Nations are imagined communities. But what do we precisely imagine? Anderson (1983) hints at the concept of fraternity: the sons of the motherland form a national brotherhood. However, fraternity is also used to refer to individuals or groups outside of the national community. Furthermore, despite being central in the grammars of various political ideologies (from Republicanism to Socialisms, to pan-Islamism, etc.), fraternity is almost never defined. Studying fraternity is consequently less about defining it (what does it mean to be someone’s brother), but more about determining its extension (who is my brother and who is not) and its uses (what are the consequences of calling someone a brother). Fraternity is thus key to understanding how the nation-based international system we live in has been created, shaped, and challenged. This paper looks at nationalist and internationalist imaginaries and emotions, focusing on the context of the 1848 revolutions, a crucial period during which fraternity spread to Europe. Three main arguments are advanced. Firstly, 1848 revolutionaries imagined national communities as dissident brotherhoods. These ‘fraternities of equals’ however excluded de iure women, was (probably) largely ignored by rural populations, and produced hierarchy in colonial spaces. Secondly, the dominant form of international fraternity at the time, the ‘brotherhood of nations’, also supported nationalist demands (such as the Polish ones). Thirdly, the failure of the 1848 led to a change in the uses of the notion since some revolutionaries rejected it or limited its extension (for instance, for socialists, to workers) while regimes erased the notion (Second Empire France) or verticalized it to support official nationalism (Kingdom of Sardinia).
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