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Nationalism studies between methodological nationalism and orientalism: an alternative approach illustrated with the case of El Greco in Toledo, Spain

Nations and Nationalism

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Methodological nationalism is still dominant in nationalism studies. When studying the construction of national identities, scholars generally limit their study to the borders of one nation‐state, while only paying attention to members of that particular nation. Implicitly, foreign actors and influences are left out of the picture. I will challenge this methodological nationalism with a case study, which demonstrates that the place of Toledo within the Spanish national imagination, and more particularly that of El Greco, the most important representative of the city's artistic heritage, was largely determined by foreigners. During the nineteenth century, El Greco was rediscovered primarily by foreign scholars and artists. Moreover, it would be the rise of international tourism in the early twentieth century that convinced Toledans to adopt El Greco as the city's main artistic icon. This case, thus, clearly shows that in nationalism studies methodological nationalism can be avoided by also including foreign actors.