Four main narratives may be distinguished in answering to the key question, “what are the origins of nations?” The first narrative reflects the romantic nationalist view that nations are natural and essential elements in history since “times immemorial.” This is the narrative that most Persians tend to believe. Other narratives are of scholarly concern.The second narrative, which may be described as modernist, rejects the romantic, primordial idea of the origins of nations and views the concepts of ‘nation’ and ‘national identity’ as a modern construct with no relation to pre-modern collective identities. The third, which may be called post-modernist, agrees with the modernist perspective but it also tends to deconstruct the very notion of ‘national identity’.
This talk proposes a fourth historicizing narrative, which recognizes that a “civic nation” is the product of modernity and as such could not be applied retrospectively to pre-modern times, but it rejects the modernist and post-modernist contention of a radical rupture between a modern nation and its historical past in all cases.
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