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Friday, August 25, 2006

Imagi-nations....

My desktop HP computer came back with new motherboard and new power supply -- and, as important, with my hard disk intact and not reformatted! So what I anticipated to be a two-day effort to reconstitute my main computer's programs and data will now take less than a tenth of that time....

And now for the daily installment of my blogging project.... The two water damaged books I've picked today happen to be about nationalism.

Emerson, Rupert. 1960. FROM EMPIRE TO NATION: THE RISE OF SELF-ASSERTION OF ASIAN AND AFRICAN PEOPLES. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. I honestly don't recall much about this book, although there are lots of margin notes to indicate that I read it in detail -- perhaps in the late 1960s or early 1970s when studying political development at Boulder. Looking at those notes I can say that Emerson presents a rather positive picture of the emerging nationalism in Asia and Africa, seeing it (in Hegelian terms) as the unintended consequence (synthesis) that developed out of European imperialism (thesis) and decades of colonial subordination (antithesis). Given that I've completely forgotten about this work, its influence on my own must have been minimal.

Anderson, Benedict. 1991. IMAGINED COMMUNITIES: REFLECTIONS ON THE ORIGIN AND SPREAD OF NATIONALISM. Rev. and extended ed. London ; New York: Verso. This work is a bit more memorable, not only because it was a more recent read, but also for the brilliant way Anderson demonstrates the artificiality of nationalism. While Emerson and others accept the "reality" of nations and seek to explain their existence, Anderson starts with the view that nations are "imagined communities" that attempt to come into being. They are primarily cultural phenomena, not political -- and it is when the cultural attempts to manifest itself as political that the trouble begins.... Imagined Communities is a work of anthropology in the Foucauldian tradition.

The contrast between the two books is interesting as an example of how scholarship on a particular topic had changed over two or three decades between their publication. But their differences also highlight (for me at least) a shared Hegelian logic in understanding how nationalism emerged in the modern era.

(A comment on this blogging project. It was more than mere coincidence that I happen to pick these two works from the stacks of drying books scattered around the basement. The flood did the most damage to books on the bottom shelves of bookcases which are organized by subject -- and so the damage was to works in certain subject clusters. This is making this blogging exercise a bit more interesting for me.... Those reading this will just have to suffer the consequences....)

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