In This Review

Mapping the Nation
Mapping the Nation
Edited by Gopal Balakrishnan
Verso, 1996, 329 pp
Becoming National: A Reader
Becoming National: A Reader
Edited by Geoff Eley and Ronald Grigor Suny
Oxford University Press, 1996, 518 pp

Although the essays in these two British collections overlap considerably, the Bala krishnan volume manages more successfully to stay on the subject. The latter begins promisingly, if a little tendentiously, as an effort to expose the socially constructed nature of nationalism. It quickly descends, however, into the swamp of contemporary cultural studies. In this world, certain kinds of "imagined communities" have much greater legitimacy than others, especially when they revolve around racial, class, gender, or sexual identities rather than traditional national ones. The Balakrishnan edition contains essays by Benedict Anderson, Otto Bauer, Ernest Gellner, Jurgen Habermas, and Eric Hobsbawm that are representative of serious left-of-center thinking on the subject of nationalism, and is of greater use as a general introduction to the topic.