Imagining national solidarity: Strangers-turned-friends-turned-brothers

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There is limited cultural analysis of the tropes and metaphors underlying the discourse of national solidarity. This article revisits three central approaches to bounded solidarity and connects them with distinctive tropes of personal relationships: solidarity-through-sameness encapsulated in the family metaphor; solidarity as an impersonal relationship between strangers; and solidarity as an extension of sociability encapsulated in the friendship metaphor. I examine these tropes in terms of collective perceptions of simultaneous and mythic time and a meta-narrative of salvation. The national imagination can be distinguished from civic and ethnic forms of belonging by its enactment of a dual transformation from strangers to friends and from newfound friends to rediscovered brothers of a timeless and primordial tribe. While much of the nationhood literature assumes a causal pathway from national identity to solidarity, this fraternisation of friendship points to a reverse route from trust between compatriots to feelings of loyalty to the nation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-422
Number of pages26
JournalEuropean Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology
Issue number4
Early online dateSep 2021
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Parts of this paper were presented at the research workshop “It's about Time” held at the Open University of Israel, Raanana, on September 2019. I thank Miri Rozmarin, Hizky Shoham and the workshop participants for their valuable discussion and comments. I would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers of European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology and the editor Veikko Eranti for their contribution and insightful comments on the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 European Sociological Association.


  • Solidarity social imaginary metaphors nationalism strangers friendship family


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