This study on national identification in Belgium during and immediately after the German
occupation will examine to what extent and in what ways diverse social groups used national
sentiment to negotiate a reality radically altered. World War I is a crucial focus for nationalism research in Belgium, representing both the summit of Belgian nationalism and a cut-off point where a competing Flemish nationalism gained momentum. However, most existing research has neglected patterns of national identification among the lower and middle social strata. This study aims to fill this gap by examining the concrete significance and functions of national identification for different non-elite groups. National identification will not be considered as either a purely affective factor or as wholly dependent on external economic or social circumstances (such as the uncertainties and deprivations of life in occupied Belgium). Instead, emotion and material selfinterest
will be integrated by investigating subjective perceptions (such as notions of fairness and
social justice between different groups) of objective material conditions, and by examining
national identification as an adaptive strategy, both on the material level (e.g. in relation to food aid) and as a way of constructing a coherent identity in a time of uncertainty and perceived anomie. This will enable us to determine the connection between the social context during WWI and national identification among lower social groups.