Europe - national identity

Length: 10 Pages 2522 Words

If we consider nations as `imagined communities’, what role did the concepts of race, gender, and class play in crafting national identity from the mid-nineteenth century through the beginnings of the twentieth century? How did these same concepts also serve to undermine a sense of national identity and unity? Race, class and gender give certainty to the idea of nations as imagined communities. Nations are imaginings of a general populace and yet they have a profound effect on the way that the people who have imagined them live out their lives. People in a nation are incredibly different and yet because of their belonging to this imaginary community, they are believed to be the same. In this sense, a nation can be seen as a creation that requires consciousness, because this notion of community must be larger than any individual could experience directly. It is this understanding of nations that gives significance to factors such as race, class and gender. It are these factors which serve to contribute to the idea of shared qualities between people within the imagined boarders of a nation. Furthermore, as race, class and gender create shared national identities within the imagined boundary of a nation, they also result in na Continue...

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Therefore, race successfully united those with common ancestry and rejected those who did not, creating the most basic foundation of national identity. (Enloe 1990: 46) "Sciences"tm had asserted that women were biologically different from men, female energies were seen as revolving around the uterus and its childbearing capacities. She finds that women are often relegated to minor, often symbolic roles in nationalist movements and conflicts, either as icons of nationhood to be elevated and defended, or as the spoils of war, to be denigrated and disgraced. In Bananas, Beaches, and Bases, Enloe observes that "nationalism has typically sprung from masculinized memory, masculinized humiliation and masculinized hope" (1990:45). Herder"tms philosophy accords each separate people a separate Volksgeist, which was expressed through its culture and thereby encompassed the whole community. The intolerance of race in defining national identity aimed to determine who conformed to the ideal standard of race within the nation. It is "imagined"tm, "because the members of even the smallest nations will never know most of their fellow members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives an image of their community. However by the late nineteenth century, theories previously used to exclude and define national identity in terms of race and culture developed further, excluding and defining who did and did not classify as a member of the nation based on middle class, bourgeois values and norms. Those who did not conform to the standard of "respectability"tm were placed in direct opposition to the nation. Therefore, science served only to give reality to the myth of social hierarchies. However, this finding was not achieved through any breakthrough research, but from broader social pressures on setting up divisions between men and women. Of further significance to the development of national division, was the widening scope of the concept of degeneration. However things began to change once the middle classes secured political power in France and Britain in the 1830s. Herder vitally influenced the disunited peoples of Europe who longed for national unity.


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