Quotes from Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism

Benedict Anderson ·  240 pages

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“the fellow members of even the smallese nation will never know most of their fellow members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of the communion...Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity or genuineness, but in the style in which they are imagined.”
― Benedict Anderson, quote from Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism


“It is nice that what eventually became the late British Empire has not been ruled by an 'English' dynasty since the early eleventh century: since then a motley parade of Normans (Plantagenets), Welsh (Tudors), Scots (Stuarts), Dutch (House of Orange) and Germans (Hanoverians) have squatted on the imperial throne. No one much cared until the philological revolution and a paroxysm of English nationalism in World War I. House of Windsor rhymes with House of Schönbrunn or House of Versailes.”
― Benedict Anderson, quote from Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism


“Already in the 1550s, 10% of Lisbon’s population were slaves; by 1800 there were close to a million slaves among the 2,500,000 or so inhabitants of Portugal’s Brazil.”
― Benedict Anderson, quote from Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism


“All profound changes in consciousness, by their very nature, bring with them characteristic amnesias. Out of such oblivions, in specific historical circumstances, spring narratives… The photograph… is only the most peremptory of a huge modern accumulation of documentary evidence… which simultaneously records a certain apparent continuity and emphasizes its loss from memory. Out of this estrangement comes a conception of personhood, identity… which, because it cannot be “remembered”, must be narrated.”
― Benedict Anderson, quote from Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism


“In the end, it is always the ruling classes, bourgeois certainly, but above all aristocratic, that long mourn the empires, and their grief always has a stagey quality to it.”
― Benedict Anderson, quote from Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism



“On his coronation in 1802, Gia-long wished to call his realm ‘Nam Viêt’ and sent envoys to gain Peking’s assent. The Manchu Son of Heaven, however, insisted that it be ‘Viêt Nam.’ The reason for this inversion is as follows: ‘Viêt Nam’ (or in Chinese Yüeh-nan) means, roughly, ‘to the south of Viêt (Yüeh),’ a realm conquered by the Han seventeen centuries earlier and reputed to cover today’s Chinese provinces of Kwangtung and Kwangsi, as well as the Red River valley. Gia-long’s ‘Nam Viêt,’ however, meant ‘Southern Viêt/Yüeh,’ in effect a claim to the old realm. In the words of Alexander Woodside, ‘the name “Vietnam” as a whole was hardly so well esteemed by Vietnamese rulers a century ago, emanating as it had from Peking, as it is in this century. An artificial appellation then, it was used extensively neither by the Chinese nor by the Vietnamese. The Chinese clung to the offensive T’ang word “Annam” . . . The Vietnamese court, on the other hand, privately invented another name for its kingdom in 1838–39 and did not bother to inform the Chinese. Its new name, Dai Nam, the “Great South” or “Imperial South,” appeared with regularity on court documents and official historical compilations. But it has not survived to the present.’3 This new name is interesting in two respects. First, it contains no ‘Viet’-namese element. Second, its territorial reference seems purely relational – ‘south’ (of the Middle Kingdom).4 That today’s Vietnamese proudly defend a Viêet Nam scornfully invented by a nineteenth-century Manchu dynast reminds us of Renan’s dictum that nations must have ‘oublié bien des choses,’ but also, paradoxically, of the imaginative power of nationalism. If”
― Benedict Anderson, quote from Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism


About the author

Benedict Anderson
Born place: in Kunming, China
Born date August 26, 1936
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