Area Studies: Origins, Dilemmas, Key Concepts and Future Development: Lecture 5 | Prof. Tim Niblock

On the morning of April 26, 2019, Prof. Tim Niblock brought the 5th lecture of his lecture series in Spring 2019 to doctoral students of the Institute of International and Area Studies (IIAS) of Tsinghua University, with The topic of “Identity and Historical Heritage: the Impact on State Dynamics and Policies”.

At the beginning of the session, Prof. Niblock emphasized the importance of Identity to the nation-building of a country and pointed out two main ways of generating identity. One is endogenous, which is determined by race. The second is a constructive identity, which is formed by a community of culture, construction of destiny and identity. The professor explained the second way of identity generation with cases from Britain, the United States and France.

Afterwards, the lecture focused on the relationship between the people’s identity of three countries in the Middle East, namely Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and the development of these countries. He explained that Egypt’s geographical situation and the Arabic language as a unified language have a natural basis for the formation of identity. Egypt also strengthens the identity of the people through the construction of national infrastructure. After the war, Iraq is controlled by Western forces, mountain residents are difficult to integrate with other regions, and Christian and Jewish groups cannot be integrated into the mainstream population, which are the disadvantages of Iraq’s formation of national identity, while its economic unity is a positive factor in the formation of identity. 1930s was a watershed in the formation of Saudi Arabia’s identity. Prior to this, the east and west were significantly separated. After 1930s, the Saudi king successfully established a more unified identity among different ethnic groups through political means (by establishing alliances).

Prof. Niblock noted that there are several problems with national identity issues around the world. For example, an overly unified identity may cause divisionism within a country, while a strong identity within a country may cause conflicts and conflicts with neighboring countries. Contradictions lead to political problems. For example, the inability to recognize the multi-level attributes of identity may have a negative impact on the accumulation of national culture.

Finally, Prof. Niblock and the participants discussed the identity of their respective research areas.

By Cheng Yao & Wang Tingyi