The Sociology of Nationalism: Tomorrow's Ancestors

By David McCrone | Go to book overview

6

DIALECTIC WITH THE OTHER

Liberation nationalism in the twentieth century

For much of the twentieth century it seemed that anti-colonial nationalism was its ‘last wave’, that Third World nationalisms represented the end of a long process of liberation against colonial powers begun in Latin America in the previous century. Indeed, the ‘last wave’ was the description of Benedict Anderson in his classic study Imagined Communities first published in 1983. The second issue was published in 1991, and by 1996 it was in its seventh impression. By this point Anderson had acknowledged that this description was premature, not only because plainly other waves of nationalism had followed it, but because the ‘periphery’ played a much more active and involved part in its oppression, and hence liberation, than previous theories had suggested.

In this chapter I will argue that this revisionist way of looking at ‘liberation nationalism’ provides much greater insights into the nature of nationalism itself, and helps us to break out of the tendency to see it as a separate, catching-up form of nationalism. Above all, I will seek to show that the key insight is in the construction of the ‘other’, that there is an interaction, a dialectic, between imagining self and other in such a way that while both colonial power and anti-colonial reaction ostensibly were engaged in defining each as different, their very essences actually carried that of the other. Hence, the contribution of liberation nationalism is not that it completes the puzzle begun in Europe centuries before—the belated catching-up process—but that it makes us see that nationalism and national identification is a game played with reflecting mirrors wherever it occurs.

The salience of identity also highlights the importance of gender relations in nationalism. This chapter will focus explicitly on the ways in which these have played a crucial role in how nationalist movements have developed and how the nation is imagined. This is not to imply that gender relations only operate with regard to liberation nationalism, but is to acknowledge that the role of women in particular has been especially important in these struggles. Liberation nationalism has focused on women in important and by no means straightforward ways, and that is the justification for looking at gender relations in this chapter.

Around the 1980s, a major change of focus occurred with regard to how liberation nationalism was understood, hence Anderson’s self-revisionism for his second edition in the early 1990s. If our understanding of liberation nationalism reached

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The Sociology of Nationalism: Tomorrow's Ancestors
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1 - The Fall and Rise of Nationalism 1
  • 2 - Tribe, Place and Identity 22
  • 3 - Inventing the Past 44
  • 4 - ‘devils at His Back’ 64
  • 5 - Nation as State 85
  • 6 - Dialectic with the Other 102
  • 7 - In and Out of the State 125
  • 8 - The Unforeseen Revolution 149
  • 9 - Nationalism and Its Futures 169
  • Bibliography 188
  • Index 199
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