Unofficial Nationalism: Picnicking as a Way to Integrate the Civil Sphere

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


In the current politico-cultural climate, some liberal thinkers see nationalism as an impediment to civic integration. Drawing on Civil Sphere Theory (as currently developed at Yale's Center for Cultural Sociology), the paper suggests “unofficial nationalism” as a concept that can account for how nationalist cultural codes that are embedded in everyday life could assist the integration of marginalized groups—religious and ethnic minorities, or even undocumented immigrants—into the symbolic civil sphere. I argue that in addition to legal and institutional processes, the political community is also formed by folkloric traditions and customs that are shared by broad strata of the population but have almost no state involvement—notably those related to rituals, leisure time activities, and food, such as national holidays. As a case in point, the paper tracks the comparative anthropological history of how people spend their country's national day in contexts of settler-nationalism, such as Australia, Israel, South Africa, and the United States. After examining official nationalism's lack of success in designing popular traditions for the holiday, the paper follows the grassroots development of what has become the popular mode of celebrating the day in those countries—picnics and cookouts. Unofficial nationalism embodies a group identity that is more ambivalent than the seamless image propounded from above; it can encourage civic integration precisely because it is developed without state intervention. The shift in focus from legal and institutional processes to unofficial nationalism highlights processes of the slow and silent integration of immigrants and native populations into the hegemonic national culture.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2019
EventMulticulturalism, Nationalism, Religions and Secularism - University of Bristol, bristol, United Kingdom
Duration: 8 Nov 201910 Nov 2019


ConferenceMulticulturalism, Nationalism, Religions and Secularism
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


Dive into the research topics of 'Unofficial Nationalism: Picnicking as a Way to Integrate the Civil Sphere'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this