Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso 1991)

[On obligatory English in schools:] ‘The revival of the native [Irish] language […] was an inevitable protest against such homogenisation, a recognition that to be anglicised was not at all the same thing as to be English.’ (‘Exodus’, in Critical Inquiry, 20, 2, Winter 1994, p.316; quoted by Caroline Amador, UG Diss., UUC [2001].)

See longer extracts from Imagined Communities in RICORSO Classroom, “Postcolonial Fiction”, infra.

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 Anderson’s ‘resonant discussion of Renan’s 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.)

 

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