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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Phantasmagorias of the nation Ince, Onur Ulas

Abstract

This thesis presents an alternative approach to the notion of the "imagined community of the nation" by focusing on the role of aesthetics in the emergence of the modern nation. Within the framework of the late 18th-early 20th Century Europe, the thesis explores the modern transformations that gave rise to the nation from a perspective that establishes the convergence of aesthetics and politics as the central process through which the imagination of the nation is (re)produced. It designates unqualified, bodily, "naked" life as the grounds for this convergence, and traces the emergence of naked life through processes of its "scientization" by the discipline of psychophysiology, its "aestheticization" by phantasmagorical spectacles, and its "politicization" through its inscription in the national juridical order around the persona of the citizen. It contends that naked life that first emerged as an imaginable entity in psychophysiology was captured in aesthetic constellations by phantasmagorias, which were then appropriated by the project of nation-building for the forging of the national imaginary. The political function of the "phantasmagorias of the nation" is to uphold the mythical notion of predestination to the eternal present of the nation, which finds its corollary in the fateful subjection of citizens to the mythical violence of the nation-state. The thesis concludes by asserting that this particular conceptualization of the nation proves useful for qualifying the understanding of contemporary politics in general and the arguments about the decline of the nation in particular.

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