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Abstract

Discussions of nation-building often focus on political elites, who are considered the makers of new communities. This article seeks to sketch out a different approach. It suggests thinking of representative relations as the site of a negotiation of collective identity. Drawing on recent discussions in political theory, the first part of the article discusses conceptual implications of this assumption, arguing that representation should be analysed in terms of its symbolic structure. The second part offers a historical case study of the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg. It explores how processes of political democratisation and imagination of national community were deeply interconnected in the period from 1890 to 1939. The article illustrates how the representative politisation of social conflict may trigger nation-building.