Nationalism is like Religion: Discuss

From Gail Hamner reading Benedict Anderson in relation to nationalism, religion, and affect (affective binding), with an eye on right now after Pittsburgh

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After some throat-clearing Benedict Anderson opens his oft-cited Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism with the assertion that “nation-ness, as well as nationalism, are cultural artefacts of a particular kind.” (4) We might expect, then, that his next section on “Concepts and Definitions” will explain this particular kind of artefacts, and he does, eventually, but he first shares three “paradoxes” that “often” befuddle theorists of nationalism. First, nations are objectively modern entities (to historians) but subjectively narrated as ancient (by nationalists). Second, though clearly a modern entity with a clear historical genealogy, nationality is assumed to be a sui generis and universal category (everyone has a nationality). Third, nations are stupendously powerful entities but theories of nationalism are stupefyingly weak. (5)

In other words, Anderson prefaces and offsets his famous definition of the nation with an affective situation that is both inherently unsolvable and (as he states)…

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About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish though and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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