Nationalism and National Identity

SummaryTermsEssential QuestionsHeadlinesMajor Theories and IdeasPast AP QuestionsComparative Chart


Identity is a social label ascribed to an individual or group that locates them in political society more broadly (ITMC p. 306). Nationalism, national identity, and the concept of nations all fall under aspects of identity. Nationalism is the view that the world is or should be divided into nations that are thought of by nationalists as sovereign or egalitarian (ITMC p. 307). In short, nationalists believe that their country is legitimate and superior or others.

Essential Questions

  • How have the basic ideas of nationalism and identity sparked the forces for reform and revolution?
  • Does a nation’s self-interest have to follow their national identity? How does this differ from federal/unitary states or democratic/authoritarian?
  • In what ways or quota systems similar to consociationalism? In what ways are they different?  
  • How does national identity impact a regime and system of government?
  • How are different forms of nationalism distinct from one another?
  • Do capitalism and nationalism coincide with each other?


John Lloyd, “No, Brexit is not really about making Britain Imperial again,” The Washington Post, March 27,2019,

Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar, “As Islamism Fades, Iran Goes Nationalist,” The New York Times, April 3, 2019,

Ilan Berman, “Iran and the Monroe Doctrine,” Foreign Affairs, September 2, 2016,

Major Theories and Ideas

  • Nationalism comes in different forms. The most common distinctions are between “civic” and “ethnic” nationalism.
  • National identities are conceptualized in three ways, “primordialism,” “perennialism,” and “modernism.”
  • The difference between nationalism and identity is that national identity is based upon one’s social position in relation to national membership and nationalism is the view that the world is and should be divided into nations that are thought of by nationalists as sovereign and egalitarian.
  • Anthony Smith created the theory of primordialism that states that theories of national identity that see it as neither exclusively modern nor continuous with pre-historical forms of identity as well as, perennialism that states that national identity is neither modern nor prehistoric and modernism which states that nationalism is exclusively modern.
  • Ethnic and national violence can be explained through forms of national identity.

Past AP Questions

2018 Free Response #6

2013 Short Answer #5

Additional Questions:

Name a country that doesn’t have one dominant ethnic majority.

What characteristics define citizenship?

Describe the differences between coinciding and cross-cutting cleavages. Give an example of each.

Describe globalizing forces on the economy in the UK, China, and Russia.

Comparative Chart