The missing religious factor in imagined communities
Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities has redrawn understanding of the loci and agents of modern nationalism. Whereas standard interpretations had privileged the movements of modernity of Western nation-states, Anderson's analysis gave priority to the role of peripheral elites in "imagining the nation" beyond the boundaries of the everyday world. What Anderson leaves out altogether in his seminal study is the bearing of the religious factor in various peripheral settings in such regions as sub-Sahara Africa and East Asia. This article, extending Max Weber's notion of charismatic leadership, proposes that in concrete cases of "colonial situations" in Africa and in two East Asian countries of weak states, religio-political figures arose seeking a new social order that had mass appeal. Their successes and failures should be seen as integral comparative aspects of nationalism and modernity. © 2011 SAGE Publications.
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