nationality, in political theory, the quality of belonging to a nation, in the sense of a group united by various strong ties. Among the usual ties are membership in the same general community, common customs, culture, tradition, history, and language. While no one of these factors is essential, some must be present for cohesion to be strong enough to justify the term nationality. Used in this sense, nationality does not necessarily denote membership within a specific political state. There are many examples of nations divided between several states and of states composed of several nations and parts of nations. Thus not all Albanians live in Albania, and, on the other hand, Switzerland has citizens whose native languages are German, French, Italian, and Romansh. In political theory the belief that a state should be identical with a nation is called the "principle of nationalities," or, more commonly, "self-determination." This view is a typical expression of nationalism; it was advanced partly as a means of solving the problem of the national minority after World War I. Nationality in its specific legal sense is a very different concept; it is attachment to a state by a tie of allegiance. Nationals in this sense are fundamentally distinguished from aliens (see alien) and in most, but not all, countries are identical with citizens. Nationality gives the state the right to impose certain duties, especially military service. Some states will punish their nationals for crimes wherever committed; the United States, however, punishes only those crimes, except treason, that are committed within American territorial jurisdiction. States may tax the income and other assets of their nationals regardless of whether they reside abroad. The national owes duties to his government but is also entitled to diplomatic protection when in a foreign country. Such protection includes the assistance of consular officials when the national is accused of crime and the offering of refuge in emergencies. In many instances certain persons, particularly those who have undergone naturalization, will be regarded as nationals by two states at once. Such problems of dual nationality have been a frequent cause of international diplomatic disputes.
See P. Weis, Nationality and Statelessness in International Law (1956); B. Akzin, States and Nations (1966); C. Joseph, Nationality and Diplomatic Protection (1969).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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