The Persistence of Nationalism

From Imagined Communities to Urban Encounters

By Angharad Closs Stephens

© 2013 – Routledge

160 pages | 5 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9781138854895
pub: 2015-04-27
US Dollars$44.95
Hardback: 9780415623452
pub: 2013-03-11
US Dollars$145.00

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About the Book

This is a book about the difficulties of thinking and acting politically in ways that refuse the politics of nationalism. The book offers a detailed study of how contemporary attempts by theorists of cosmopolitanism, citizenship, globalism and multiculturalism to go beyond nationalism often reproduce key aspects of a nationalist imaginary. It argues that the challenge of resisting nationalism will require more than a shift in the scale of politics – from the national up to the global or down to the local, and more than a shift in the count of politics – to an emphasis on diversity and multiculturalism. In order to avoid the grip of ‘nationalist thinking’, we need to re-open the question of what it means to imagine community.

Set against the backdrop of the imaginative geographies of the War in Terror and the new beginning promised by the Presidency of Barack Obama, the book shows how critical interventions often work in collaboration with nationalist politics, even when the aim is to resist nationalism. It claims that a nationalist imaginary includes powerful understandings of freedom, subjectivity, sovereignty and political space/time which must also be placed under question if we want to avoid reproducing ideas about ‘us’ and ‘them’. Drawing on insights from feminist, cultural and postcolonial studies as well as critical approaches to International Relations and Geography, this book presents a unique and refreshing approach to the politics of nationalism.


The Persistence of Nationalism convincingly shows a way out of the either/or quandary between nationalism and cosmopolitanism by bringing the city back at the centre of the debate. By investigating how people actually develop elective affinities, affective investments and identifications through quotidian encounters, it shows how people negotiate workable terms of living together. This is the best critical introduction to nationalism from an urban perspective.

Engin Isin, The Open University, UK

Table of Contents

Part One: Unpacking Nationalist Imaginaries 1. Beyond ‘imagined communities’: nationalism and the politics of knowledge 2. Weberian tales: disenchantment, mastery and meaning 3. Rousseau’s legacies: the politics of time, community and loss Part Two: Contesting Nationalist Imaginaries 4. Urban cosmopolitanism: the return of the nation in times of terror 5. Nationalism and its limits: the politics of imagination 6. Sites of memory and the city as a melee Conclusion: the aftermath of nationalist imaginaries

About the Author

Angharad Closs Stephens is a Lecturer in the Geography Department at Durham University, UK.

About the Series


The Series provides a forum for innovative and interdisciplinary work that engages with alternative critical, post-structural, feminist, postcolonial, psychoanalytic and cultural approaches to international relations and global politics. In our first 5 years we have published 60 volumes.

We aim to advance understanding of the key areas in which scholars working within broad critical post-structural traditions have chosen to make their interventions, and to present innovative analyses of important topics. Titles in the series engage with critical thinkers in philosophy, sociology, politics and other disciplines and provide situated historical, empirical and textual studies in international politics.


We are very happy to discuss your ideas at any stage of the project: just contact us for advice or proposal guidelines. Proposals should be submitted directly to the Series Editors:

  • Jenny Edkins ( and
  • Nick Vaughan-Williams (

‘As Michel Foucault has famously stated, "knowledge is not made for understanding; it is made for cutting" In this spirit The Edkins - Vaughan-Williams Interventions series solicits cutting edge, critical works that challenge mainstream understandings in international relations. It is the best place to contribute post disciplinary works that think rather than merely recognize and affirm the world recycled in IR's traditional geopolitical imaginary.’

Michael J. Shapiro, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, USA


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