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17 Ab Imperio, 3/2006 From the EDITORS Numerous attempts to produce an analytical model of “nation” gave birth to a number of well-known theories. Despite their variety, these theories may be classified according to several fundamental oppositions, such as an essentialist versus constructivist approach, or viewing the nation as a structure versus viewing it as a particular discourse or ideology. Regardless of the choice of any particular methodology, the arbitrariness of identifying the constituent boundaries of the analyzed object is a common predicament of all attempts to describe “nation” from the outside. The very formal criteria of designating a nation on the grounds of common language, ethnicity, territory, etc. impose a mono-causal mode of defining groupness.An alternative approach would be studying the language of selfdescription that is employed in the process of a social group’s formation. A group may not necessarily qualify as a “nation” according to a certain theoretical model, yet its members may perceive it as a community of solidarity and purposeful social action. This approach corresponds to the recent trend in social sciences, which advocates studying nation as a process, as a complex discursive field, and as a set of practices and competing social SEARCHING FOR A MODE OF DESCRIPTION OF THE COMMUNITY OF SOLIDARITY, SOCIALACTION AND COLLECTIVE LOYALTY 18 From the Editors agendas rather than seeing nation as a structure, as a continuous historical self-conscious community, and a space of a homogeneous monological discourse . We suggest taking this trend to a further logical step by focusing on the languages of self-description that are being produced within the group in question but which are often lost or marginalized by the discriminative nation-centered perspective. Looking into the semantics and practices of application of the languages of group self-description reveals historically predetermined differences. In different cases various criteria of groupness are marked as primary or fundamental: language, territory, common historical roots, confession, traditions of statehood. The problem is that our modern research optics, by default, interprets languages of territoriality, confession or historical origins as languages of “nationalism,” and automatically recognizes groups responsible for those languages as “national” (in one sense or another). That is why we see our task in this issue not to put forward some enhanced theory of nation or groupness, but to dissociate ourselves from the teleological research optics based on the nation-centered normative approach. It is in this context that we invite our readers to read this issue of AI “The Chorus of Nations: Constructing and Describing Group Unity,” within the annual program Languages of Self-Description of Empire and Nation: Anthropological Perspectives. * * * Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason. Sir John Harrington (1561–1612) The quoted wisdom that dates back to the cynical dictum by Seneca (Prosperum ac felix scelus virtus vocatur) may be successfully applied to any forms of collective social action. Scholars would call a group that successfully proved its viability a nation, recognizing the role of objective prerequisites and essential factors in its formation. Conversely, if a national project fails, there are always plausible explanations to be found in its inadequate nature. If only one could know in advance which group will manage to hold its coherency and get the status of a nation, and which will fail! What type of groupness is entitled to form a proper nation (a tribe, an overseas 19 Ab Imperio, 3/2006 colony, a social estate, etc.)? And where does one look for a “nucleus of a nation,” when the very group capable of hosting and developing a national project is still absent? These questions are central for the publications in this issue of the journal. The “Methodology” section features two very different articles that share an interest in the roots of collective solidarity preceding the emergence of a national or even a proto-national group. This problem cannot be solved within the opposition of constructivist or primordialist approaches, because the main question here is not to what degree a sense of (national) groupness is imagined, but how this sense is sustained in the absence of necessary social structures. In the early 1990s, the historian...


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