Nations & Nationalism

Within historical studies, the question of nation has increasingly emerged as an important site of investigation and theoretical reflection.  It has been clear that European-seated ideas of the nation have long been embedded within Western ideas of progress and modernity, for example, but only recently have these interconnected ideas been brought under far-reaching critical review.  They are challenged in particular by the refiguring of colonial and post-colonial histories, with their attention to migrations, diasporas, and globalizing communities.  In the ensuing debates, the very idea of the nation per se has been called into question:  what the nation is, was, has become, or could be.  Historians are asking whether other trajectories or frames of understanding of historical process might prove more productive not only for historical understanding, but also for political, social, and economic justice.  The question of “the nation” has become central to a new critical examination of Eurocentrism and Euro-philosphy, displacing the teleologies of origins, formation, and elaboration.  Such discussions now reach beyond the historical frame of the nation altogether to examine institutional developments, ideologies, and forms of identification in more global and more trans-historical frameworks and through more pluriversal grammars.  Moreover, as the professions of history are themselves increasingly seen as the arts of nation, the new critical engagement with “the nation” holds the possibility of strong critical examination of the very project of History itself.

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