Marek Kohn is a British-based writer who specializes in issues of science and society, contributing to the Financial Times, Prospect magazine, The New Statesman, and The Guardian, among other publications. Among his eight books are A Reason For Everything: Natural Selection and the English Imagination (2004), As We Know It: Coming to Terms with an Evolved Mind (1999), and The Race Gallery: The Return of Racial Science (1995). His most recent book, Four Words for Friend: Why Using More Than One Language Matters Now More Than Ever, was published in February 2019. (November 2019)

Follow Marek Kohn on Twitter: @marekkohn.

NYR DAILY

From Lublin to London, Europe’s Contested Ideas of National Identity

Participants bearing placards during the pro-LGBT “Equality March” in Lublin, Poland, September 28, 2019

Eastern Europe’s conservatives and nationalists offer clear advice about how to be European. The continent should be more like its eastern nations and less like its western ones, they maintain. It should reject multiculturalism, value homogeneity, and affirm its Christian foundations. Their belief in the ethnic nation as the ultimate basis of sovereignty underlies their belief in a “Europe of the nations,” an association of sovereign states rather than a “United States of Europe.” EU citizenship, by contrast, is a construct of legal abstractions rather than an emotionally resonant expression of identity. It specifies certain things that citizens may do (most significantly, travel freely within the union and work in any of its member states), but those citizens do not constitute an imagined community. Whether Europeans will imagine one into being is yet to be seen.