BENEDICT ANDERSON POINTED out that nations write their “biographies” through a peculiar inversion of genealogy—namely, by a series of deaths, not births. And not ordinary deaths: “exemplary suicides, poignant martyrdoms, assassinations, executions, wars, and holocausts”—deaths, as he put it, of a “special kind” (206). That death is such a lively issue within nationalist “imaginings,” Anderson argued, bespeaks a close affinity with religious modes of thought. For nations, too, transform the facts of fatality and finitude into matters of transcendence and continuity, beyond the earthly body and biological time of any given citizen or generation. The “mystery of re-generation” (11), Anderson called it. Nations as such have the capacity to evoke love and kinship between the dead, the living, and the yet unborn despite their lack of “natural” (i.e., blood) ties. And who is more exemplary and beloved than the nation’s heroes and...

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