What is Nationalism?

Nationalism is something that the more one reads about it, the less sure one is of what it is. This talk recounts an intellectual outsider—one working on signalling theory and crisis-management experimentation—travelling through and pondering over the landscape of nationalism research. How many types of nationalism exist? Which types are theoretically valid and which are arbitrary? How can we tell? Is nationalism forever to be a contested concept, or can social science evolve it into an “uncontested”—or “less contested”—concept? Pundits have worried about the dangers of nationalism in China and in the United States, but can we quantify these dangers before they manifest into violence and war? This talk will attempt concrete answers to these questions.

Biography: Kai Quek is an Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong. His research interests are in strategic interactions focusing on the US-China relationship. His current interests are in (1) state-to-state signalling, (2) the dynamics of de-escalation, and (3) the origins of collective beliefs such as nationalism. His research has been published in leading journals such as American Political Science Review, International Organization, Journal of Politics, British Journal of Political Science, International Security, among many others. His research on de-escalation pioneered the genre of real-world crisis management experimentation, by developing the first large-scale experiment in international security that cuts into a live real-world dispute. The experiment measured the nationalistic backlash Chinese leaders face for backing down in the territorial dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, and tested strategies the government can use to reduce the backlash and decrease the risk of war. He received his PhD from MIT.