2nd Station – Locate Me – Nationality
You need to be online (with audio) to watch some short films and carry out some research. You will also need to have a pen and paper to hand and the Symbols of National Identity Worksheet to capture your thoughts.
Hello. Who are you and where are you from?
How do you answer that question? Perhaps you give your name and explain where you live, or where you go to school. If the question was asked by someone you met overseas, would your answer be the same? Would you would talk about the country you live in? Your nationality? Where you were born? Your family? Your community?
In what ways do these things help to define and describe who you are?
On Wikipedia a nation is described as “a group of people who share the same culture, history, language or ethnicity. It can also be described as people living in the same country and government.” But is our culture defined only by our nationality? We will explore this question further at stations 3 and 4. For now, let’s focus on nationality and the influence it has on the way in which we are perceived in the world, as well as the way in which others’ nationality might influence the way in which we perceive them.
The word nation came from the Old French word nacion – meaning “birth” (naissance), “place of origin” -, which in turn originates from the Latin word natio (nātĭō) literally meaning “birth”. A modern dictionary definition of nationality might define it as “the status of belonging to a particular nation by birth or naturalisation”. In this sense nationality is a fact. It is printed on your passport. But what if you have two passports, what of dual nationality? In that case is your sense of nationality defined by your birthplace or the place where you live? Is it a mix of both?
These are important questions to ask ourselves because when we state our nationality in an international context we invite preconceptions and stereotypes. Some of these are based on an assumption of shared beliefs, behaviours, attitudes and values, and others are created by national symbols that have been carefully and deliberately created and chosen to communicate our nation’s formal identity to the world, either explicitly (e.g. in the words of a song) or implicitly (e.g. in choice of colours and shapes).
National Symbols and Traditions:
National symbols intend to unite people by creating visual, verbal, or iconic representations of the national people, values, goals, or history. These symbols are often rallied around as part of celebrations of patriotism or aspiring nationalism (such as independence, autonomy or separation movements) and are – in theory – designed to be inclusive and representative of all the people of the national community.
You are now going to explore some of the symbols and traditions of the nation in which you live, and compare them with those of other nations to see what you can learn about national identity from the similarities and differences you find.
Take out your Symbols of National Identity worksheet or use it as a reference point to draw your own version. Work through some of the categories listed below, carrying out your own research and completing the sections on the worksheet. You might want to cover all of the categories, but you should look at a minimum of three. Start by looking at the national symbolism of the country in which you are currently living, or live for most of the time. Then look at the symbolism of two other nations, which might be places in which you have lived, or where you were born (if different from where you live now) or where your parents lived or were born, or they might simply be other countries that you are interested in researching, have visited in the past, or plan to visit in the future.
A Nation’s flag is perhaps the most obvious and recognised symbol of a nation. But what do they mean? What is their symbolism and what do they represent? What messages are they seeking to convey about a nation to its people and the wider world? (… click to complete activity)
National anthems are played and sung (most countries have words as well as music) on important occasions in the life of a nation and at international competitions. But what are they actually about? What do the lyrics tell us about the nation? Do they tell us more about the here-and-now or about history and heritage? What messages are they seeking to convey about a nation to its people and the wider world? (… click to complete activity)
Traditional clothing, and attitudes towards it, can provide us with clues about the history, geography and heritage of a nation. What can we learn about a nation and its people from its national costume? What is the story behind it? What messages do the national costumes you have studied seek to convey about a nation to its people and the wider world? (… click to complete activity)
Most nations have specific national days of holiday and celebration on which they commemorate particular events and observe national traditions? These days are sometimes also referred to as “public holidays” because most businesses and other institutions are closed. A public holiday is therefore a big investment for a nation, and so they are usually reserved for only the most important occasions and so the reasons for national holidays to be called can tell us a lot about the moments and people that have been important in a nation’s history. So what are they? (… click to complete activity)
Monuments and memorials
In the towns and cities of most nations we will usually find monuments, memorials and statues that commemorate people and events that are important to a nation’s history and heritage. There are buildings, streets, squares, and even whole cities named after individual people that are considered to have made an important contribution to the town, city or country. When we visit a country these monuments and memorials are some of the go-to tourist attractions that will shape our initial impressions of the nation. What will they tell us about its history and priorities? (… click to complete activity)
Consolidate your learning
Now take a look at your completed worksheet so far and consider whether there is anything missing? Are there any other formal symbols of national identity that you would want to include? Do the nations you are studying have specific emblems or heraldry (crests/ coat of arms)? Do they have an oath or pledge? Is the national bird, animal or flower an important part of the nation’s image as projected to the wider world?
Use the final row on your worksheet to add any of these details as you wish for each nation.
Now take a look at the final column, entitled: “What questions or lessons arise from comparing this symbol between nations?” and, comparing the three nations you researched, consider:
- What similarities and differences are there in this type of symbolism for the three nations?
- Do these similarities and differences highlight a particular aspect of national identity that is most important to each of the nations? (e.g. unity, freedom, etc)
- Did you learn anything about your own nation’s symbols that you didn’t already know?
- Do you agree with the choice of symbols that make up your nation’s display to the wider world? How do they make you feel? What image do you think they portray of your nation?
- Are they of-the-moment, or do they represent a history and heritage that is becoming less relevant?
- Do you identify with your Nation’s symbols, and do you feel that they help or hinder you in being understood when it comes to building international relationships?
- What might this tell us about the limitations of national symbolism in defining a nation’s people?
- How might you apply this understanding?
Use the final row on your worksheet to add any of these details as you wish for each Nation.
National Symbols provide some important signposting to help us understand a nation’s history and heritage, but do they really help us to understand its people?
Whilst many nations are founded on the basis of shared religion, language, ethnicity, history or culture it would be inaccurate to assume that the people of a nation automatically have a shared perspective on all these factors. Instead, within a nation you would expect to find an ever-changing tapestry of cultural diversity, ethnic diversity and diverse religions. Consider for a moment: How many cultural identities might you find in your nation?
It therefore follows that whilst nationality, as presented by a nation’s symbols, is an important part of our identity, and a key element in driving our behaviours, it is not the only cultural influence that makes us who we are. The important point to remember is that it should not, therefore, be the only thing we see when we first meet people from nationalities other than our own.
A Creative Activity: Capture your Country in a Collage
Retrieve the images and content that you saved from your research into your nation’s symbols.
Use them, as a starting point to create a collage that summarises and conveys the key elements that make up your country’s identity. Think about some of the things that are not formal symbols of nationality as well as those that are. Consider your country’s landmarks, food, music, art, cultural personalities, literature, sports and other pastimes.
Include the things that you want the rest of the world to see when they look at your country.
If you would like to involve your siblings and other family members in this project and make it a team-effort, please do.
Sharing your collage:
Please send your collage to your school so they can post your artwork on their social media channels and tag us in the post using @RoundSquare or #RScountrycollage and we can share their post, or schools can upload a copy of your work here:
What we can learn from Third Culture Kids?
Consider this: Can you be both a patriotic citizen of a nation and a concerned citizen of the world? Is nationality a help or a hindrance in developing international understanding?
At the start of this station we asked: “Who are you and where are you from?” and we observed that for those of us who live in a different country than the one we were born in, or have dual nationality, this can be a challenging question.
Many students in Round Square Schools might describe themselves using the term “Third Culture Kids” (TCKs), meaning that they are growing up in a culture other than their parents’ or the culture of their country of nationality for a significant part of their early development years.
Watch and Learn:
Choose one or more of the following short films that each tells the story of a young person that identifies as a TCK. As you watch consider the following questions (and make some notes):
- What challenges do the students that feature in the films face in having a mixed sense of nationality?
- What are the positives and negatives of living in multiple nations and how might this instinctively build International Understanding? What can we learn from this?
- Do you think that a strong sense of nationality is a help or hindrance to developing International Understanding?
Is she Afgan or German? (Third culture Kid)
She’s From… Everywhere?! (Third Culture Kid)
A Third Culture Kid’s Hometown