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

Authored by: Geneviève Zubrzycki

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138288621
eBook ISBN: 9781315267784
Adobe ISBN:


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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, in the establishment of nation-states. 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 that social actors compete over, 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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