The post-1989 boom in nationalism studies has also witnessed a growing body of work which refused to remain confined to the bounds of the existing theoretical debate centred on the question of the origins of nations and nationalism. The most distinctive characteristic of this constellation of studies is their general critical attitude towards mainstream scholarship on nationalism. Despite the fact that each highlights a different problem with earlier theories, they all question the fundamental assumptions of their predecessors and seek to go beyond the classical debate by exploring the issues neglected or ignored by the latter, and by proposing new ways of thinking about national phenomena. It would not be inaccurate to say that these approaches have been at least partly affected by what has been widely referred to as the ‘cultural turn’ in social sciences, in turn precipitated by the rise of new social movements in the last quarter of the twentieth century which challenged the purported homogeneity of national cultures and identities in the West. In this context, the static notion of ‘culture’ as a coherent, harmonious whole is replaced by more fluid and dynamic interpretations which treat the latter as a deeply contested concept whose meaning is continually negotiated and revised by successive generations and by different groups that are presumed to make up the national body. In this view, culture is not divorced from social fragmentation and discrimination on the basis of class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and/or place in the life cycle, hence from hierarchies of power. Put differently, ‘culture is more often not what people share, but what they choose to fight over’ (Eley and Suny 1996a: 9).
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