In an anthropological spirit, then, I propose
the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community
- and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.
It is imagined because the members
of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members,
meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image
of their communion [...] In fact, all communities larger than primordial
villages of face-to-face contact (and perhaps even these) are imagined.
Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness, but
by the style in which they are imagined.
The nation is imagined as limited because
even the largest of them [...] has finite, if elastic, boundaries, beyond
which lie other nations. No nation imagines itself coterminous with mankind.
The most messianic nationalists do not dream of a day when all the members
of the human race will join their nation in the way it was possible, in
certain epochs, for say, Christians to dream of a wholly Christian planet.
It is imagined as sovereign because
the concept was born in an age in which Enlightenment and Revolution were
destroying the legitimacy of the divinely-ordained, hierarchical dynastic
realm [...] nations dream of being free [...] The gage and emblem of this
freedom is the sovereign state.
Finally, it is imagined as a community,
because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may
prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal
comradeship. Ultimately it is this fraternity that makes it possible,
over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much
to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings. (p.7.)
Imagined communities [...] always
loom out of an immemorial past, and, still more important, glide into
a limitless future. It is the magic of nationalism to turn chance into
destiny. (Ibid., p.11-12,)
[Note: Many of the foregoing are quoted in Vincent Cheng, Joyce,
Race and Empire, Cambridge UP 1995, pp.192-96. Cheng refers to Andersons
resonant discussion of Renans use of memory and
forgetting within the dynamics of national consciousness (p.215.)
[N]ationality [is] a cultural artifact
imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members [...] imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and expoitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, to so much to kill, as willingly to died for such limited imaginings. (Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, [rev. edn.] London: Verso 1991, p.7; quoted in in Lucy McDiarmid, PMLA, 109, 1, 1994; also in Brian Graham, ed., In Search of Ireland: A cultural geography 1997.)
Cf. Timothy Brennan, The Longing for National Form, in Narration and the Nation, ed. Homi K. Bhabha, Routledge 1990): It was the novel that historically accompanied the rise of nations by objectifying the one, yet many of national life, and by mimicking the structures of the nation, a clearly cordered jumble of languages and styles. Socially, the novel joined the newspaper as the major vehicle of the national print media, helping to standardize language, encourage literacy, and remove mutual incomprehensibility. But it did much more than that. Its manner of presentation allowed people to iagine the special community that was a nation. (p.49).