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Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism

The world-famous work on the origins and development of nationalism
The full magnitude of Benedict Anderson’s intellectual achievement is still being appreciated and debated. Imagined Communities remains the most influential book on the origins of nationalism, filling the vacuum that previously existed in the traditions of Western thought. Cited more often than any other single English-language work in the human sciences, it is read around the world in more than thirty translations.

Written with exemplary clarity, this illuminating study traces the emergence of community as an idea to South America, rather than to nineteenth-century Europe. Later, this sense of belonging was formed and reformulated at every level, from high politics to popular culture, through print, literature, maps and museums. Following the rise and conflict of nations and the decline of empires, Anderson draws on examples from South East Asia, Latin America and Europe’s recent past to show how nationalism shaped the modern world.

Reviews

  • “One of the greatest … deserves still to be central to our thinking about the world.”
  • “Anderson’s work stands as an inspiration not only to his students, his readers, and all those whose lives have been affected by his work, but also to all those who reject the false choice between politics and scholarship, and who seek to live accordingly.”
  • “Anderson transformed the study of nationalism … and was renowned not only for his theoretical contributions but also for his detailed examinations of language and power in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.”
  • “Far and away the most influential study of nationalism … As well-versed in novels and poetry as he was in scholarship, Anderson was an eloquent advocate for global culture.”
  • “Anderson’s knowlege of a vast range of relevant historical literature is most impressive; his presentation of the gist of it is both masterly and lucid.”
  • “Everything Anderson wrote was boldly original … He was never content to tell an audience what they wanted to hear.”
  • “A brilliant little book.”
  • “Sparkling, readable, densely packed.”

Blog

  • A History of Struggle: Feminism and Nationalism in the 21st Century

    Dalia Gebrial responds to a history of women's movements to ask how a transnational feminist politics of solidarity can change and embolden our vision of the world. 

    The question of transnational solidarity has progressively faded away from the realm of feminist conversation. The idea of intersectionality – a powerful descriptor of how seemingly circumscribed systems of oppression operate through and alongside one other – has been reduced to representative diversity politics: a coalition of limited but energy-consuming practices of privilege-checking and callouts; a seemingly immovable emphasis on bodies and checklists as the prime marker of Good Praxis. Solidarity has been supplanted in favour of ‘allyship’ and ‘standing aside’. Creating spaces of self-determination has been neutralised into creating spaces of safety. Only the personal can be political.

    Rani of Jhansi Women's Regiment of the Indian National Army, training, early–mid 1940s. via End of Empire

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  • Benedict Anderson on 'mapping the terrain' of nationalism

    "Nationalism has been ‘around’ on the face of the globe for, at the very least, two centuries. Long enough, one might think, for it to be reliably and generally understood. But it is hard to think of any political phenomenon which remains so puzzling and about which there is less analytic consensus" — in this essay, taken from the Introduction to Mapping the Nation, Benedict Anderson makes sense of some of the difficulties in ‘mapping the terrain’ of nationalism, as well as looking at theorists (including feminist scholarship) who have brought new meaning to this important area of political study.

    Benedict Anderson's ground-breaking study of nationalism, Imagined Communities, is out this week in a new edition, and available at a 40% discount through Saturday, October 15th.


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  • Whither ‘Nation’ and ‘Nationalism’?

    Benedict Anderson's classic study of nationalism, Imagined Communities, is out this week in a new edition — available at a 40% discount through Saturday, October 15th.

    We'll be posting writings related to the book throughout the week. Below is an essay by cultural anthropologist Katherine Verdery, first published in
    Daedalus in 1993 and reprinted in Mapping the Nation.


    Bulevardi Bill Klinton in Pristina, Kosovo. 

    Nation and Nationalism: What are They?

    During the 1980s and 1990s, the scholarly industry, built up around the concepts of nation and nationalism, became so vast and so interdisciplinary as to rival all other contemporary foci of intellectual production.

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Other books by Benedict Anderson