Myths and Memories of the Nation

Myths and Memories of the Nation

Myths and Memories of the Nation

Myths and Memories of the Nation


Nations and nationalism remain powerful phenomena in the contemporary world. Why do they continue to inspire such passion and attachments? Myths and Memories of the Nation explores the roots of nationalism by examining the myths, symbols and memories of the nation through a 'ethno-symbolic' approach. The book reveals the continuing power of myth and memory to mobilise, define and shape people and their destinies. It examines the variety and durability of ethnic attachments and national identities, and assesses the contemporary revival of ethnic conflicts and nationalism. The book analyses the depth of ethnic attachments and the persistence of nations to this day.


This book seeks to explore issues of nations and nationalism from the perspective of 'historical ethno-symbolism', focusing on the historical and popular context of nations, and the central role of myths, memories, symbols, and traditions. It therefore attempts to bring together the previously (and still, to a large extent) separated fields and literatures of 'ethnicity' and 'nations and nationalism'; and to show how they can be mutually beneficial for a broader understanding of some of the problems common to both.

The newly written Introduction provides an extended theoretical statement of my approach, and the chapters that follow illustrate it with empirical applications from mainly pre-modern (Part I) and modern (Part II) epochs. With the exception of the second chapter, which serves as an early preview (1984) of the ethno-symbolic approach, I have chosen journal articles over a recent five-year period from 1992, which demonstrate the nature, scope, and themes of this kind of approach to nations and nationalism.

I have selected the articles for their empirical variety as well as their theoretical interest. They cover such diverse topics as national identity in the ancient and medieval worlds, chosen peoples, nation and ethnoscape, the role of nationalists, the plight of ethnic minorities, diaspora nationalisms, European cultural identity, and the current resurgence of ethnic nationalism. These issues are all viewed through the same lens, and can, I think, be illuminated by an ethno-symbolic approach.

I am grateful to Dominic Byatt and Oxford University Press for their support for this project which aims to bring together essays that are scattered across a variety of academic journals. I should add that responsibility for any errors and omissions is mine alone.

A. D. S.

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