Date of Award

Spring 2021

Degree Type




Director of Thesis

Dr. Christopher Tollefsen

First Reader

Mr. Muhammad Fadel Ahmad

Second Reader

Mr. Muhammad Fadel Ahmad


It is a deeply human experience to long for times, people, and places of the past, even pasts we ourselves did not experience. This feeling, which we most often call nostalgia (but has earned many names throughout history) has profound influence especially in how we perceive our collective histories and use these histories to guide us forward. This experience of nostalgia is the underpinning for many of our sources of solidarity (or who we feel loyal or obligated to). However, when we feel these profound connections to the distant past, we often lose the reality of that past in the lenses of rose-colored glasses. In this thesis I explore these qualities of nostalgia, especially regarding the question of whether heralding back to the past in this emotional way pushes us forward or holds us back. I do so by analyzing two opposing case studies, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and Post-Imperial England, which demonstrate the two predominant ways in which nostalgia is utilized both as a source of collective solidarity and as guidance in the present. The case of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood reveals “restorative nostalgia”, or the use of longing for the past to reconstruct that past. The case of Post-Imperial England reveals “reflective nostalgia”, or how longing for the past is used to create continuity of identity. In both cases, it is clear that nostalgia provides a powerful tool for social and political movements, for better and for worse.

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© 2021, Catherine White