Mapping the Nation; Becoming National: A Reader

In This Review

Mapping the Nation

Edited by Gopal Balakrishnan
Verso, 1996
329 pp. $65.00
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Becoming National: A Reader

Edited by Geoff Eley and Ronald Grigor Suny
Oxford University Press, 1996
518 pp. $39.95
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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.