Anderson 2006

From Projecting Power


  • Nationality (nation-ness and nationalism) as a cultural artifacts
  • Need to understand
    • How they have come into being
    • How the meaning has changed over time
    • Why they hold emotional legitimacy today

Argument: the creation stems from the historical forces aligning, then became moveable, interactive socially, politically, and ideologically

Concepts and Definitions[edit]

Three paradoxes of nations/nationalism

  1. Objective modernity of nations to historians vs. subjective antiquity to nationalists
  2. Formal universality of nationality as a socio-cultural concept vs. its concrete manifestations
  3. Political power of nationalisms vs. their lack of philosophy
  • Issue: nationalism often classified as an ideology (similar to kinship and religion)
  • Definition of Nation: an imagined political community, imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign
    • Imagined: members of a nation will never know most of their fellow members, but share communion. **Nationalism invents nations where they do not exist.
    • Limited: nations have finite (but elastic) boundaries
    • Sovereign: Enlightenment and Revolution destroyed legitimacy of the divine realm, created during religious **unrest and therefore symbolizes freedom
    • Community: nations hold horizontal comradeship

Cultural Roots[edit]

  • Emblems of the modern culture of nationalism → tombs of Unknown Soldiers
    • Hold ghostly national imaginings, even though no one knows of their origins
  • Dawn of the age of nationalism, but dusk of religious modes of thought
    • Required a continuity with meaning
    • Nations were suited to fill in the void, because they loom out of the past and glide into the future
    • Does not suggest a causal relationship, but contextualizes the culture systems preceding it

Three cultural conceptions that lost power:

  1. Script-language offered privileged access to ontological truth
  2. Society was naturally organized around/under high centers (like a monarch)
  3. Cosmology and historical were indistinguishable, origins of man and the world were identical

Origins of National Consciousness[edit]

Print Capitalism[edit]

  • Book-publishing services searched for markets, initially Europe (Latin)

Expanded due to three reasons:

  1. Change in Latin
  2. Impact of the Reformation (really promoted the print market)
  3. Slow and uneven spread of vernaculars as tools for administrative centralization (there was no systematic imposition of language)

Print languages laid the groundwork for national consciousness in three ways:

  1. Unified fields of exchange and communications through print and paper: allowed people to grow aware of their thousands of people in their language field, connected through print
  2. Fixity to language: printed books kept a permanent form, were not unconsciously modernized
  3. Languages of power: dominant languages in print gained power


In conclusion, Chapter 4 of Imagined Communities talks about the rise of Nationalism as a powerful concept in today's society along with the exploration of National Consciousness and how it was developed by several factors such as historical events and cultural norms.