Nationalist politics is widely recognized as a key site for the articulation, legitimation, and propagation of a national view of the world. But the effectiveness of nationalist politics in advancing this view ultimately rests upon the uses ordinary people make of it. Popular reception, however, is more often assumed than specified in the literature on nationalism. In this article, I identify the ways in which Romanian and Hungarian university students in the ethnically mixed town of Cluj, Romania, consume and engage—and deflect and ignore—nationalist politics. I examine the ways the students talk (and do not talk) about three hotly contested political matters: the debate over an independent Hungarian university in Cluj, the politics of the city’s ultranationalist Romanian mayor, and the Romanian presidential elections of 2000. I show that the students can reproduce the nationally polarized terms of debate in response to survey questions. In the course of their everyday lives, however, there are few occasions in which they engage such issues. Instead, the students’ apathy and disdain for politics in general precludes meaningful engagement of the issues in national or other terms. Nationalist politics misses its mark.
Bibliographical notePublisher: Sage
- SPAIS Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship