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Gellner on nationalism

Ernest Gellner made important contributions to intellectual life in anthropology, sociology, and philosophy. He used them all to further the study of nationalism. In his last public appearance in the UK, at Warwick University, he debated the theme "Nationalism, real or imaginary?" with Anthony Smith (who spoke first). Following is an edited extract

By Ernest Gellner   December 1995

Ernest Gellner taught me three basic lessons about nationalism. I want first to say how much he has inspired me-and all of us. His work first caught my imagination in the 1960s, when I was studying the decolonisation wave in Africa and Asia. Ernest Gellner guided my doctoral thesis on theories of nationalism with great patience.

The first lesson about nationalism that he taught me is that it is elusive, even protean, in its manifestations; so we have to classify the variety of movements and ideologies in order to make progress in understanding the phenomenon.

Second, Ernest taught me to…

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