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Europe - national identity

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 narrowing views of who is a ‘true’ member of that nation. The concept of a ‘true’ member of a nation is closely related to the growing notion of superiority within a nation and the development of social hierarchies. These modes of “othering” are examples of how people in a culture tend to draw boundaries between themselves and others. Of most importance to the development of national identities is the use of enlightenment ‘sciences’ to give proof to national history and roots. These ‘sciences’, which originally gave clarity to gender and race, created national identities, which were thought to be relatively homogeneous communities with shared characteristics which transcended internal divisio...

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