Nationalism, Biography and the Ecology of Identity

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Since confession has been one of the classic genres of biography since Saint Augustine wrote his, let me begin with a confession: I am not a biographer. But while I haven’t worked on biography, my work on nationalism and national identity has frequently been carried out through ethnographic research, forcing me to grapple with the specificity and variability of national identity. However general the discursive categories of ‘the nation’ and ‘nationalism’, no two people do it exactly the same way. Over the years people have told me many different stories about the role of nationalism in their lives—stories that suggest that people attach themselves to, and detach themselves from, that category in ways that have irreducible personal narrative significance. So while I have not systematically investigated any individual life histories in regard to nationalism, my ethnographic research on nationalism has instilled in me a strong sense of being surrounded by individual biographies that, even if only partially glimpsed, each tell a specific story about how nationalism becomes significant for people.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-22
Number of pages18
JournalHumanities Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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