From family metaphor to national attachment? a social identity approach towards framing nationhood
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The central question of this thesis is: “How can people be mobilised to feel strongly attached to or invest into their nations?” Following a review of literature on the psychology of nationhood, a social identity approach towards national attachment is suggested. The possibility of the family metaphor (e.g. fatherland) as a rhetorical device anchoring the nation in filial qualities (e.g. belonging) is discussed. In the first study, establishing the general prevalence of family metaphors and aiming to test their use as a means of mobilisation, the content of language corpora, speeches, parliamentary debates and national anthems is analysed. The results demonstrate frequent use, especially in connection to mobilisation (e.g. in speeches). Study II tests whether merely linking a stimulus to a family metaphor will elicit a positive response and increase national identification. It does so by presenting a student sample (n = 149) with a neutral picture stimulus with different titles including family terms and family metaphors; no effects of any particular picture title on national identity emerged, but a considerable share of participants provided negative Nazi-related associations when primed with ‘fatherland’. Given the apparent relevance of meaning, the third study employed a word association task to provide a more in-depth account of German (n = 119) and British students’ (n =138) common associations for family metaphors, confirming that some participants associate them with a negative past (e.g. WW II) or negative politics (e.g. nationalism). In an attempt to avoid the impact of said negative associations, Study IV draws on brotherhood – the metaphor seen as most positive – adding a call for ‘working in unity as volunteers’, i.e. a context matching the metaphoric use in anthems, contrasting it with a) a call to work ‘as citizens’ or b) a non-matching context (‘being devoted’). While it was assumed that such a fitting mobilisation context (i.e. ‘working together’) would be buttressed by a family metaphor, similar results emerged. In a sample (n = 102) matched to the overall population, the brother metaphor did not have an effect on national identification and participants reported lower agreement with a statement presented together with a family metaphor, often providing associations of nationalism or Nazism. The fifth study responded to the frequent associations of the Second World War by providing British (n = 109) and German (n = 113) students with a distant past (1830s) or WW II context prior to presenting a text that was either using family metaphors or not. It aimed to test whether avoiding a link to the Second World War would alleviate the negative associations. However, the results pointed in the opposite direction, i.e. German participants were more likely to invest in their nations if family metaphors and the 1930s occurred together, albeit the negative understanding of family metaphors provided in the previous studies remained, which can be interpreted as an expression of collective guilt. In the last study, a fictitious nation was presented to a general student sample at the University of St Andrews (n = 198) as either trying to achieve independence through militant struggle or building cultural institutions. As in the previous studies, the majority of participants saw family metaphors as negative, and only a small minority from countries with a higher acceptance of power-distance described them in a positive light. This thesis argues that, in the light of the results, the family metaphor has to be understood as evoking historically situated meanings and is seen as essentialising nationhood, a notion predominantly not matching the understanding participants had of their nation and consequently being rejected. It suggests that a) (national) identity research needs to be aware of context and b) other frameworks for exalted attachment should be investigated.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: Print and electronic copy restricted until 31st May 2017
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations
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