The Nation and its Shadow


The 11 September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington have led to renewed public debates on national identity in various countries. This contribution focuses on two of them: Pakistan and the Netherlands. Starting from the assumption that the nation is a project of liberation from a pre-nation past, it is argued that these debates necessarily imply an increased reflection on the nature of this pre-nation past, which is called the nation’s shadow. In Pakistan, the nationis imagined as an Islamic liberation from feudalism, kinship solidarity, and ethnic loyalties. In Holland, the nation is imagined as secular and opposed to a Dutch history of pillarization in which religious authorities acted as intermediaries between the citizen and the state. What are considered the loyalties and sentiments of the past are allowed in private. However, they also inform the imagination of a subversive domain that encroaches upon the nation. Hence, subversion politics in Pakistan is imagined as a form of illicit kinship politics, whereas in Holland subversion is linked to religious – primarily Islamic – mentalities.

How to Cite

Vervaaik, O., (2003) “The Nation and its Shadow”, Ethnologia Europaea 33(2), 45-56. doi:

Publisher Notes

  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.


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Oskar Vervaaik (University of Amsterdam)



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