John's Reviews > Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism

Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson
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's review
Nov 08, 2011

it was amazing
Read in November, 2011

I loved this book, I wish I hadn't gotten it from the library. I need to find a copy in a used bookstore. I did not think I would like it this much, in fact, I started to read it last year and couldn't get through the first chapter. Turns out, that was more about needing to get though the introduction and into the real meat of the book. Anderson has all kinds of great case studies and analysis here, and he really gives the book a world wide scope. His style is nice too, he's got a little humor mixed in, a little authorial personality. The book ends up reading really well.
All of this is an approach to the idea of nationalism. Where did it come from? What happened so that people in the US or Indonesia came to consider themselves 'American' or 'Indonesian'? Sometimes national feelings came to coalesce around languages, but this is especially tricky when there are multiple languages in a certain area. Then once the idea of a nation has been created, how is it solidified, how does it grow? Anderson gets into newspapers, maps, museums, censuses- even memory and the way that national memory can be created. King John and the signing of the Magna Carta comes to be thought of as a great moment in 'English' history, even though nobody present at the signing spoke English and the whole idea of England as a nation hadn't really come into existence yet. There is so much of interest in this book.

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