An important part of the by now enormous literature on nationalism has focused on its conditions of possibility, on what we may call the processes of pre-formation that underlay the explosive rise of those “imagined communities” in the modern era. How indeed has modernity (however defined) impacted on the mechanisms by which identities—including national ones—are formed, felt and enacted? This question has frequently been addressed in recent decades, especially as studies of nationalism have broadened their ambit to take in the non-Western world. This expansion has certainly generated major works—most famously, of course, the first edition (1983) of Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities which made the stimulating suggestion that print capitalism was a central pre-formative institution for incipient nations.
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