It is a commonplace in the study of nationalism that the construction of national identity inevitably relies on the creation and use of narratives—part history, part myth—that imbue nations and nationalist projects with coherence and purpose. This article seeks to render this idea more complex and analytically useful by asking how such narrative discourses become connected to personal identities. Why and how do people invest themselves in nations and nationalisms? An important part of the answer lies in the ways that constructions of narrative and agency at the collective level articulate with experiences of narrative and agency at a personal level. It is our constant existential concern with power that binds together collectivities and individuals, national narratives, and life histories. We must attend to this connection in order to better understand the powerful resonances nationalist discourses often have.
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