What Benedict Anderson Doesn't Understand about the Imagination

This is a 3,000 word piece I wrote for the E-International Relations website. It discusses Benedict Anderson’s theory of nationalism, and his famous claim that nations are “imagined communities.” I agree with Anderson. Nations are indeed imagined communities, but Anderson knows next to nothing about how the imagination works. The imagination is not a process of seeing pictures “in one’s minds eye,” but of recalling experiences. Experiences happen in all sensory modalities at once, and they happen to bodies, not just to minds. Rethinking the imagination, we have to rethink nationalism.

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