Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Nation and Culture - NBIH

As a citizen of Israel, I am always engaged in understanding the history of the state of Israel, of Zionism and of Judaism as a culture. As a consequence, when I listened to Marshall Poe's interview with Kenneth Moss at New Books in History, I heard all history of Zionism and of Judaism as a culture. However, Kenneth Moss's book is about Russia: Jewish Renaissance in the Russian Revolution.

Still, this was all about a renaissance of Jewish culture and a struggle with the question whether, if there was a Jewish nation, what made it a nation or how it could be constructed and preserved. Did it need a unified language and a geographical nation state in addition? Listen to the interview as this is one of the most exciting questions and the Jews serve as an example to a much deeper question. I can testify that in many ways, even today when there is a geographical nation state for Jews in Israel and it has a unified language (Hebrew), these questions are still not (fully) resolved.

More profoundly it makes me wonder how could ever have taken the nation state as a self-explanatory thing. The example of the Jews show how essentially it is constructed or in other terms an imaginary unity. As imaginary for Jews as it is for seemingly unproblematic nations such as France, as you can learn in the Yale courses by John Merriman European Civilization and France since 1871 - by the way.

More NBIH:
Three New Books In History,
The fourth part of the world,
How the Soviet system imploded,
Vietnam War perspectives,
1989 - Padraic Kenney.

More Merriman:
France since 1871,
History of India or Europe?,
Industrial Revolutions,
Modern Western History in podcasts.