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Since its publication more than a decade ago, Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities has offered an enticing, if romantic, way of conceptualising nationalism. Fine-grained ethnographic analysis, however, of the ways in which local populations actually imagine their community raises some questions for the continuing viability of such a notion. In many places around the world, people consciously and conspicuously place themselves outside of the imagined community, and it is the social, cultural, and political consequences of such actions that this article seeks to explore. Drawing on a period of ethnographic fieldwork undertaken in France in the mid-1990s, this article examines very public contestation and sabotage of the Tour de France by pro-Basque supporters. This specific case study of political activism through sport provides a compelling example of the ways in which a dominant symbol of French national identity is usurped and upstaged by a minority group so as to reinvent or re-imagine a new kind of community.
The author is with the Department of Anthropology at the University of Adelaide, Adelaide, 5005, SA, Australia.