Lars-Erik Cederman: The Anthony D. Smith Lecture 2024

Lars-Erik Cederman: The Anthony D. Smith Lecture 2024

The 2024 Anthony D. Smith Lecture will be given by Lars-Erik Cederman on ‘Nationalism and the Transformation of the State: Border Change, Historical Legacies and Conflict’

The Lecture is public and open to all, and will be streamed on Facebook and YouTube.


While it is often assumed that the core debates about nationalism were settled by modernist scholars already in the 1980s, there are reasons to question this theoretical “consensus,” especially since it fails to anticipate the nationalist geopolitics that is currently undermining the liberal world order. Contemporary studies of nationalism typically refrain from conceptualizing politics in spatial terms, while overstating states’ ability to shape national identities irrespective of their ethnic roots, and generally offering little systematic validation of their theoretical claims. To overcome these limitations, it is useful to analyze how nationalism transforms the state, rather than the other way around, with major consequences for border change and conflict patterns. A recent EU-funded research project uses historical maps covering borders of states and ethnic groups in Europe to show how nationalism caused increasing congruence between state and ethno-national borders, and how a lack of congruence increases the risk of conflict. This risk is further increased by “restorative” narratives targeting supposedly lost independence and unity. Further research traces the spread of nationalism through modernization processes driven by railroad expansion until the early 20th century. Yet it would be a mistake to conclude that state partition offers the only, or even the best, solution to nationality problems. Power sharing appears to pacify at least as well as ethno-nationalist border change.

About Lars-Erik Cederman

Lars-Erik Cederman is professor of international conflict research at ETH Zürich. He is the author of Emergent Actors in World Politics: How States and Nations Develop and Dissolve (Princeton University Press, 1997), and co-author of Inequality, Grievances and Civil War (with Kristian Gleditsch and Halvard Buhaug; Cambridge University Press, 2013), and Sharing Power, Securing Peace? Ethnic Inclusion and Civil War (with Simon Hug and Julian Wucherpfennig; Cambridge University Press 2022). He has published many articles in scholarly journals, such as the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, International Organization, World Politics, American Journal of Sociology, and Science. His main research interests include nationalism, state formation and conflict processes.