelson-Hall Publishers. pp. 171–173. 
  22. ^Woods, Eric; Schertzer, Robert; Kaufmann, Eric (2011). "Ethno-national conflict and its management". Commonwealth & Comparative Politics. 49: 153–161. doi:10.1080/14662043.2011.564469. 
  23. ^Batty, Philip (1997). "Saluting the dot-spangled banner: Aboriginal culture, national identity and the Australian republic". Australian Humanities Review. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. 
  24. ^Howard, Judith (2000). "Social Psychology of Identities"(PDF). Annual Review of Sociology. 26: 367–393. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.26.1.367. Archived(PDF) from the original on 2016-03-05. 
  25. ^Doty, Roxanne (1996). "Immigration and National Identity: Constructing the Nation". Review of International Studies. 22: 235–255. doi:10.1017/s0260210500118534. JSTOR 20097447. 
  26. ^de Zavala, Agnieszka; Cichocka, Aleksandra (2012). Social Psychology of Social Problems: The intergroup context. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 102–104. ISBN 1137272228. 
  27. ^Liedy, Amy (Jul 7, 2011). "National Identity through the Prism of Immigration: The Case Study of Modern Russia". Kennan Institute. Archived from the original on 2015-11-17. 
  28. ^ abCroucher, Sheila (2004). Globalization and Belonging: The Politics of Identity in a Changing World. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0742516792. 
  29. ^Shaw, Martin (2000). Global Society and International Relations: Sociological Concepts and Political Perspectives. Cambridge: Polity Press. 
  30. ^Israel, Ronald (2012). "What Does it Mean to be a Global Citizen". Kosmos Journal. Archived from the original on 2015-12-09. 
  31. ^Ibrahim, Zawawi (2004). Globalization and National Identity: Managing Ethnicity and Cultural Pluralism in Malaysia. Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. ISBN 0971941645. 
  32. ^Ariely, Gal (2012). "Globalisation and the decline of national identity? An exploration across sixty-three countries". Nations and Nationalism. 18: 461–482. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8129.2011.00532.x. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. 
  33. ^Arts, Wil; Halman, Loek (2013). Value Contrasts and Consensus in Present-Day Europe: Painting Europe's Moral Landscapes. BRILL. ISBN 9004261664. 
  34. ^Acikdilli, Gaye; Ziemnowicz, Christopher; Bahhouth, Victor (2017). "Consumer Ethnocentrism in Turkey: Ours are Better than Theirs". Journal of International Consumer Marketing: 1–13. doi:10.1080/08961530.2017.1361882. ISSN 0896-1530. Retrieved 6 December 2017. 
  35. ^Gibson, Stephen (2002). "Social Psychological Studies of National Identity: A literature review"(PDF). Sociology Youth and European Identity. Archived(PDF) from the original on 2016-03-04. 
  36. ^Sullivan, Jonathan (Aug 18, 2014). "Taiwan's Identity Crisis". The National Interest. Archived from the original on 2015-11-17. 
  37. ^Seth, Sushil (Nov 15, 2005). "Taiwan's national identity in crisis". Taipei Times. Archived from the original on 2015-11-17. 
  38. ^McCrone, David; Bechhofer, Frank (2015). "Markers and rules". Understanding National Identity. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781316300824. Retrieved 5 March 2018. 
  39. ^Kiely, Richard; Bechhofer, Frank; Stewart, Robert; McCrone, David (25 January 2017). "The Markers and Rules of Scottish National Identity". The Sociological Review. 49 (1): 33–55. doi:10.1111/1467-954X.00243. 
  40. ^Mansbach, Richard; Rhodes, Edward (31 May 2007). "The National State and Identity Politics: State Institutionalisation and "Markers" of National Identity". Geopolitics. 12 (3): 426–458. doi:10.1080/14650040701305633. 

My Cultural Identity Essay: A Guide to Writing about Who You are

A cultural identity essay is a paper that you write exploring and explaining how your place of upbringing, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, and family dynamics among other factors created your identity as a person. Even facts such as what activities you took part in as a child can be part of your cultural identity. Your culture identity is ultimately the group of people that you feel that you identify with. The thought process behind this is known as cultural identity theory. To get a better idea of this, take a look at this single paragraph blurb of information that you might see in a culture identity essay. After reading, you can easily write my paper and feel comfortable getting grades as high as you can imagine.

I was born in rural Missouri, but my family moved to St. Louis before I was a year old. My mother is 100 percent Irish and comes from a family that identifies very strongly with Irish culture. My father is Middle Eastern, but was adopted by an English family who moved to the United States when he was 5. We lived in a pretty big house in a subdivision. My parents had two more kids after me, they were both boys as well. My father wasn't religious, but my mom was a practicing Catholic. She went to mass every week. My brothers and I both had first communion and were confirmed, but stopped going to church as teenagers. We weren't really encouraged to play sports because our parents thought we should focus on our studies. They really emphasized math and science. I did well in these classes, but I didn't enjoy them. In high school, I became active in music and theater. Most of my friends were also into that as well. I earned a scholarship to study engineering on the East Coast, but I dropped out as a sophomore. I returned home to study music, needless to say my parents were disappointed. My brothers both pursued careers in technical fields. One is a mechanical engineer and the other is a software engineer. I am close with my family, but we do not have much in common. My circle of friends is fairly varied when it comes to race, ethnicity, religion, and economic background, but it consists almost entirely of people who are artists, musicians, writers, or people involved in those industries.

Keep in mind that your essay may look nothing like this. In our example, the writers choice of career, talents, and interests influenced his cultural identity more than his religious, ethnic background, or family values did. This may not be the case for you. Remember that when you are writing your paper there are no wrong answers. You just have to ask yourself insightful questions and keep the theory of cultural identity in mind as you write. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How did the foods I ate as a child influence my identity
  • Did I look different from the kids I went to school with? How did that impact me?
  • Did birth order influence who I am as an adult?
  • Does my life today match the life I was raised in?

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