National culture, national identity, and the culture(s) of the nation

Authored by: Geneviève Zubrzycki

Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  July  2010
Online publication date:  September  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415474450
eBook ISBN: 9780203891377
Adobe ISBN: 9781134026159


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Until relatively recently, scholars of nationalism primarily used culture to stand for language, ethnicity, and broadly defined traditions. Culture was that stuff out of which nations were built and which nationalists sought to protect and perfect under the aegis of the modern nation-state. Alternatively, culture was regarded as a “thing” requiring invention in order for people to care about and fight for the establishment of nationstates. By embracing the so-called cultural turn, a new generation of scholars changed both the lens and the focus of the field: the object of study shifted from an emphasis on nationalism to one on national identity. From this new vantage point, the nation is not a reified object but a symbol competed over by social actors, nationalism is a field of debates about the symbol of the nation, and national identity is a relational process enacted in social dramas and “events” as well as in everyday practices.

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