Gender Approaches to Nations and Nationalism

Sylvia Walby. The Sage Handbook of Nations and Nationalism. Editor: Gerard Delanty & Krishan Kumar. 2006. Sage Publishing.

Nations and nationalism are gendered in complex and varied ways. The relationship between gender and nations is a two-way process in which each partly constitutes the other. Nations and nationalism have traditionally been seen as a gender-free zone, a site of the intended unity of the people, who share a common goal and culture (Gellner 1983; Kedourie 1966; Smith 1986). A wave of new scholarship has challenged this position, arguing for the significance of gender for nations and nationalism (Enloe 1989; Jayawardena 1986; Walby 1992; Yuval-Davis and Anthias 1989; Yuval-Davis 1997).

The inclusion of gender means not only noting the existence of gender divisions and the presence of women as actors in national processes, although these are important. It requires, in addition, the identification of the specific forms of gender relations that are at stake. While some writers have implied an almost limitless variety of discursive forms of gender relations, my view is that different patterns of gender relations are constituted within different forms of gender regime. There is not just one form of gender relations, nor do they vary merely as to whether there is greater or lesser gender inequality, but rather there are a variety of actual and potential forms of gender regime which vary along specific dimensions. A key dimension along which gender regimes vary is that of the extent to which women are contained and valued within the domestic sphere on the one hand and the extent to which they are present and welcomed in the public sphere of employment, politics and education on the other (Walby 1997, forthcoming). Any assumption that gender politics means feminist politics in the conventional sense must be abandoned. Gender politics can include the positive promotion of the domestication of women, with models of motherhood that segregate the appropriate sphere of action of women from that of men. Different nations and nationalisms often have different models of preferred gender relations. This process of the selection of the preferred model of womanhood, of gender regime, can appear to be consensual, but may well be highly contested. These contestations over the development of one preferred model of gender relations or another are entwined with the development of nations and nationalism. The under-reporting of this contestation in analyses of the formation of national ideals is challenged by the new gender literature.

Recent feminist theory has embraced the analysis of difference in a determined effort to counter any essentializing approach to the conceptualization of gender. The focus is resolutely on the multiplicity rather than singularity of models of gender relations. The intersection of gender relations with other sets of social relations, especially ethnicity and nation, is seen to create new diverse forms of gender relations. Nevertheless, within the literature on gender and nation there is variation in the extent to which there is a focus on a single model of womanhood within a particular national project, or if the text investigates the possible adoption of one of a wide range of forms. However, whichever analytical strategy is chosen, there is a constant background assumption of the socially constructed and malleable nature of gender relations. This understanding is often posited in contrast to the strategy of nationalists, who are often portrayed as trying to sediment one preferred vision of womanhood into their conception of national identity.

Contributions to the gendered analysis of nations and nationalism have not infrequently included these forms of difference alongside others, especially those of ethnicity, ‘race’ and religion. Within these analyses the concept of ethnicity is often used alongside that of nation (Anthias and Yuval-Davis 1992) and may even be used in preference even though others might consider the categories at stake to be those of nation, for example, see Medaglia (2000) on Italian and English ethnicity and Racioppi and O’Sullivan See (2000) on Irish ethnonationalism and ethno-gender regimes. Hence a mapping of the field of ‘gender and nation’ needs also to consider overlaps with the literature on gender and ethnicity. Nations exist in the context of other polities, such as states and organized religions, as well as many other ongoing political projects. Nations may be actively sought, as in nationalist movements, or be ongoing political projects, as well as stabilized with state institutions. The analysis here refers not only to nations and nationalism, but also to national projects. By national project is meant a range of collective strategies oriented towards the perceived needs of a nation, which include nationalism, but which may include others as well.

The relationship between gender and national projects is mediated by the associations that each has with other phenomena, for example, the association between nationalism and militarism, and that between nationalism and democracy. These associations affect the kind of gender projects that may be compatible with specific national projects. The extent to which there is an affinity or contestation between different models of nationhood and gender regime is a constant theme in the literature.

The analysis of the relationship between gender and nation in relation to womanhood as a key symbol of nation depends on an assumed identity of interest between women and men in the same national project. However, this is not necessarily the case; indeed it may seldom be the case. Since women and men typically occupy different social positions, it is likely that their experiences of the world will be different, and hence that their preferences may diverge. Indeed, since gender relations are often unequal, the perceived interests of women and men may be expected to vary. In the context of the construction of a national project, this may mean that women and men, or more accurately, gendered people, will attempt to inflect the project with their own potentially divergent preferences. There may be a struggle to determine what constitutes the national project. Since women typically have less power than men in the political domain, it may mean that any given national project may represent the interests of men more than women. It may also mean that gender affects the degree of commitment and enthusiasm of people to a national project, since where the national project does include women’s interests then women may be more likely to support it.

Since nations and national projects are gendered, the contestations between national projects are gendered conflicts. A further set of the literature examines the implications of gender relations for the relations between nations (Enloe 1989; Sylvester 2001) and the implications of the relations between nations for gender relations (Walby 2004).

Varieties of Gender and Nationalist Ideals

The creation of a nation often looks backwards towards a myth of common origin (Smith 1986); it is an imagined community (Anderson 1983), which draws on collective memories of perceived common experiences (Gellner 1983) and invented traditions (Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983). The selective interpretation of the past is a potent method of legitimating present political projects. The choice of the model of gender relations that is included within this cultural assemblage to support national identification and renewal has been subject to much analysis. Out of the range of available gender ideals, which ones are selected and why?

Gender relations in the contemporary world are undergoing radical transformations. The domestic gender regime in which women’s primary role was assumed to be in the family caring for others is being transformed into a public gender regime in which women are additionally present in public domains of employment, politics and education (Walby 1990, 1997, forthcoming). The process of transformation takes place unevenly, with many path-dependent variations, though it is often associated with or a little later than industrialization and the development of a capitalist market economy, that is, during the transition to modernity. Developing nationalist movements have a range of models of preferred gender relations from which to select. Those that are backward-looking may be more likely to find affinity with a domesticated version of womanhood (Carbayo-Abengózar 2001). Those that are seeking to speed the process of modernization as part of their national project may be more likely to find affinity with a vision of women as active participants in the public sphere of employment, politics and education (Kandiyoti 1991a). There may be tension between the role of women as co-citizens and as symbols of national heritage (Kandiyoti 1991b). There is often contestation over the appropriate model of gender relations within nationalist movements (Jayawardena 1986; Ward 1995). Much of the rich literature on gender and nation explores these tensions between different ideals of womanhood and specific national projects.

Womanhood and motherhood as symbols of nation

Early writings on gender and nation often focused on the use of women as a symbol of nationhood (Anthias 1989; Anthias and Yuval-Davis 1989; Yuval-Davis and Anthias 1989; Yuval-Davis 1997), and this has remained a continuing theme in the literature (Carbayo-Abengózar 2001; Echeverria 2001; Moghadam 1994). Anthias (1989), Anthias and Yuval-Davis (1989), Yuval-Davis and Anthias (1989) and Yuval-Davis (1997) suggest that women are central to the ideological reproduction of the collectivity and to the reproduction of the boundaries essential for ethnic and national differences. For example, women, in their role as mothers, are seen as producers of the nation by having and socializing children (Anthias and Yuval-Davis 1989; Yuval-Davis 1997). While they also suggest that women are not only a symbol of nation but are also active participants in the construction, reproduction and transformation of ethnic and national categories, the extent to which women are manipulated as symbols rather than controlling the representations and use of their own identity has been subject to some debate. Afshar (1989) and Kandiyoti (1989) argue that women are not passive symbols, but have their own interests, which they promote in national processes. Rather than seeing women as primarily manipulated by others, they suggest that they are active in the protection and development of their own interests.

While some nationalisms made women visible as a symbol of nation, other nationalisms make women invisible, prioritizing the role of men in the national project. Echeverria (2001) provides an account of the privileging of masculinity in the social construction of Basque identity through an analysis of education and language. She shows that women’s contributions to Basque culture tend to be erased in the textbooks used to inform young Basque people about their heritage. Further, the construction of the Basque language privileges male speakers by its preferred forms. She notes that women have challenged this exclusion, hereby suggesting that they are not willing participants in this masculinization of Basque national identity.

When the purity and chastity of womanhood is a key symbol of nation, then this symbol can become a target in wars between nations. The systematic rape of women in national and ethnonational conflicts is the most horrific example of the negative aspects of this symbolism (Seifert 1996). The combination of extreme masculinity in armies, the lack of a state authority and national hatred provides the context in which this can occur.

The relative closure of formal politics from women is a further dimension of the exclusion of women from the construction of the national project. The concept of formal politics may be contrasted with that of informal politics, where it is suggested that women may be more likely to cross national divides (Cockburn 1998, 2000, 2004; McWilliams 1995; Racioppi and O’Sullivan See 2000). Racioppi and O’Sullivan See (2000) analyse the exclusion of women from leading positions in the politics of unionism in Northern Ireland. They show not only that Northern Ireland unionist politics can be understood in terms of ethnonationalism, but also that this additionally takes the form of an ethno-gender regime. Women are traditionally seen as being confined to the role of ‘tea-makers’ in these political organizations. Racioppi and O’Sullivan See argue that formal politics are not the only form of politics, and that it is important to consider the role of informal politics, in which women are much more active. These political spaces tend to be slightly less sectarian than those of formal politics. It is suggested that it is in these political spaces that women might make a distinctive contribution to the nationalist-based politics of Northern Ireland, while recognizing that unless these impact on the formal politics, their impact is likely to be limited.

Cockburn’s (1998,2000,2004) analysis shows the importance, when analysing the relationship between nationalism and feminism, of looking beneath the surface of summary representations of each. Cockburn works with women in civil society, in non-governmental organizations, uncovering a world of informal politics with a rich and varied texture. It is within this world that Cockburn finds women who cross the divides between national and ethnic communities, and also cooperation between women who identify with feminism and those who do not. She works in conflict zones where the disputes between national and ethnonational groups are or have recently been hot, including Bosnia, Northern Ireland and Cyprus. While nationalist movements could be seen as having a preferred model of womanhood, the women she interviewed within national projects had a plurality of views about both the nature of the national project and the nature of womanhood. Cockburn refers to their holding of ‘anti-essentialist’ views of each phenomenon and regards this as important in explaining how feminism and nationalism could sometimes be compatible. In this way Cockburn develops in a striking manner the general insight from much of the literature on gender and nation, of the importance of looking at the plural and competing interpretations of womanhood and nation that are ever-present as a counterbalance to the rhetoric of some nationalists who promote the never-achievable purity of nation and womanhood.

Feminism and nationalism

Gender struggles over the constitution of the national project have perhaps been most fully documented and analysed in the context of the relationship between feminism and nationalism (Afshar 1989; Jayawardena 1986; Ward 1995; West 1997). Feminism and nationalism are here conceptualized as independent sociopolitical struggles, with the relationship between them being the focus of the analysis.

A key work on the significance of feminist actions in the shaping of nationalist projects is that of Jayawardena (1986). She shows how feminists were active in pushing for the inclusion of the emancipation of women within nationalist movements in the Third World at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. Such nationalist movements included feminist issues as key components of their programmes, with women involved as wings or subsidiaries of male-dominated nationalist groups rather than in separate organizations. Her analysis covers Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Korea and Japan. In many of these countries nationalism was forged in opposition to imperialism and colonialism. A key issue in Jayawardena’s analysis is that of the extent to which feminism is seen and best understood as an indigenous phenomenon or as derivative from the West. If it is positioned as Western, then it is likely to be dismissed by nationalist movements; if it is indigenous, it is harder for male elites to reject. Jayawardena’s analysis carefully balances the roots of feminism in the specific experiences and mobilization of women in Third World countries with additional contributions provided by Western political thought, practice and capitalist expansion.

There are many examples of case studies conducted in a single country, analysing the productive and destructive tensions between feminism and nationalism. A good example of this genre is the work of Ward (1995), who analyses the struggle of women in Ireland simultaneously for both Irish independence and for the inclusion of women’s preferences within the nationalist movement. She compares three different Irish women’s nationalist organizations in order to assess the implications of different strategies and ways of balancing and integrating women’s and nationalist aims. During the period of nationalist struggle women played important roles; when independence was won, however, women, while legally included as political citizens with the franchise, were excluded from the practical exercise of political power.

Right-wing nationalism and women

While traditionally it was assumed that when women mobilized politically it would be around a feminist agenda that promoted women’s independence and greater participation in the public sphere, women have also been mobilized around a defensive protection of the domestic space for women and against the excesses of gender inequality and degradation in the public sphere. The protection of a domestic form of gender regime can be a woman-led project. But it may also be one that is inflected by or developed in association with other right-wing projects. There are several studies that look at the relationship between right-wing nationalism and a domestic gender politics.

Carbayo-Abengózar (2001) provides an account of the development of an image of Spanish femininity in the service of the national project at the time of Franco as one that is domesticated, which describes women as ‘indoor heroines.’ The Spanishness of this model of womanhood is drawn in contrast to that of other so-called ‘liberated’ women in Europe, whose practices are experienced through increased tourism to Spain. Carbayo-Abengózar argues that this is a manipulative discourse, intended to confine women indoors, at the same time as elevating them to the role of metaphor or symbol of the nation. In this account, nationalist priorities shape gender discourses and are intended to shape gendered practices.

Koonz (1987) investigated the relationship of women to Nazi politics in Germany, investigating the range of politics and practices of women during the development of fascism. Some women were part of the Nazi project and supported its promotion of the domestic gender regime alongside its other policies. The domestic gender regime provided some comforts to some women. Koonz draws attention to the inconsistencies in Nazi practices towards gender relations. Although in the early stages of Nazi development women were removed from public positions as part of the re-domestication of women, at the height of the war effort women were pushed into paid work in factories in order to support the war.

Maarten (2005) examines the gender rhetoric and practice of two women’s nationalist organizations of the far right in Belgium in the European Fascist period between the wars. While these right-wing nationalist movements appeared to denigrate traditional conceptions of women’s rights as individuals, nonetheless they provided spaces for the active participation of women. The women in these right-wing nationalist movements promoted motherhood and married life, while defending their activity in the public world of politics in order to achieve this. Maarten argues that the apparent contradiction between active women’s politics and the far right is bridged by noting that some forms of women’s politics—those that are relational rather than individual (see Offen 1988)—see the family as non-hierarchical and a positive force in society. She also notes the variety rather than singular nature of the discourse on women produced by these women’s organizations. Nonetheless, there remained a tension between the women’s organizations and their male counterparts in the nationalist movement over the promotion of a public role for women.

Mediation of the Relationship between Nation and Gender

The relationship between gender and national projects can be mediated by their association with other political projects. The relationship varies depending on whether the national project is associated with other projects such as democracy, militarism and specific religions.

In the analyses of feminism and nationalism provided by Jayawardena (1986) and Ward (1995), the nationalist project is associated with anti-imperialism and pro-democracy as was typical of their period. At this time, the demand for an independent nationhood was often articulated through a discourse of democracy-seeking, in that national independence would be the route to democracy for this particular people. In the context of a pro-democratic anti-colonial political environment, the demands for votes for women as well as men were consistent with the dominant political vocabulary.

At other times and places, national projects have been associated with militarism. In these contexts the relationship of feminism to nationalism can be more distant, if not hostile, though not uniformly so. Insofar as national projects are associated with militarism, then women tend to be less enthusiastic about engagement with national projects and more interested in internationalism. The most widely noted linking of these themes is by Virginia Woolf (1938: 109) in The Three Guineas, where a female pacifist makes the statement: As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.’ Woolf linked nationalism and militarism at the time of the rise of Fascism in Europe and the use of military force to push forward national claims by Germany.

Women are frequently, though by no means universally, more pacifist and less militaristic than men; they are more likely to support peace movements and to oppose war than men (Oldfield 1989), for example the Greenham Common protest, and to support political parties that oppose military adventurism, such as the Greens in Europe.

There is a body of historically informed literature on women’s internationalism in the early twentieth century, during and after World War I (Sinha et al. 1998; Sluga 2000; Rupp 1997; Wiltshire 1985). Sluga (2000) provides a detailed mapping of feminist attempts to intervene in the politics of nationalism, arguing that the historical moment that Hobsbawm (1991) considers to be the ‘apogee of nationalism’ is in fact the time of a key struggle over internationalism in which women played a significant role. The erasure of these women from history produces a misleading account of the history of nationalism and internationalism. Key women’s organizations included the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom, the International Council of Women, and the Allied Women’s Suffragists, which fought simultaneously for internationalism, suffrage for women and for women’s right to determine their own nationality. They engaged in ‘high politics,’ meeting and petitioning international political leaders; however, they were frequently ignored, marginalized, or excluded. Hence the account is one of considerable feminist activity, but of perhaps limited success.

A further mediator of the relationship between national projects and gender is that of religion (Inglis 1987; Scannell 1988; Smyth 1992). Organized religions differ in their internal organization from nations and modern states as to the basis of their authority and power. Modern states and nations tend to legitimate their authority over their citizens by appeal to a democratically supported mandate. In the case of religion, authority is usually exercised by a male ‘priesthood’ with reference to divine texts, and not to a democratic order in which women can participate. National projects that are closely linked to religious rather than democratic projects have tended to support a preferred model of womanhood that is associated with a domestic rather than public form of gender regime. The extent to which women are drawn to and support such a national project may depend on the extent to which civil society and the economy have made a transition from a domestic to a public form of gender regime, or not. If the religiously endorsed view and the life-experiences of women converge then there is likely to be more support for this project than if civil society has moved and the religion has not. In practice, there may be deep divisions within civil society over such a transition in gender regime and over the preferred model of womanhood. Fundamentalist projects may sometimes be engendered in such circumstances (Moghadam 1994).

A national project is forged in relation to many other types of political project. At the turn of the twentieth century a strong international feminist movement engaged in positive relations and much synergy with nationalist movements that were seeking independence from colonial powers using democratization as a key source of legitimation. However, nationalist projects have been associated with many other types of project, whether or not they are sympathetic to conventionally defined feminist claims.

Contested Relations between Gendered Nations and other Polities

Since nations and national projects are gendered, the relations between nations and national projects are also gendered. Competition and contestation between nations and other polities is thus often a gendered contestation in that changes in the dominance of one nation or polity over another can have implications for the gender regime in those nations and polities. The preferred gender model of an increasingly powerful nation is likely to have implications for the gender regimes in those nations that are relatively weaker. The implications are diverse, possibly including successful pressure to modernize the domestic gender regime or the generation of a backlash as the weaker nation seeks to defend its preferred values with greater vigour. There are a number of examples of these and other scenarios in the literature.

Enloe (1989) examines the hierarchical relationship between an imperial power and a colonized nation through an examination of their gendered cultural forms. She finds that images of women in countries colonized by the West in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were often constructed in a manner that eroticized and exocitized them, providing a rationale for imperial domination in the name of the protection of ‘Oriental’ women. Civilized protection of such women was a source of legitimation for colonial domination.

The changing relations between nations and the European Union (EU) provide a further example of the possible implications of the transformation of national projects for the nature of gender regimes. The integration of the EU has involved the increasing preeminence of the European level over that of member states in a widening range of domains. The preferred gender regime of the EU is more public and more egalitarian than that of many of the member states, with the exception of the Nordic countries. The regulation of employment by the EU in the context of the development of the Single European Market and the European Employment Strategy has involved prioritization of the narrowing of gender gaps in employment and pay. Member states have been obliged to implement the Directives of the EU on the equal treatment of men and women in employment and to revise domestic law in order to do this. Resistance by member states, for example, that of the Thatcher government to the deepening of the principle of equal pay from the same work to work of equal value, is usually unsuccessful since the Commission takes the recalcitrant member states to the European Court of Justice. In this way the more public gender regime of the European Union, at least in the area of employment, is becoming increasingly important at the expense of the more domestic gender regimes of member states (Curtin 1989; Hoskyns 1996; Pillinger 1992; Walby 2004; Whyte 1988).

Nation and State Formation

The inclusion of gender makes a difference to the analysis of nation and state formation. The traditional approach to state formation has suggested that there is a single critical moment at which key institutions are forged, which then remain in place for a considerable period of time. For example, this may be presumed to be the moment at which men win suffrage and political citizenship (Turner 1990). However, in the old industrialized countries of the North, women typically won the vote several decades after men, and minority ethnic groups sometimes later still. For example, Turner suggests that in the United States citizenship and democracy were won in the 1840s, when white men won suffrage. However, women in the US did not gain the franchise until 1920, and African-Americans, in practice, not until after the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Given the significance of the creation of a state for a nation, this series of critical moments of winning political citizenship, rather than a singular one, is of some import. The availability for men, but not women, of a formal electoral route for the expression of political preferences during the early stages of nation and state formation when key institutions are being formed has implications for the gendered characteristics of these national institutions. Later rounds of nation-and state-building when women and minority ethnic groups win the suffrage have further gendered impacts on the nature of national institutions.

This dislocation between the political citizenship of men and women found in the North is less common in the South. This is because political citizenship was often granted simultaneously to men and women at the point of national independence from colonial rule. This applies to those countries that gained independence after 1920 (the date around which women in a group of countries in the North won the vote), especially in Africa and Asia, but not those that gained independence before then, such as in Latin America (data on suffrage dates from Inter-Parliamentary Union, 1995). The granting of simultaneous political citizenship to men and women may be expected to have implications for the development of national institutions, although this must be qualified by the caveat that this depends upon the extent to which effective political representation, especially of women, actually occurs.

Gender, Nation, and Globalization

Global processes reposition nations and the key spatial locations and nodes of gender relations (Castells 1997; Peterson 1996). Traditionally, it was thought that women were more likely to access formal political arenas at the local rather than the national level. Evidence for this was seen in the higher proportion of women elected to local councils than to national parliaments. The strength of the development of transnational feminist networks (Moghadam 2000) has led to some reassessment of this view. Feminist politics have drawn strongly on the power of the legitimation of the discourse of universal human rights and have accessed global political spaces, such as UN conferences, with success (Meyer and Prügl 1999; Peters and Wolper 1995; Pietilä 1996;). This has led to a more complex analysis of the relationship of gender to local, national, regional and international politics (Walby 2002). In particular, there is interest in the way in which grassroots feminists access regional (e.g. EU) and global political arenas in order to put pressure back on national-level governments (Keck and Sikkink 1998). This suggests that rather than a simple gradient in which the more local the more women and the more international the fewer women, it is the middle level of the nation where it might appear that women’s interests are the least well represented.

Global processes have altered the balance of power between social forces so as to lead to some diminution of the capacities of some nations to provide welfare and public services for their citizens. This has usually been considered as a class-led process, but there is a significant gender dimension to this (Peterson and Runyan 1999). In the rich North this process is associated with the election of governments that seek to curtail welfare expenditure and the privatization of provision of services that were previously public. In the South these same processes have more typically been the result of the conditions placed by the International Monetary Fund on loans in the process known as structural adjustment (Sparr 1994). In both cases, these are processes that have a disproportionate effect on women, since women are more often the users and employees in welfare and public services. In this way global processes restructure some of the capacities of nations to deliver gendered welfare and public services (Haxton and Olsson 1999). However, in some instances, such as the European Union, the outcome of the restructuring of nations and polities in the context of rising to the challenge of global pressures has not had such an effect on the circumstances of women, because of the EU commitment to women’s employment (Walby 2004), although this assessment is subject to much debate (Hoskyns 1996; Young 2000).


One of the major contributions of these analyses of gender to the wider field of nations and nationalism is to draw attention to the variety of social activities and discourses within any given national project. It warns against a too ready homogenization or essentializing of the content of any national project, pointing up the internal divisions and struggles over its meaning and purpose. National projects are rarely unified, based on a simple consensus, even if they attempt to appear to possess unity. They can often be projects that attempt such a purification of the collectivity, even though this is never fully achieved. The literature on gender, nation and nationalism explores the implications of varied interactions between a range of forms of gender regime and of national projects, interactions mediated by a wide range of political, social and economic contexts.

There has been considerable development within gender approaches to nations and nationalism during the past few years. Early literature tended to focus on the congruity of a specific image of womanhood with a specific national project, even while emphasizing the diversity of such images. This approach has been rightly challenged because of the contested nature of preferred models of both womanhood and national projects, with much ensuing work investigating the tensions, struggles, compromise and accommodation between differently gendered visions of national projects. These different visions were linked, but not in a simple way, with interests associated with different positions in gender regimes, not only between women and men, but also according to the type of gender regime, that is, more domestic or public. The contestations between these different visions of a gendered nation draw not only from discursive resources, but also from resources that are economic and political. In early work there seemed to be a view of an almost endless variety of models of gender relations that could potentially be associated with national projects. My view is that rather than infinite variety there is a tendency for these models to tend to cluster along a continuum from domestic and public gender regimes. At one end, there is a cluster around the valorization of women as mothers, and at the other, there is a tendency to welcome a modern emancipated woman into the public sphere.

At the heart of modern nations is often a tension between their attempt to be inclusive of all members, which draws on the democratic impulse that is a key legitimation of a contemporary national project, and a desire to purify the group, so that it lives up to the unique and singular ideal that is a key source of legitimation of the national project. Debates over the preferred model of gender relations can forcefully articulate this tension. A backward-looking nationalism may draw inspiration from a model of gender relations from an era when a domestic form of the gender regime was typical, while the practical inclusion of women as nationalist activists in the public domain contradicts this ideal. By contrast, other nationalisms have embraced a model of modernity that includes public life for all citizens, including women. The ongoing if uneven transformation of the gender regime from a domestic to a public form in many locations experiencing a national movement produces a variety rather than a uniformity of models of existing gender relations, generating further tensions. Thus the relationship between nation and gender is likely to be uneven, varied and contested, rather than taking a settled form.