Since its appearance in 1983, Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism has taken on almost talismanic status, ritually invoked for its quasi-magical efficacy in thousands of scholarly discussions of nationalism and ethnicity. Anderson's book has given focus to a line of argument in which not only nationalism but also ethnicity are seen as reflexes of the Euroamerican colonial enterprise. Anderson proposes what we might call an “appendency theory” of ethnicity, holding that ethnicity is a phenomenon that is secondary to, contingent upon, and necessarily later than the modern nation, and that therefore it could not possibly have existed prior to the colonial conquest and the creation of nation-states. In this view, ethnicity itself is a recent product of modern history—of the colonial or postcolonial era, the age of the modern nation state and the capitalist world system.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.