This paper pursues the question "who needs the nation?" which was first posed by Kobena Mercer, the Black British cultural critic, in Welcome to the Jungle (1994). It interrogates not just the proposition of who needs the nation as a fixed referent, but who can afford to be content to be contained by its disciplinary boundaries. These are questions of interest to practitioners committed to understanding what the ramifications are for national histories in the wake of postcolonial studies and work around diasporic communities and subjects. Who writes - who even sees - the histories of subjects exiled from the "national body", those refugees (deliberate or otherwise) from national history and its disciplinary regimes - before the 20th century, in the European context? Who questions the apparent naturalness of the nation as an analytical framework in western histories? And, finally, what does this question mean for the sovereignty of Greater Britain, whose historiography has traditionally been one of the technologies of the national state and which is in the process of being challenged and refigured through the analytics of culture, postcolonialism and feminism?

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTwenty Years of the Journal of Historical Sociology
Subtitle of host publicationEssays on the British State
EditorsYoke-Sum Wong, Derek Sayer
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781444309706
ISBN (Print)9781405179331
StatePublished - Jul 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

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