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W&L Professors Win Grant to Study European National Identity

Two Washington and Lee professors—Jonathan Eastwood, associate professor of sociology, and Peter Grajzl, associate professor of economics—have received a grant from the American Sociological Association’s Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline to support the pilot project, “Tracing the Global Spread of National Identity.”

Eastwood, Grajzl and co-investigators Valentina Dimitrova-Grajzl, assistant professor of economics and business at Virginia Military Institute, and Nicolas Prevelakis, lecturer on social studies at Harvard University, will use the grant for an expert survey on the development of all national identities in Europe from the 16th century to the present day.

Grajzl, Eastwood and their co-investigators will query experts on each country, as well as on those European nations that do not have nation-states, on national identity, economic development and the creation of nation-states in Europe. Surveying a large body of experts will avoid the limitations of current comparative-historical texts, and provide a clearer view of how and when identities of language, ethnicity and religion became complemented or supplanted by European peoples’ identification as members of nations. At the same time, it will show how those changes did or did not align with economic shifts and the rise of centralized governments.

Eastwood, the project’s principal investigator, said the project aims to produce “a truly systematic test of major theories of the relationship between national identity and other basic modernization processes that comparative social scientists have speculated about since the founding of the field.”

It is a pilot project, with Europe selected as a test case due to the continent’s density of researchers. The research team hopes to trace the development of national identities of every region across the globe, and in doing so create a massive and important resource that may alter our perceptions of the world.

The American Sociological Association, founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to advancing sociology as a scientific discipline and profession serving the public good. With over 14,000 members, ASA encompasses sociologists who are faculty members at colleges and universities, researchers, practitioners and students. About 20 percent of the members work in government, business or non-profit organizations.