Home/Land: Grounding the Nation State

Saturday, January 8, 2011: 2:30 PM
Room 207 (Hynes Convention Center)
Karl Jacoby , Brown University, Providence, RI
The rise of the nation state in the nineteenth century redrew the map of North America, transforming what had been a continent of European empires and indigenous spaces into discrete, territorially-bounded nations.  Fundamental to this act of creating distinct homelands was the grounding of the idea of the nation in nature. Boundaries between nations were made to appear natural; inhabitants of nations, native or alien.  Certain geographic features or animals became imbued with an almost sacred nationalistic sentiment.  At the same time, however, that nature was essential to creating the new human community of the nation, it often underscored the instability of this very same project. Ecology did not respect national limits; diseases, plants, and animals migrated across international borders; peoples mixed and intermarried with one another.  Nature and nation thus became comingled in contradictory ways, both sacred and profane.
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