Inclusion, History and Identity

When I started reading the Stoler reading, I kept finding my mind wandering back to Orwell as the isolated intellectual, especially when Stoler began talking about national identity, education and inclusion. I guess I’m curious as to whether Orwell would have been quite so isolated in “Shooting an Elephant” if these educational measures had been in place. (Perhaps the same question could be extended to Flory in Burmese Days…although I’m not sure he falls in the same category as Orwell in “Shooting an Elephant”.)

In terms of national identity, I guess this reading answers some of the questions I’d had about where history came in to the creation of a national identity. I took a class a few semesters ago that dealt with  Nationalism and the Arts: we had a guest student sitting in from Harvard who happened to make the comment that Singapore hasn’t had enough time to build a clear identity because we were less than half a century old. The professor was quick to point out that Singapore has been around for more than 50 years, it was just Independence that came much more recently.

Using Stoler’s tie-together of history and national identity, I suppose one root of having a national identity comes of having a shared history. I can see how colonialism problematizes national identity, considering the “shared history” suddenly becomes “shared histories”–one of which is placed in a more dominant position than perhaps an indigenous concept of identity tied to place.

I’m fairly curious as to the origin of “nationhood.” Is it a colonial/postcolonial construct?

3 thoughts on “Inclusion, History and Identity

  1. Hi Ambreen, I thought your post was really interesting with regards to the notion of “shared histories” which really problematizes Orwell’s Flory in Burmese Days, in part due to his love-hate relationship with Burma and Empire.

    But I was drawn to your question having listened to bits of my webcast history lecture this week. Ernst Renan published his famous essay on “What is a Nation” in 1882 and shortly after Benedict Anderson published his book on “Imagined Communities” in 1883. The following is a gross over-generalisation but i think that nationalism grew out of a reaction to colonialism which sparks a series of agitation and turmoil in the 20thC and nationalistic fervour heralds the beginnings of the postcolonial modern nation state, with differing socio-political contexts.

  2. Several things:

    1. Wonderful question Ambreen, and very apropos to the entire module. The answer to your question goes back to the lecture on modernism/modernity as a crisis of political liberalism. How can you use what was said in the lecture to answer this question?

    2. I like the fact that people are commenting, nice job Wenting. A minor correction though, Anderson’s text was published in 1983… he’s still alive, I believe… but it is an interesting observation.

  3. Thanks Dr. Koh for spotting the error, i noticed it in the stoller’s reading as well, a whole 101 years after! 🙂