Revisiting Nostalgia: Imperialism, Anticolonialism, and Imagining Home

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The present surge in imperial nostalgia in Britain has been widely remarked and critiqued. This article considers the relationship between imperialism and nostalgia, from their historical interconnectedness to their potential decoupling. I conceptualize nostalgia as the recognition of a gulf between past and present, the judgment that the past was somehow preferable to the present, and the longing for a “home” in which there is no longing for any other timespace. Nostalgia may engender a paralyzed longing for the past, a critical engagement with the present, or an imagined utopian future. After tracing the history of nostalgia, I provide an overview of nostalgia in social theory, including imperialist as well as anti-racist and anticolonial thought. In pursuit of nostalgia’s decolonizing potential, I trace its development in Fanon’s writing. Finally, I ask how an expanded understanding of nostalgia might provide insight into the logic and expression of imperial nostalgia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2327-2355
Number of pages29
JournalEthnic and racial studies
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2020


  • Nostalgia
  • imperialism
  • melancholy
  • memory
  • nationalism
  • postcolonial


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