Benedict Anderson died in a hotel in Malang, Indonesia, on December 13 of last year. He was born in Kunming, China, in one of the far reaches of a languishing British Empire. Anderson's perspective on nation and empire was marked by his natal colonial eccentricity. Indeed, from a young age Benedict Anderson showed unusual linguistic abilities. According to the obituary published in the New Republic, he read Dutch, German, Spanish, Russian, and French, and spoke Indonesian, Javanese, Tagalog, and Thai fluently.1 Anderson's prose in English was elegant and luminous, notable for its literary economy.

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Benedict Anderson studied for his undergraduate degree at Cambridge, where he earned high honors. It was at Cambridge that he had his political initiation, during the Suez Crisis of 1956. Anderson took Gamal Abdel Nasser's side on that occasion and pitted himself against the nationalism of...

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