Nationalism, postcolonial criticism and the state

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This chapter explores nationalism and racism by way of a crosspollination of postcolonial and nationalism studies. The first section will outline postcolonial criticisms of dominant historical and sociological accounts of modernity. The second section introduces the nationalism studies literature by way of five seminal books (Smith, 1986; Hobsbawm, 1990; Anderson, 1991; Breuilly, 1993; Gellner, 2008/1983). It employs postcolonial perspectives to critique their accounts of nationalism, finding them neglectful of the racialised dimension of modernity, before, in return, analysing gaps in the postcolonialism literature raised by nationalism studies with regard to political agency and the state in contemporary society. The final main section brings this discussion to bear on recent academic analysis of those who voted in favour of Brexit in the UK’s 2016 referendum on EU membership. It argues that these analyses would benefit from paying closer attention to the concept of nationalism in general and particularly to John Breuilly’s perspective on nationalism as a form of politics. The conclusion will suggest that postcolonial criticism provides useful insights for nationalism studies’ accounts of modernity, but that perspectives on contemporary political ideology, identifications and community drawn from nationalism studies should be further engaged with by postcolonial and race scholars.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge International Handbook of Contemporary Racisms
EditorsJohn Solomos
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781351047326
ISBN (Print)9781138485990
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2020


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