Nation state and cultural memory: The negation and formation of cultural history

I would like to have some bibliographical references for my new research in Anthropology on the issue of negation and formation of cultural memory and the nation-state. 


My ethnographic field is Sindh, Pakistan. Putting some context, Sindh has been colonized in 1843, and before this Sindh was independent country. After partition of India in 1947, Sindh becomes the province Pakistan. Pakistan continuing its colonial legacy of concept of nation based on Islamic ideology, erased the cultural memory of Sindh and putting a new memory of nation-state on its place. In other words, today most of people does not remember their national heroes who fought with British in 1843 for their freedom. They don't remember their history. The place where war with Britishers were carried out, a long highway was constructed, so on and so forth.

In this regard my tentative questions are:

1. How to write the cultural history of events that has been erased? By culture, here, I mean the Geertzian concept, where he said culture is public. 

2. How the new cultural memory, the memory formed by nation-state become authoritative.

3. I see nationalism as a resistance to this new cultural memory.   


Please help me for any anthropological literature they you may have come a cross.




Suneel Kumar

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Dear Suneei,

I wouldn't know which anthropological works to recommend. There is, however, a voluminous literature in history that addresses these topics. Seredipitously, over on Dead Voles, Carl Dyke has just posted the following quote,

From Renan, What is a Nation?:

“The essence of a nation is that all individuals have many things in common and also that they have forgotten many things. No French citizen knows whether he is a Burgundian, an Alan, a Taifale, or a Visigoth, yet every French citizen has to have forgotten the massacre of Saint Bartholomew, or the massacres that took place in the Midi in the thirteenth century. …

Forgetting, I would even go so far as to say historical error, is a crucial factor in the creation of a nation, which is why progress in historical studies often constitutes a danger for nationality. Indeed, historical enquiry brings to light deeds of violence which took place at the origin of all political formations, even of those whose consequences have been altogether beneficial.”

Carl is an historian with a strong interest in this question. I have asked him to lend you a hand if you show up asking for help on the Dead Voles blog.

Offcourse John, Renan is quite right in part and parcel. But I would like to look into it in more depth. what I mean that for me it is not only question of what is nation? rather, how nation-state authorize its narrative as the only 'true' narrative for the history in post-colonial world. the problem with post-colonial studies is, it put more importance to colonial events but not to postcolonial violence of nation-state, which for me itself is a new form of colonization; colonized to nation-state. Looking the above thing in the context of Sindh, I want to ask how nation-state of Pakistan authorized its narrative that people in Sindh started to believe as if Pakistan was there and also Sindh was her province since infinity. Although this is not true. In this context how the 'not true history' becomes the 'true history'?

Sounds like a very interesting project. I am sorry that knowing very little at all about Pakistan and its history I have little to offer. I would like to pass on to you though that my friend Carl Dyke is ready to offer a warm welcome at Dead Voles. He is an intellectual historian, a specialist in Italian history, especially Gramsci, whose ideas about hegemony inform directly or indirectly a lot of the post-colonial stuff. I am sure that you will find interacting with him productive.

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