Racial Identity and American Citizenship in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man


  • Shirin Shibili Research Scholar Delhi University New Delhi, India


Theorists of nation and nationalism across ages have questioned the mythical dimensions of nationalistic narratives that blurs the history of origins and “transitional social reality†(Bhabha 1) of nations while propagating timeless discourses of “uniformity and unity†(Basu 19). Ernest Renan, in  1882, dismisses the claims of a shared language, race or ethnicity of nation-states and calls nationalism a subjective act of ‘will to live together ’ while  Benedict Anderson, in his book Imagined Communities published in 1983, traces the origins of modern nations to religious congregations, trade, print capitalism and the growth of industrialization. Nationhood is thus, “not an ethno-demographic or ethno-cultural factâ€, but “a political claim on people’s loyalty, on their attention, on their solidarity†(Brubacker 116). Renan had correctly dismissed the possibility of a universal domination by a monarch or a nation since the formation of nation-states as we know today because, as Brubacker points out, in spite of the post-modernist celebration of  post-nationality and globalisation under the unifying influences of Multi-National Companies, nations have, more than ever before, invented “sophisticated technologies of identification, surveillance and control† which regulates  the lives of its citizens as well as that of the immigrants or foreigners.  Thus today, it has become an indispensable presence which governs our personal and social lives.


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