πŸ“™ Imagined Communities

nationhood’s a falsehood.

In Imagined Communities, a widely acclaimed work that was first published in 1983, Benedict Anderson (1936–2015; Irish political scientist and historian) examines the creation and global spread of the ‘imagined communities’ of nationality. The media also creates imagined communities, through usually targeting a mass audience or generalizing and addressing citizens as the public. Another way that the media can create imagined communities is through the use of images. The media can perpetuate stereotypes through certain images and vernacular. By showing certain images, the audience will choose which image they relate to the most, furthering the relationship to that imagined community.

To have one nation means there must be another nation against which self-definition can be constructed. Anderson is thus arguing for the social construction of nations as political entities that have a limited spatial and demographic extent, rather than organic, eternal entities. Further,

It is imagined as sovereign because the concept was born in an age in which Enlightenment and Revolution were destroying the legitimacy of the divinely ordained, hierarchical dynastic realm … nations dream of being free … The gauge and emblem of this freedom is the sovereign state.
— Anderson (1991, p. 7 original emphasis)

Imagined Communities
What makes people love and die for nations, as well as hate and kill in their name?

Anderson argues that the concept of the nation developed in the late eighteenth century as a societal structure to replace previous monarchical or religious orders. And arguably then, falls into the “historicist” or “modernist” school of nationalism along with thinkers like Eric Hobsbawm. Simply put, this school of thought argues hat nations and nationalism are products of modernity and have been created as means to political and economic ends.

Regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings.

Author: Anna Bidoonism

You'll find poems, prose & literary analysis on my blog -- this is who I am.

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