Postcolonial nation-building and identity contestations

Authored by: Daniel P. S. Goh

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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Despite the nation forming the primary basis of identity and substantive issue for modern political life, it remains an unconscious category of theorization and analysis in sociology. The cultural turn and the study of empire and state formation in comparative historical sociology have led to a minimalist definition of nationalism, which relegates the cultural and the non-rational aspects of politics to the nation so as to preserve the state as a rational field of action. This chapter discusses the inadequacies of current sociology of nationalism resulting from its exclusive focus on state formation in the West. It considers the incorporation of postcolonial theory and emerging bodies of decolonizing scholarship on and from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. It is argued that the nation should be defined in a globally encompassing manner as a discursive field inherited and generated through the modern state’s framing of political contestation about legitimate political authority. This contestation revolves about comparative differences and similarities of peoples that involve the use of local histories, inter-referencing knowledge, intersubjective experiences, and biopolitical violence.

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