Racioethnic and territorial nations within nations

By William Wetherall

First posted 1 January 2007
Last updated 5 August 2014

Nations within nations Terminology States and sub-state entities : Nations as demographic territory : Nationality and nationals : Nationality and territoriality Subnationality Racioethnic subnationality (PRC, USA) : Territorial subnationality (USA, Japan) RESUME : Acknowledgement

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Nations within nations

Many writers equate and conflate "nationality" and "citizenship". Some writers point out that nationality and citizenship are not the same, but no one points out that they cannot be the same.

Most writers who go to the trouble to observe that "nationality" and "citizenship" have different meanings, proceed to conflate the terms, thinking the difference is moot, or thinking they are doing the reader a favor by adopting the term they think the reader is most likely to use and "understand". I bracket "understand" because readers are most likely not to have given much thought to what such terms mean, even on their own passports.

The terms "nationality" and "citizenship" include the "nation" and "citizen". These two words above all -- but also "state" and a few other terms -- need to be claried before we can talk about "subnation" and differentiate "racioethnic" and "territorial" varieties of "subnationality" within an overarching "state nationality".



States and sub-state entities

Let me define a "state" as a sovereign entity that claims to govern a territory and its affiliated inhabitants, who possess its nationality and, as its nationals, receive its protection, and bear its passport when entering another state.

For present purposes, I disregard whether a particular state's sovereignty is compromised by a lack of independence in the conduct of its foreign affairs or self-defense. I also ignore whether a state is recognized by other states.

Consequently, the Empire of Korea, as a protectorate of Japan between 1906 and 1910, would still be regarded as a state. Japan, too, would still be seen as a state between 1945 and 1952, when it was occupied by the Allied Powers, and its sovereignty was delegated to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP). And even if no state were to recognize the Republic of China, so long as it continued to consider itself a state, and exercise control and jurisdiciton over its claimed territory and people, it would be a state.

In political contexts, a state's loss of statehood due to loss of independence or sovereignty, or a state's inability to establish normal diplomatic relations with states that refuse to recognize it as a state, cannot be disregarded or ignored. Here, though, I am interested only in territory and population, not politics.


Nations as demographic territory

I define a "nation" as a state's "demographic territory" comprised of "nationals" who possess the state's civil "nationality" -- an attribute of state affiliation which determines how a person of a given nationality will be treated under domestic laws within a given state, and under international (interstate) laws in matters involving two or more states.

This definition of "nation" excludes from consideration all conventional notions a "nation" as a "people" defined by common lineage, langauge, religion, and other racioethnic traits. As used here, the "nation" that constitutes a state's demographic territory is a purely legal construct that defies -- no, disallows -- ethnonationalistic definition.


I do not use this term because it generally implies a combination of a "state" as a political and geopolitical entity which represents, and is even subordinate to, a "nation" as a cultural and ethnic entity. Such definitions of "state" and "nation" fail to take into account how states operate as legal entities.

Not a few states -- possibly most -- politically posture as racioethnic entities, and publicize their collective "cultural" and "ethnic" heritages. Formally, however, all members of the United Nations are "states" which, as members, have no racioethnic identity. They are members as "states" which agree to universal principles of civil conduct regardless of racioethnic composition of their demographic nation. All member states are essentially duty-bound to recognize the rights of all their nationals, regardless of racioethnic differences among their nationals. Ergo, a state's "nation" cannot be a racioethnic entity.

The "United Nations" is a post-World-War-II reincarnation of the "League of Nations", which flirted with the Wilsonian ideal of "national self-determination" (–―‘°Ž©Œˆ minzoku jiketsu). The idea that every "nation" had the right to be an independent "state" was inspired members of all manner of self-styled "nations" (–―‘° minzoku) to dream of independence and statehood. The term "nation" (–―‘° minzoku) strongly implies biological, linguistic, and cultural commonalities that may be shared by people who are (1) scattered among several states and have no political homeland or "state" to represent and protect them as a "nation" or "people" (Kurds), or (2) are divided between two states (East and West Germany until 1990, North and South Korea still today).

However, the United Nations -- unlike the League of Nations, which balked at endorsing principles of racioethnic equality either between or within states -- essentially abandoned the romantic, politically impossible "nation-state" ideal of "one nation" and "one state" -- in favor of the broader concept of the state as a purely civil entity that, nevermind its political posturing, could not help but be, in today's world, racially and ethnically complex. Hence all member states should endeavor to protect the rights of all their inhabitants, without regard to their personal racioethnic qualities -- and, to some extent, without regard to their nationality.

To put it somewhat differently -- the age of human rights, including women's and children's rights, and rights of racial minorities and aliens, had arrived.

The United Nations also more directly confronted nationality issues which the League of Nations had difficulty handling because of many states clinged to the idea that a woman should follow her husband's nationality to ensure singularity of nationality within the family. The "single nationality per family" standard was closely linked with the desire of most states to prevent dual nationality. The spread of universal sovereignty, which gave women as well as men the rights of political participation, and of advocacy of sexual equality, also undermined the patriarchal standards of conventional nationality laws.

While most states have continued to regard dual nationality as something that should be prevented, more states are tolerating dual nationality when passively acquired, and some states are accepting even actively gained multiple nationaly. Older fears of divided loyalties and other nationality conflicts are somehwat mitigated by improvements in international law, which makes it more difficult for dual nationals to exercise the rights of both nationalties simultaneously.


Nationality and nationals



Nationality and territoriality

Nationality, as a legal status defined by a sovereign state, has always been, in international regard, a purely civil status of state affiliation. Some states may have placed racioethnic restrictions on the acquisition of their nationality, but that was another matter. The nationality itself was merely an attribution of status as a member of the state's "nation" -- its "demographic territory".

The United States, for example, held that "Orientals" were ineligible for U.S. citizenship if immigrants. "Orientals" were not allowed to naturalize. However, the U.S.-born offspring of Oriental immigrants became birth-right U.S. citizens like other U.S. born children. And despite all manner of overt and legalized racial discrimination in some Federal and state laws, the "demographic nation" of the United States was clearly multiracial and multiethnic. Nevermind that some Americans and some foreigners associated "Americans" with "Anglo-Saxons" or "Caucasians" or "Whites" or "Westerners" or the like -- Americans came in all colors and kinds.






Racioethnic subnationality (PRC, USA)


I apply the term to the legal status of a person who, for example, has Chinese nationality but is also legally classified as a member of a racioethnic "nationality" (民族) within the overarching state "nationality" of the People's Republic of China (PRC) -- which defines 55 "minority nationalities" (少数民族) in addition to the majority Han nationality and unclassified "others". All the "people" (人氁E of PRC, however, share the same PRC nationality that makes them "citizens" (公氁E of the republic.

I also apply the term to the legal status of a member of a Federally recognized Native American tribe within the overarching status of US citizenship. Each tribe is subject to a slightly different set of federal and tribal laws that differentiate the tribal entities as "nations" within the United States.

In both of the above cases, the laws that define the "subnational" entities are based on racioethnic considerations, hence "nation" or "race" in the broader and older anthropological senses of these terms. Territory and territorial legal jurisdiction is a factor, but official use of labels like "nation" or "minority nationality" draw attention to the racioethnic criteria of membership in these such classifications.


Territorial subnationality (USA, Japan)


I also use "subnationality" metaphorically to describe the status of people who are affilated with different legal jurisdictions within a larger "nation" which may be a state. One example would be the United States of America, a state which consists of 50 states, a District of Columbia, and a number of territories, each of which is a distinct legal juristiction subject to its own mix of laws. For this reason, the quality of "citizenship" in the United States varies according to the locality of an U.S. national's or citizen's residence for tax, suffrage, and other such purposes. There are no "household registers" in the United States, but very American is nonetheless "registered" in some manner that determines their personal status and status relationships. And a persons habitual or residence or address of record will determine which mix of "territorial" laws apply to private matters such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance, but also to public matters such as building codes, and driver, doctor, lawyer, and teacher qualifications, and elegibility for public programs and of course also suffrage.

Japan today is comprised of semi-autonomous prefectures, each of which consists of various kinds of semi-autonomous municipalities, each of which is a polity unto itself. Japanese and aliens alike, if residing in Japan, are affiliated with municipalities through residence registers (Aliens, until 9 July 2012, through alien registers), and each person's mix of rights and duties of municipal, prefectural, and national "citizenship" depends on the individuals place of residence and status, including nationality. Because Japan enforces common civil and penal codes, and many other national codes, through the country, and also oversees national health, pension, welfare, and education programs, and defines national standards for all manner of professional liscensing, the territorial differences are not as conspicuous as they can be in the United States.

Territorial differences were much more striking during the half century or so -- from 1895 to 1945 -- when Japan's sovereign dominion consisted of 3 legal territories in addition to the prefectural Interior (冁Eœ° Naichi) some people have improperly called "Japan Proper" in English. Taiwan was the first such "subnational" territory in 1895. Karfuto, which joined the expanding sovereign nation in 1905, was integrated into the prefectural Interior, as its 48th prefecture, in 1943. Korea was annexed as Chōsen, the 3rd territory "exerior" to the Interior, in 1910.

By 1918, Japan had a Rules of Law that determined which territory's laws laws applied in private matters between individuals of different territorial statuses, not only regarding the 4 subnations of its sovereign nation -- the Interior, Taiwan, Karafuto, and Chōsen -- but also the South Sea Islands and the Kwantung Leasehold, which were part of Japan's larger legal empire.

During Japan's imperial years, Interiorites, Taiwanese, Karafutoans, and Chosenese were all subjects and nationals of Japan. All possessed Japanese nationality. All were Japanese. There was no distinction in their nationality. There were, however, distinctions according to their civil status as registrants of different territories.

All four territorial jurisdictions of the sovereign Empire of Japan were separately governed under different legal systems, and their populations were formally defined in terms of the household registers within their territorial jurisdictions. The different legal systems were not something contrived by the Imperial Diet, but something that came with the territories. Each territory had a unique population that spoke unique languages and had unique cultures, and the government of Japan took a gradualist approach to assimilating and integrating the territories into the Interior system. In the meantime, the Interior itself was rapidly changing as industrialization and even democracy spread. The paces of assimilation and integration within the four-territory nation increased as militarism overtook the reigns of the imperial government in Tokyo. Territorial governors had measurably less autonomy as the exterior territories came increasingly under the governance of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the quaint English name of what was actually the Ministry of Interior Affairs (冁E‹™ηœENaimushō) -- which, until World War II, oversaw only the prefectural Interior.

Their territorial status -- their "territoriality" with Japanese nationality -- their "subnationality" if you will -- was a purely civil, not a racioethnic, status. There was, of course, a high correlation between people who were Chosenese as a matter of civil status, and people who regarded as "Chosenese" on racioethnic grounds. This, however, was not a matter of law, but of personal viewpoint -- "racialism" of the kind that motivates people to classify others on the basis of how they look, speak, or act -- rather on the basis of their legal status.

Japan's population statistics counted people according to their territorial affiliation, not their putative racioethnicity, which was a private matter. At times language, and ethnic aspects of family law such as surnames and family names, and marriage and adoption -- became objects of regulation by the Government General of Chōsen, which regarded assimilation to Interior standards as part of its mission.

I equate this metaphorical use of "subnationality" with the Japanese term "minseki" (民籁E -- meaning "population [affiliation] register" -- which was used in some government demographic statistics at the time to differentiate Japanese by their "subnational" legal status. The status was territorial, not racial or ethnic, and some Japanese changed their "territoriality" through marriage or adoption.

Subnationality settlements

Under the terms of Japan's surrender in World War II, the Allied Powers reduced Japan to its prefectural territory, minus Karafuto and Okinawa prefectures and a few islands affiliated with some other prefectures. Taiwan (Formosa) provisionally became part of the Republic of China (ROC), and Chosen (Korea) was divided into the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

The legal status of Taiwanese (Formosans) and Chosenese (Koreans), especially those who continued to legally reside in the prefectures, became a controversial issue during the Occupation of Japan. A number of factors conspired to result in their loss of Japanese nationality from 28 April 1952, when the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect.

Japan entered into treaty-related "subnationality settlements" (my term) with ROC and ROK. When Japan switched its recognition from ROC to PRC in 1972, Japan nullified its 1952 peace treaty with ROC, which in effect recognized PRC's claims that Taiwan is one of its provinces.

In 1965, Japan and ROK reached an agreement concerning the period that Korea was a subnational entity of Japan called Chosen. In these agreement, Japan recognized ROK as the sole legitimate government on the peninsula. Japan and DPRK have yet to reach any agreements over legacy issues or otherwise normalize their relationship.

The Empires of Japan

All articles on "subnationality" and "subnationality settlements" in Japan been grouped under a feature called The Empires of Japan. This feature is also linked from the Yosha Research entry page and the Nationalism section.


A state's nationality -- though of uniform quality for all people who possess it -- has different effects on each individual who possesses the nationality depending on where the individual resides in the state. The quality of U.S. citizenship for Americans domiciled in California are not the same as that of Americans domiciled in New York, which is different from that of Americans domiciled in Washington D.C., which is different from that of Americans domiciled in Puerto Rico.

Should an residing in Japan die in Japan, and the alien's estate be settled in Japan, Japan's international private law requires that Japanese courts apply the deceased alien's "home country law" of the d

U.S. citizens domiciled as they

Nothing better exemplifies the notion of "subnationality" than the motto on the seal of the United States, adopted in 1776, which shows an eagle with a shield of 13 stripes on its breast, and a banner in its beak reading "E Pluribus Unum" -- "from many, one" -- signifying the unity of the 13 original Union States.

The idea of "one nation indivisible" in the pledge of allegiance to the United States -- as composed in 1892 -- became "one Nation indivisible" when the pledge was officially adopted by Congress in 1942 during World War II -- and "one Nation under God, indivisible" from 1954 as a result of post-Korean-War (on top of post-World-War-II) nationalistic sentiments which viewed the United States as nation whose moral authority in the world was willed by God.

I say "exemplifies" because the 50 Union States which comprise the United States today, like the original 13 states, are essentially states which have agreed to share their nationality with a Federal government which oversees what is also called "the Republic" for which the U.S. flag stands.

Each state of the United States is a legal jurisdiction unto itself -- a semi-sovereign entity with its own territory and population of mostly U.S. citizens who, if domiciled in a state (or in the District of Columbia), have the right to vote in Federal and local elections only in that state (or in Washington, D.C.). Though U.S. nationality is a single attribute of equal " , have the right -- and some do -- to control their borders for various purposes, such as protecting their farms, orchards, and forests from insects. States also have their own attorney generals and prosecutors, police, courts, and prisons to enforce their own civil and penal codes and other state laws, while remaining subject to Federal laws that apply to all states. systems for the purpose of

However, "nations" so defined -- raceless and classless -- may consist of "subnations" defined by race or


In my usage, the term "subnationality" designates an affiliation with what -- in name or in effect -- is a "nation within a nation".

I use the term "nation" metaphorically to mean any population of a state or state-like entity, whether or not the "nation" is perceived as "racioethnic" population by its government or members. In otherwords, in my usage, a "nation" is a state's demographic territory -- the cohort of people who possess the state's civil nationality.

Also in my usage, a "national" is a member of a "nation" regardless of how the nation is defined. Some states define their nation but do not use the term "nationals" to collective

The state may racialize its people -- assign them, or induce them to assign themselves, to "race boxes" that classify them according to their putative "race" or "ethnicity". The People's Republic of China pretty much assigns
Subnationality as "racioethniciiy"
Subnationality as "territoriality"