"Forgetting, and I would even go so far as to say historical error, forms an essential factor in the creation of a nation," writes Ernest Renan in his classic essay "Que’est-ce qu’une nation?" (1882). Indeed, "the essence of a nation," he says in a much-cited passage, "is that all of its individual members should have many things in common; and also that all of them should have forgotten many things… . Every French citizen out to have already forgotten St. Bartholomew, and the massacres of the Midi in the thirteenth century." This imperative to cultivate a shared amnesia has to do with the fact that every nation is founded on violence borne by political and cultural differences. Constitutionally hybrid, nations are made up of peoples with divergent ethnic, racial, religious, economic, and linguistic origins. To arrive at what Renan calls a "fusion" necessary for nationhood, such differences must be set aside. Overcoming them allows for assimilation into a new community. Such overcoming requires forgetting one’s origins. "It is good for all to know how to forget," he writes. In place of heterogenous and conflict-ridden past, one takes on a common legacy that marks out a shared destiny… . If Renan is right—that forgetting of origins comprises the essence of nationhood—such a task entails two things: substitution and estrangement… . Nationalist discourses replace the violent heterogeneity of the historical and the nonhuman agency of the technological with the unifying narratives about "our glorious past," and "our obligations to the future." Meant to spur assimilation and set the moral terms of community, such narratives set differences aside. They thus estrange the nation’s origins, which, to begin with, are not national at all.
Vicente L. Rafael, Preface of The Promise of the Foreign: Nationalism and the Technics of Translation in the Spanish Philippines (2006)
An eye-opener on the origins of nationalism as founded on a shared amnesia. Awesome book. Implication: Filipino historians should therefore strive to go beyond nationalist discourses.