A Life Beyond Boundaries

A Life Beyond Boundaries:A Memoir

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The highly acclaimed intellectual memoir of the groundbreaking theorist of nationalism

Benedict Anderson was one of the most respected thinkers on the history of nationalism. His acclaimed Imagined Communities is one of the most cited works in social science.

In A Life Beyond Boundaries, Anderson recounts a life spent open to the world. Born in China, he spent his childhood in California and Ireland, was educated in England and finally found a home at Cornell University, where he immersed himself in the growing field of Southeast Asian studies.

Here he reveals the joys of learning languages, the importance of fieldwork, the pleasures of translation, the influence of the New Left on global thinking, the satisfactions of teaching, and a love of world literature. He discusses the ideas and inspirations behind his best-known works.


  • Benedict 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.

    New York Times
  • Anderson, who died late last year, had an intuitive sympathy for nationalism’s anti-imperial origins. This was underpinned by his view of history, which was shaped by a rare and unfamiliar perspective. At the time of Imagined Communities’ publication, he was a political scientist at the centre of the small community of westerners working on Southeast Asia. Not only his training but also his family background had equipped him, in ways his posthumously published memoir A Life Beyond Boundaries makes clear, to understand nationalism’s extraordinary insurgent appeal.

    Financial Times
  • Engaging and winningly modest memoir … [full of] canny and pertinent observations on modern academia: the prevalence of jargon and the lack of language skills. Poignantly, he tells us how lucky he feels about his achievements. We should feel the same.

    Prospect Magazine