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Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (Revised Edition)
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Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (Revised Edition)

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  11,738 ratings  ·  640 reviews
What makes people love and die for nations, as well as hate and kill in their name? While many studies have been written on nationalist political movements, the sense of nationality--the personal and cultural feeling of belonging to a nation--has not received proportionate attention. In this widely acclaimed work, Benedict Anderson examines the creation and global spread o ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published July 17th 1991 by Verso/New Left Books Ltd. (first published May 1983)
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Boy Blue How much sway does Plato's Republic still have? How much sway does Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations or Karl Marx's Das Kapital have? The answer is a lot…moreHow much sway does Plato's Republic still have? How much sway does Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations or Karl Marx's Das Kapital have? The answer is a lot. Imagined Communities is a seminal work that changed the field, it will always be relevant. It has also been updated twice, most recently in 2006. You will learn so much from this book and you have to remember that this isn't strictly a science work.

Even if this was just a scientific work, think of Isaac Newton's Principia, physics since then has been expanded on, updated, and changed. Yet, nearly 300 years on Newton still has a lot of sway because he is the Giant on whose shoulders everyone is standing (note: he said that about all the people before him). Imagined Communities will always have sway, even in 300 years time, although by then it may just be remembered as a historical marker in the emergence of a new field of study.(less)

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Kelly
UPDATED: Amazing how reading this for a different class brought out a totally different discussion. The last class I read this for was called "Uses of History in International Affairs," and we spent the majority of our time talking about history as an act- history as narrative, history as an agenda, what someone might use these statements for. We were essentially diplomats in discussion, preparing our strategy of attack against the other side's claims. I don't think we discussed the validity of ...more
Murtaza
Dec 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of my longstanding grievances with the public education system is its approach to geography. The jigsaw of nations most children are taught comprise the world is essentially posited as something timeless and ineffable, while in reality are they all very historically recent not to mention ephemeral and in most cases pretty arbitrary.

Benedict Anderson does a great job of deconstructing nationalism (not that hard), but much more importantly rebuilding how national consciousness, "imagined comm
...more
Sean Chick
Aug 12, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Anderson has a good point about how language and the collapse of religious absolutism created nationalism but he fails on two points. First his language is haughty and over the top, including references to obscure stuff. I got most of them but others will be lost. Second he fails to elaborate on other things that caused nationalism to rise, such as technology, revolution, ideology, and warfare. Instead it is mostly presented as a matter of language and media. Also whenever he steps out of the la ...more
Roy Lotz
Jan 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Boy, am I glad to have finally read this. Imagined Communities is the force behind much of the scholarship in the social sciences I find most interesting. Seeing someone’s name so often in brackets (Anderson, 1983) makes you curious, and Anderson does not disappoint.

For me, this is history at its most interesting—incisive, global in scope, entertaining, and not overladen with facts. Staying entirely within the purview and methodology of the discipline of history (unlike, say, Guns, Germs, and St
...more
David M
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Not exactly a Marxist theory of nationalism, but a deeply sympathetic investigation by a man who happens to have Marxists political leanings. While showing how national identities are socially and historically constructed, Anderson at the same time finds the phenomenon too powerful to be simply debunked via ideological critique. In this he reminds me a bit of Gershom Scholem writing on the Kabbalah.

...
Anderson has very little to say about Arab nationalism, and as I read I wondered what he would
...more
Steve
Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
bias flag: I am a former student of Professor Anderson. More accurately, he was my undergraduate thesis advisor. I have a neutral memory of my sessions with him, which is to say I don't remember much; I believe he wore flip-flops, which I thought a bit unusual for 42 degrees north latitude. I do carry great shame, even to this day, from my underwhelming academic effort. In my mind, Professor Anderson, as navigator aboard my ship, bears at least some responsibility; if only he told me to ....

Prof
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Hamad
Jun 17, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Thinkers and Leftists
This is a very important, but difficult read. Even though the author mentions that he did not want to introduce any academic lingo, it is still difficult to comprehend at times, and the academic structure is obvious.

It will truly make you think about history in a novel way once you do understand what is being described. However, the chapter on the Map, Census and Museum was the hardest to comprehend. Of course, the fact that so many themes in the book were hard to understand only goes to show h
...more
·Karen·
Jun 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A hugely influential work, first published in 1983, which delineates the 'processes by which the nation came to be imagined, and, once imagined, modelled, adapted and transformed.' Anderson is an expert on Southeast Asia, and thus manages very successfully to avoid a purely Euro-centric view. Another extremely successful aspect of this work is the structure: each chapter ends with a succinct summary of its main ideas, a boon for those who need to take notes and revise what they've read, or indee ...more
David
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-history
Since there has been a good deal of chattering about nationalism of late, it seemed a good time to finally examine this neglected long-term resident on my bookshelves. It is a tough slog through impenetrable Marxist jargon and apparent inside jokes. Also, there are enough dense and eye-strain-inducing footnotes in my paperback copy to send David Foster Wallace weeping to his thesaurus collection. And, in addition to untranslated French and German, there is, I am not making this up, untranslated ...more
Ross
Feb 24, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely an 'essential read', but did his style have to be so annoying? "Unjungled," Benedict? "Museumized?" Those aren't words. Not cute, either. Stop with the scare quotes, too, jeez. And would you translate your goddamn lengthy French quotations??? GOD. ...more
Frances
Jul 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Asserted as a Marxist text, Anderson attempts to revise readings of the development of nationalism in attempt to sort out the possibilities its offers for a Marxist agenda. Most importantly, Anderson defines the nation as 1) sovereign, 2) limited, and 3) fraternal. He sees the nation as a structural form of collective imagination that works to cohere through the rise of print capitalism (specifically mass-marketed news media and novels, but one could easily add photography to this list) and the ...more
Missy J
Dec 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
description

On December 13, 2015, Indonesia expert and history scholar Benedict Anderson passed away in Malang (Indonesia). A lot of obituaries in his honor appeared in traditional press and online media. When I read his life story, I was very impressed by his study of Indonesia (esp. regarding the 1965 incident, which led to him being banned from entering Indonesia for over 20 years) and his abilities to speak so many languages! His best-known work is Imagined Communities, where he discusses the origins of
...more
Christopher
As the original text on nationalism as an idea, you would think that this would be a better read. Indeed, the plethora of translations that the author catalogs in the Afterword written for this expanded edition, you would think it would be best thing on nationalism ever. And while it does have a few great ideas, it is a barely developed, almost completely nonsensical book. The first few chapters start out alright as he identifies native languages, bueracratic language requirements, and revolutio ...more
Andrew
Imagined Communities : Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, by Benedict Anderson is an interesting look at the development of the idea of Nationalism, and its close association to human conceptions of community and identity. Nationalism has led to many horrible things; Nazi genocide, colonialism, war, ethnic cleansing, and repression of minority groups. Many of these factors are still at play in the modern world. This is because all nations currently in existence derive their leg ...more
Laszlo Szerdahelyi
Feb 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: anthro
Much has been said on the dynamics, roles and subsequent consequences of nationalism, much of the Earth as it stands right now, is the creation of either an older(imperialist) or newer(anti-colonial) form of nationalism, eitherway, they both represent a series of scars on the evolution of mankinds identification with a larger group, that, unlike some jingoistic fantasy, are not the consequences of a ''natural'' progression of convergence into nationhood, but rather the manufactured consequence o ...more
Ismoil Sadullozoda
May 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nationalism
This book is one of the best examples to understand the constructivism tradition of nationalism. The "Imagined Communities" explains how the nationalism discourse is created and how the members of communities based on certain elements (like texts) come to find the commonality with the other members of the same community. The most important takeaway from the book is the emergence of nationalism with the emergence of the texts in vernaculars and capitalism with the spread of printing books.

Anothe
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Andrew
A very impressive work on both a research and theoretical level. The syntheses that Anderson generates manage to cut through hundreds of years of history and thousands of miles of geography to create a cohesive, cogent approach that, fairly uniquely among works of this sort, manages to privilege neither time nor space. Well done.
Sotiris Karaiskos
Jul 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
A now classic book on the origins of nationalism and how it became a global phenomenon. Within this presents the theories about the birth of nationalism, with particular emphasis on regional differences. Excellent book, essential for anyone who thinks outside the box. It offers several answers and you generates even more questions for further study of the issue.
Claire
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school-history
Imagined Communities is the most accessible text on nationalism that I’ve read recently. Anderson’s examination of the origins of the concept of the nation, and the spread of nationalism is logically argued and thoroughly supported. It is interesting to read a perspective which traces this structure of identity not to Europe, but to South America. An engaging and thoughtful read.
Domhnall
Apr 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
After making an effort to summarise this book, I am not convinced that I can defend all of its arguments, which on balance must reflect on me rather than the book. Apart from anything else, I am not prepared to put in the time; I write a review quickly when I finish a book only to convey my immediate impression. It is nicely written, very well organised and very credible. I suspect, though, that it presents its arguments in a form that requires a lot of elaboration before they will convince a sc ...more
Regsly
Dec 27, 2020 marked it as dropped
College reads: I only read chapters/sections relevant to my studies, hence the dnf (1. Introduction; 2. Cultural Roots)
Sahand Mozaffari
Feb 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Interesting and strong theories about nationalism. The book attributes the rise of nationalism to the fall of religion's power in Europe and portrays its spread as the patricidal child of colonialism.
Despite the impressive content, the book is terribly hard to read. The author makes many obscure historical references and quotes texts in their original language without translation. The amount of side-research I had to do to understand the book was larger than the book itself.
...more
Janet
What makes this text well worth reading are his intriguing examples and the methodical way he develops his highly original yet relatively straight forward argument. What I found particularly useful were his marxist explanation for how print capital helped create conditions for a nation as an imagined community, his exposition of the fact that nationalism developed in the Americas before Europe, and the wonderful way he shows how colonial administration and education sowed the seeds of rebellion ...more
Mohamed Omar
Apr 27, 2020 rated it liked it
A cornerstone reference on nationalism, one of the very early books on the subject(first edition published around 1973). Twenty years ago, a young me read it and it heavily contributed to changing how I see the world. Benedict Anderson is an expert in East Asia and human history in general. His ideas are very interesting, and he is the one who coined the "censuses, maps and museums" concept.

Now that I'm reading it again, it feels a bit different. There is something notorious about Benedict's cha
...more
Jill Cordry
Jan 30, 2016 rated it did not like it
This was not what I was looking for. Plus, it was an incredibly difficult read: interminable sentences with obscure vocabulary, not to mention passages in numerous other languages without any translation.
Mehrsa
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I finally got around to reading this classic and it's fascinating. It tracks the beginning of the concept of the nation and links it to print and literature and the decline of religion. Having read the book, I see how often this thesis is cited in other works of history and sociology. ...more
Chayuth
Mar 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
An indispensable canonical book for student of nationalism.
G.R
May 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
The book only makes a small number of points regarding the origins and spread of nationalism, but they are all substantial and well supported. His main point being that language through print capitalism (with an emphasis on the vernacular and consequent extinction of Latin) is the basis of nationalism by creating imagined communities through homogeneous empty time.
Cărăşălu
The introduction is a little scary because Anderson uses an unnecessarily complicated academic lingo, but it gets better afterwards. You'll get a brief account of the rise of nationalism in varied places: from the Americas to Hungary and Indonesia.

His main focus is on nationalism as way of perceiving society and oneself as a member of this society. There are a couple of things necessary to imagine the national community and it became possible only in modern times, with the advance of print-capi
...more
hesham
Like the title, the book is confined to the origin and spread of nationalism: there's no all encompassing theory or explanation. Putting language at the forefront is probably your best bet when it comes to nationalistic ties, nonetheless, it has come to be abundantly clear the nationalism is not a zero-sum game. The mere existence of a nation-state doesn't mean that it has a developed nationalism, I think that is the forgotten angle, nationalism is everywhere from the government perspective, but ...more
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Benedict Richard O'Gorman Anderson was Aaron L. Binenkorb Professor Emeritus of International Studies, Government & Asian Studies at Cornell University, and is best known for his celebrated book Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, first published in 1983. Anderson was born in Kunming, China, to James O'Gorman Anderson and Veronica Beatrice Bigham, and in 1941 ...more

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4 likes · 3 comments
“the fellow members of even the smallese nation will never know most of their fellow members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of the communion...Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity or genuineness, but in the style in which they are imagined.” 19 likes
“It is nice that what eventually became the late British Empire has not been ruled by an 'English' dynasty since the early eleventh century: since then a motley parade of Normans (Plantagenets), Welsh (Tudors), Scots (Stuarts), Dutch (House of Orange) and Germans (Hanoverians) have squatted on the imperial throne. No one much cared until the philological revolution and a paroxysm of English nationalism in World War I. House of Windsor rhymes with House of Schönbrunn or House of Versailes.” 6 likes
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