Home 603Seminar in the Anthropology of Power


Week 2 Vincent, Focault, Marx

Week 3 Vincent II

Week 4 Kertzer-Anderson

Week 4 Essay 1

Week 5 Kertzer

Week 6 Anderson

Week 7 Scott

Week 8 Vincent III

Week 9 Said

Week 10 Crehan

Week 10 Essay 2

Week 11 Vincent IV

Week 12 Vincent IVb

Week 14 Swartz

Week 14 Mohanty Analytic Summary

Resource Links

 Victoria Kline
Anthropology 583: Politics and Power
Instr: Dr. Ramona Pérez
October 6, 2005

Week 6: Benedict Anderson: Imagined Communities

Paper by Cristella Valdez
I read Cristella’s first because she got hers in first and that was a major accomplishment. Nationalism, and the definition of nationalism and nation take up the first page of the essay. Because she began this way and the fact that Dr. Pérez keeps asking what the difference between nation and nation-state is, some definitions are in order

Nationalism: a patriotic feeling or patriotic principles, or extreme forms of this, “a policy of national independence” (Oxford 1999:525).

Nation: “A community of people of mainly common descent, history, language, etc., forming a unified government or inhabiting a territory” (Oxford 1999:525).

National (the noun for our purposes): “a citizen of a specific country, usually entitled to hold that country’s passport” (Oxford 1999:525). Example given is French National.

Patriot: “a person who is devoted to and ready to support or defend his or her country” (Oxford 1999:575).

State: “an organized political community under one government” (Oxford 1999: 793).

These definitions do not encompass the whole use of the word nationalism as far as it is being used in this discussion. Some further input from the class on the definition of nationalism may be in order, especially because a definition of nation-state is not to be found in my Oxford dictionary. Better and more complete definitions were found online at Wikipedia online (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/).

Question: Is Anderson saying that social identity is created and community is formed through common imagination? And that nationalism is created through common imagination mainly through the printed word that Anderson refers to as print-capitalism?

Paper by Estaban Cardoso
Cardosa begins his essay with this thesis “Nationalism is the most universally legitimate value in the political life of our time” (Cardosa 2005:1).

Page 8: “Leaders use rites to fashion the political reality for the people around them” (Cardoso 2005: 8). Refers to Anderson discussion of how the Dutch used educating the native Indonesians for their own practical ends.

Question: Do you think that education of indigenous people is not in their best interest? Do you think that government uses education as a measure to control the population?

Cardosa talks about the formation of Japanese imagined community, through direct invention by the government through education of the citizens. Good example from Anderson for the creation of nationalism through literacy.

Paper by Liliana Estrada
In my opinion this is the best written of the three papers, but also the latest to be sent out by a couple days. Her discussion allows me to follow the ideas of Anderson through his book Imagined Communities. In reading this I got the distinct impression that the authors of the three essays were in agreement on the way Anderson presented his arguments and his discussion through the book. Here, in Estrada, is also the need for defining words: nation-state, nationalism, and nation among others. Then she moves on to the need to “identify the roots of formation of the nation-state ideology and implementation” (Estrada 2005:1) which she points out Anderson attempts to find through his study of the “history of the creative processes that established nationalist movements across the globe” (1). Very nice word choices and sentence structure I think.

All three writers include Kertzer’s ritual and symbolism in their discussions at the ends of their papers.

Question: Did the three of you discuss the book before you wrote your essays? Just wondering not really a question related to any debate or discourse.

Question: I have definite questions about the meaning of nationalism. Maybe there are multiple meanings. Does anyone in the class call him/herself a national? If so, does that have anything to do with nationalism? Am I a national? 

Reader Chapter 6: Official Nationalism and Imperialism from Imagined Communities

This chapter seems to reflect much of what was said in the three essays. Anderson talks about the evolution of nationalism: the loyalty felt by a group to their nation and how it is began in the middle ages, with the secularization of the word. The printed word was originally restricted to the church, and the sacred language of the church. Eventually, the printed word became used by the administrators of the state, and was restricted to vernacular but administrative language. It was not until bookmakers realized the money that could be made by expanding their markets that books began to be printed in the language of the people. This became a source of new sales, and with the printing of books in normal language; there was an opportunity for the people to learn to read. Literate groups, bonded through common knowledge gained through reading and the discourse that it could provide, now were vulnerable to what the words inferred about how a citizen should be. The printed word became the messenger of how people should behave towards their state, and in that way created a sense of nationhood or nationalism.

In class video viewing: Last week the class viewed a film that showed the power of ritual and symbolism, and also the ways in which the people living in Ireland (an island) divide themselves into two opposing factions, each with their own national identity, each group with a strong feeling of nationalism: pride, ties, language, celebrations that bind. In Northern Protestant Ireland, they keep their young men busy, therefore less likely to acts if violence against their own group. Instead actions are taken against the others in the war between Catholic and Protestant. Wow, who knew? The film showed a Protestant group preparing for the climax of 12 days of preparation for a parade that would march through a regular parade route, and a bonfire upon which the crowd would burn an effigy of the Pope. The Protestant Irish are an inhibited group that is surely founded on the idea that one does not give information to the enemy. Trust no one from outside.

Question: Is Benedict Anderson saying that literacy causes homogeneity within the artificial boundary of the state? And this leaves the people vulnerable to state propaganda? Literacy does not lead to freethinking but conformity? Freethinking in society is bad for the state, which needs loyalty by the citizens?

Question: I always think of our government as the people. I have worked for the government and have seen the people running it. They act in their own self-interest following a set of strict rules about conduct.

Question: Not all printed materials in the US are controlled by the government, in fact not much at all. Where the government has influence is in the materials created for primary education. Is the primary education age group a target for government nationalist propaganda? Is it nationalist text propaganda, or an avenue to solidarity that leads to peaceful living conditions that are in the best interest of the people?

If Anderson’s theory is correct about the susceptibility of the masses to be influenced through text (or now media), then we are much more vulnerable to symbolic propaganda than we know. This may prove to be a universal human trait. Living in the US where it is possible to carry on a longstanding passive resistance to authority, it is hard to imagine that we are being duped. Those who do resist, in whatever fashion, do seem to be made objects of discussion on news programs. Examples, as it were, for how not to behave. 


Sources Cited

Anderson, Benedict
1983    Chapter 6: Official Nationalism and Imperialism. In Imagined Communities, pp. 83-111. New York: Verso Publishing.

Cardosa, Estaban
2005    Imagined Communities: Analytic Summary. Analytic Summary of Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson. Class assignment SDSU: Professor R. Perez, Anthropology 583, Fall 2005.

Estrada, Lilliana
2005    Analytic Summary of Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities. Analytic Summary of Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson. Class Assignment SDSU: Professor R. Perez, Anthropology 583, Fall 2005.

The Oxford American Dictionary of Current English
1999    New American Edition. New York: Oxford University Press.        

Nationalism:Blood And Belonging – Mirror, Mirror, Northern Ireland
1994    Videocassette. BBC Wales/Primedia co-production in association with Primetime PLC.

Valdez, Cristella
2005    No Title. Analytic Summary of Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson. Class Assignment SDSU: Professor R. Perez, Anthropology 583, Fall 2005.

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last updated on October 9, 2010