What makes people love and die for nations, as well as hate and kill in their name? While many studies have been written on nationalist political movements, the sense of nationality--the personal and cultural feeling of belonging to a nation--has not received proportionate attention. In this widely acclaimed work, Benedict Anderson examines the creation and global spread of the 'imagined communities' of nationality.
Anderson explores the processes that created these communities: the territorialization of religious faiths, the decline of antique kingship, the interaction between capitalism and print, the development of vernacular languages-of-state, and changing conceptions of time. He shows how an originary nationalism born in the Americas was modularly adopted by popular movements in Europe, by the imperialist powers, and by the anti-imperialist resistances in Asia and Africa.
This revised edition includes two new chapters, one of which discusses the complex role of the colonialist state's mindset in the develpment of Third World nationalism, while the other analyses the processes by which, all over the world, nations came to imagine themselves as old.
Benedict Richard O'Gorman Anderson was Aaron L. Binenkorb Professor Emeritus of International Studies, Government & Asian Studies at Cornell University, and is best known for his celebrated book Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, first published in 1983. Anderson was born in Kunming, China, to James O'Gorman Anderson and Veronica Beatrice Bigham, and in 1941 the family moved to California. In 1957, Anderson received a Bachelor of Arts in Classics from Cambridge University, and he later earned a Ph.D. from Cornell's Department of Government, where he studied modern Indonesia under the guidance of George Kahin. He is the brother of historian Perry Anderson.
UPDATED: Amazing how reading this for a different class brought out a totally different discussion. The last class I read this for was called "Uses of History in International Affairs," and we spent the majority of our time talking about history as an act- history as narrative, history as an agenda, what someone might use these statements for. We were essentially diplomats in discussion, preparing our strategy of attack against the other side's claims. I don't think we discussed the validity of his claims at all, but rather focused on place they had in world events and history and how these ideas could affect our daily lives.
This time, I'm in an international history program, filled with historians. This time we bypassed that discussion entirely, taking it for granted as established and agreed on, and concentrated on dissecting the arguments presented on their structure and substance, in a close analytical read that sought to draw on our knowledge of history to poke holes in his argument. This time, we are being trained to think of ourselves as peers, whose job it is to show the main behind the curtain well... mostly because he's there, to borrow a phrase. It was a trip back to the basics to remind us what these arguments are really about in the end, while also forcing us to question not to accept.
Fascinating experience of the lines drawn between various disciplines and their goals- how the idea that "that's someone else's job" has very real effects in the formation of ideas.
ORIGINAL:Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities may be over twenty five years old now, but that doesn't make it any less relevant, even had he not added on the chapters (as interesting as they were) that he adjusted himself with later on, after the fall of the USSR and later with his new ideas on the topic. (Though I love that he did that- it shows someone who is not content to rest on his laurels and whose ideas about the world were not set by the best-selling status of one book he wrote, and that he refuses to be tied to it. I like watching geniuses continue to change and develop.)
In any case! It is quite relevant- especially since 9/11, as we see that the impact of nationalism hasn't declined in the least, and the attachment that people feel for it is very real and has very real consequences on people's lives. Anderson's basic thesis is that nations are "imagined communities," created in the New World by the creole bourgeoisie of the British and Spanish colonies by the conjunction of print journalism (which allowed groups of people to imagine themselves as a community, through providing the links that bound regions together), language, cultural imprints (such as "sacred script" cultures) and the forces of capitalism. He is writing this book to be useful to Marxist theorists, in order to fill what he feels is the gap in the Marxist analysis of nationalism. But it is by no means only useful to the Marxist or even liberal theorist. The reminder that nationalism is a new phenomenon, and that any pretentious to antiquity by any nation is absolutely ridiculous, and even the whole concept of a nation worth dying for is invented, not something that, as the Abbe Sieyes wrote in the French Revolution (perhaps understandably, he was trying to turn the nation of peasants into Frenchmen) "exists in the state of nature."
Anderson says that nations have three conditions: that they are sovereign, limited, and a community. He talks about how these resulted from the specific time and place that the whole concept was invented, but also how they have been adapted and used throughout the world. One of the major strengths of his book (surely influenced by the period of criticism he was writing in) is its major focus on areas of the world outside of Europe (though many of those areas- as most of the world was- were European colonies): Southeast Asia, Latin America, China, Japan. It is fascinating to watch first the process by which he believes nationalism is formed and then nationalism's journey across time and space to crop up in its many different incarnations as various groups constantly find different uses for it.
This is a book to be read and re-read constantly to remind oneself about questioning some very basic assumptions that a lot of people take for granted, and then questioning why those assumptions exist in the first place. I think this book constantly challenges you to look inward and to figure out what matters to you, how it got to matter to you so much, and how you may or may not have been steered that way by a government, leaders, education, or some other outside force that has nothing to do with "natural" feelings.
I've always had a hugely negative, shuddering reaction to two things: religious fundamentalism and overbearing nationalism. This book helped give me the language (as Anderson would say himself) to better explain why.
One of my longstanding grievances with the public education system is its approach to geography. The jigsaw of nations most children are taught comprise the world is essentially posited as something timeless and ineffable, while in reality are they all very historically recent not to mention ephemeral and in most cases pretty arbitrary.
Benedict Anderson does a great job of deconstructing nationalism (not that hard), but much more importantly rebuilding how national consciousness, "imagined communities" on a national basis," ended up becoming a phenomenon throughout the world. Through the triumph of vernacular languages over universalizing "sacred" languages (ie. Latin, Chinese script) in many countries, the impact of mass-market print capitalism in making this happen, and finally the modern conception of "empty-homogenous time," as opposed to simultaneity and a more cosmic view of the universe, created the psychological conditions where national identities could come into being - mostly starting from some linguistic basis.
The experience of shared pilgrimages, whether to Mecca, an imperial metropole, or an administrative capital city, also helped craft the idea of a shared community (there is a "we" that is traveling all together to this same place"), as did the rationalization of mapping and time. The old ideas of imperial centers and amorphous boundaries of territory, not to mention sovereignty based on identity rather than place of residence, gave way to clearly defined borders that bounded communities.
Anderson is at once harsh and sympathetic towards nationalism. While noting that nationalism has never had its own great thinkers (like Marxism has for instance) he also notes that for all the bloodshed and racism it has inspired it has also inspired profound acts of love and self-sacrifice. He is very, deeply sympathetic to third-world liberation movements, and one of most impressive parts of the book is actually the incredible anti-colonial history it covers.
From the creation of Romanized script in Vietnam by the French ("Quoc ngu") specifically as a means of cutting Vietnam off from its intellectual history as well as the larger imagined community that took part in Sinic script, Ki Hajar Dewantara's "If I Were a Dutchman" letter, and down to Makario Sakay's heartbreakingly fair and anti-racist Philippine republic constitution (he was shortly thereafter executed by the Americans).
During the colonial period education in Western ideas like proto-nationalism was allowed, which gave birth to a fiercely independence-driven intelligentsia. Ironically it was conservatives who were more in favor of reinforcing the "traditional" learning of the colonized, in order that they not develop dangerous ideas. Due to the nature of colonial economic exploitation however this intelligentsia was invariably denied the support of robust economic bourgeoisie with which to build its new vision. As such, "modernization" tended to be a top-down and not a very deep project - the ramifications of which can be felt in many places today.
Another thing that was deeply interesting was the roots of Siamese (later Thai) labor policy, and the importation of a low-paid, poor, linguistically and politically isolated workforce in order to maintain local stability. While this policy is most closely associated with Saudi Arabia today, it actually has its roots in colonial policy in Singapore and Batavia. There is also a resonance with the German "gastarbeitar" program. This is yet another example (the author touches on the garish similarities between colonial and later post-colonial militaries as well) of practices and institutions being passed down from a colonial power to later "independent" countries. The Saudis didn't invent these programs out of some unique nature, they're simply copying the colonialists who essentially created their country in the first place!
There are so many priceless insights in this book, from the development of novels and newspapers and how they changed people's conceptions of time (Hegel's quote about the morning newspaper replacing morning prayer for the man of the world is instructive), the parallels between colonial "solidarity among whites" and trans-European class solidarities among the nobility and the idea of past conflicts being recast as "fraternal" (ie. the American civil war) as a means of incorporating both parties into an allegedly timeless and shared community.
Anderson has really filled an ocean of knowledge into a remarkably short book, albeit one that demands great concentration to get its insights. He also has a biting sense of humor and sarcasm that occasionally shines through, and which did get a laugh out of me a few times.
I know many read this book as part of their schooling and as such it is very popular and well-known. I did not, but I'm deeply glad to have discovered it now.
There are things that I really like about this book and then there are things which threaten to make this a list of what abouts rather than a review, all complicated by the unheimlich feeling that I still have; that I have read this book before and that I have not read this book before .
I love Anderson early definition of a nation as an imagined community, which I think is perfect, but in what perhaps epitomises the strengths and the weaknesses of this book, I don't think he draws out or starts to link together the consequences of this, and maybe by the end of the book one half thinks that Anderson himself was half in love with easeful Death , ah sorry, half in love with seductive Nationalism or the idea of certain nations just as he says certain scholars, including Hobsbawn were with the idea of Great Britain.
One of his interesting points is that the shift in printing from Latin to the vernacular led to the creation and fixing of dominant languages, however curiously in a book that aims to escape eurocentricism, this seems to be a purely eurocentric point, however reading his book I felt that language was mostly a red herring in his discussion of nationalism, as his examples seem to demonstrate the irrelevance of language in nationalist movements except maybe in Europe, which I am more convinced is different to the rest of world and where the example of the French revolution remains I feel particularly significant. And this because I am mostly convinced by his argument about the creole nationalisms in the Americas. The point about printing creating national languagesis interesting but it appears to have only indirect bearing on the creation of Nation states - French speakers in Liege or Geneva may not be French, while German speakers in Alsace are, as are Breton speakers in Brittany despite 500 years of print culture.
With my limited understanding, the situation in Asia looks different again and seems mostly to disprove Anderson's Creole nationalism model (with the admittedly significant example of Indonesia), the British Raj did not become a single independent country but four, eventually five countries, nor did Indochina - instead the pre-colonial idea (occasionally historically realised) of Vietnam reasserted itself. Neither has francophone west Africa become a super state. Equally while East Timor resisted being part of Indonesia, Goa and Macau to my limited knowledge seem to have been swallowed up by India and china respectively without similar problems - which according to Anderson's model they should not have done! Plainly they did not realise how naughty it is not to conform to theory.
I loved the chapter on census, map, and museum, this suggests that colonial administrations inadvertently created national identity in - well he talks about East Asian colonies - through censuses, maps and museums. Censuses are interesting in that the racial or national categories that they list people by imply a fixed and actual reality however those categories can themselves be merged together or divided apart or simply disappear from one census to the next. Maps suggest a familiar shape that can be both associated with the homeland but also removes it from its geographical context, making it a pure abstraction, historical maps (more or less fanciful) suggest that a colony rather than being the completely arbitrary result of adventure, exploitation or settlement has tradition even a deep past, while the creation of museums and the management of monuments suggests that you the local people are incapable of respecting, appreciating or preserving your own heritage because you are like foolish children, while we are wise and benevolent and absolutely necessary to look after your own best interests for you. This can blend into racism as in the belief that great monuments could only have been built by great people not the degenerate locals that currently exist, therefore the current inhabitants actually must be barbaric incomers who have been rightfully overpowered by the colonialists. I thought this was all very interesting but missed a trick but not applying this process generally to all national systems of education, which also through censuses, maps, museums, canons of literature, collections of folktales and so on also create and recreate the nation in each generation in various curious ways - hence surely the importance of history wars and culture wars in various countries.
I was glad that he mentioned Uvararov, who to Tsar Nicholas I recommended a policy of Russification in the Russian Empire through 'Orthodoxy, autocracy and nationality' but he does not mention or maybe is not so aware how this policy backfired on the peripheries of the Russian empire, most spectacularly in 1905, because effectively it forced people who were not Russian or Orthodox to be opposed to the Autocracy, this shows the dangers inherent in nation formation, policy can destroy what it wants to create.
I Naturally one becomes c Ultimately I felt that inertia and habit were more significant in creating imagined communities (many of which are pretty weird) than language, but Anderson does not suggest But there is a lot too that I felt was messy and distracted from his argument. I wondered into reading Imagined Communities from peasants into frenchmen, as with that book, I am left feeling messy and dissatisfied, maybe even slightly annoyed , again I feel this is the kind of book to explore in a six month seminar course, it is a book which itself arose in a certain context, in answer to Nairn's 1977 The breakup of britain and Hobsbawn's response to that. Perhaps there are books which in turn have responded to Anderson In this regard I feel Imagined Communities is a provocative essay that invites debate and discussion rather than the apex or treasury of a period of wider scholarship and thought. I don't seem to have many characters left to continue this review...
Anderson has a good point about how language and the collapse of religious absolutism created nationalism but he fails on two points. First his language is haughty and over the top, including references to obscure stuff. I got most of them but others will be lost. Second he fails to elaborate on other things that caused nationalism to rise, such as technology, revolution, ideology, and warfare. Instead it is mostly presented as a matter of language and media. Also whenever he steps out of the language argument he seems more confused, as if he didn't really think about things that did not fit nicely into his thesis like culture. In conclusion this work has merit, but it can be difficult to understand and it is rather limited in scope. There are also some tremendous factual errors. Read it if your are interested in nationalism because it has great observations but this is by no means a definitive and complete work on nationalism.
شهرتُه تتكلّمُ عنه أكثر منّي ... هذا الكتاب أحد أهمّ الكتب التي شغلت علماء الاجتماع و السياسة في العقود الأخيرة رغم أنّه لا يزيد على 200 صفحة . يقدّم الكتاب نظريّة جديدة في نشوء القوميّة كجماعة متخيّلة , و عوامل و ظروف نشأة هذا التخيّل من الحروب و الأنظمة الكولونياليّة إلى سكّان المتروبولات , و كلّ وسائل ذلك و أدواته من اللغة ( أكثر ما أهمّني في الكتاب ) و الخرائط و التعداد و المتلحف و غير ذلك الكثير , رغم سلاسة اللغة و سهولة الأسلوب ( مقارنة بعمق الفكرة المطروحة طبعا ) فالكتاب يحتاج الكثير من المراجعات و التفكير فيه لاستيعاب حدود النظريّة التي يطرحها كاملةً . هناك الكثير من الأسئلة و الإشكاليّات أتصوّرها لو درسنا العرب كنموذج في هذه الأطروحة ( والكتاب يمرّ على العرب سريعا بالفعل ) و هذا لا يلغي أنّها تكشف جوانب بالفعل من نشوء القوميّات العربيّة (القوميّة بمعناها الأشمل , كمتخيّل لشعب كلّ دولة على حدة كذلك ) بقي أن أقول إنّ عدم معرفتي - وعدم اهتمامي بالأحرى - بتاريخ الهند الصينيّة و دول شرق آسيا عموما الحديث , جعل الكثير من التفاصيل مملّا أو يفقد دلالته الكاملة بالنسبة لي . ولكنّه كتاب مميّز للمهتمّين بمسألة القوميّات و نشوئها .- هذا أقلّ ما يُقال -
Boy, am I glad to have finally read this. Imagined Communities is the force behind much of the scholarship in the social sciences I find most interesting. Seeing someone’s name so often in brackets (Anderson, 1983) makes you curious, and Anderson does not disappoint.
For me, this is history at its most interesting—incisive, global in scope, entertaining, and not overladen with facts. Staying entirely within the purview and methodology of the discipline of history (unlike, say, Guns, Germs, and Steel), Anderson formulates a theory that explains much of the modern world. While the style is perhaps too stodgy for the general reader, the book is mostly free of academic nonspeak and ugly neologisms. Anderson manages to write plain English, use traditional methods, and reach a fascinating conclusion. You’d be surprised how rarely this happens.
Definitely an 'essential read', but did his style have to be so annoying? "Unjungled," Benedict? "Museumized?" Those aren't words. Not cute, either. Stop with the scare quotes, too, jeez. And would you translate your goddamn lengthy French quotations??? GOD.
Not exactly a Marxist theory of nationalism, but a deeply sympathetic investigation by a man who happens to have Marxists political leanings. While showing how national identities are socially and historically constructed, Anderson at the same time finds the phenomenon too powerful to be simply debunked via ideological critique. In this he reminds me a bit of Gershom Scholem writing on the Kabbalah.
... Anderson has very little to say about Arab nationalism, and as I read I wondered what he would make of the past decade and a half of wars in the Middle East. Isis was a state of sorts, but not a nation-state. It seems fair to say the scourge of state failure from Libya to Afghanistan has been related at least in part to a failure of nationalism. Note how no one was willing to fight and die on behalf of "Iraq", but after Shia religious leaders issued fatwas, a force was amassed to combat Isis.
While probably its most extreme manifestations are being played out in the Middle East, state failure does also seem to be a more general phenomenon of our times, not least in the advanced capitalist countries. All this makes me wonder if the nation-state will continue to be the hegemonic political formation of the 21st century.
bias flag: I am a former student of Professor Anderson. More accurately, he was my undergraduate thesis advisor. I have a neutral memory of my sessions with him, which is to say I don't remember much; I believe he wore flip-flops, which I thought a bit unusual for 42 degrees north latitude. I do carry great shame, even to this day, from my underwhelming academic effort. In my mind, Professor Anderson, as navigator aboard my ship, bears at least some responsibility; if only he told me to . . . .
Professor Anderson sees nationalism as a direct result of the printed word. Until Gutenberg's invention, the construction of communities depended on other means, most notably, though not limited to, religion or monarchy. This is a fairly straightforward observation, I think, yet it is phrased in the most mind-bending, academic way, for as Wallace Stevens is a poet's poet, so Professor Anderson is a social scientist's scientist. Given the opportunity to display a prodigious intellect, Professor Anderson joyfully indulges, delivering 200 pages of erudition with references to a colorful carousel of arcana, and untranslated lengthy quotations in a variety of languages. As a bow to his polymathy, the final chapter describes his perception of this work's impact in the publishing and academic world. Huzzahs and bravos all around.
Imagined Communities does make an important contribution to my understanding of the "we," at least the "we" of the past few hundred years. I wonder for the future, though. What of a world where English is ever more the apparent lingua franca and where the Age of Entertainment offers the internet with all its distractions? Nationalism may have permitted mass conscriptions in the past; what of today? What would happen if America engaged in a call to arms in this electronic era? Would nationalism prevail? I suspect things have changed radically, something not anticipated or discussed in Professor Anderson's musings.
I do wish I could have spent those hours with Professor Anderson as a naive adult, rather than as a naive student. He had much to say; I would now enjoy listening.
Since there has been a good deal of chattering about nationalism of late, it seemed a good time to finally examine this neglected long-term resident on my bookshelves. It is a tough slog through impenetrable Marxist jargon and apparent inside jokes. Also, there are enough dense and eye-strain-inducing footnotes in my paperback copy to send David Foster Wallace weeping to his thesaurus collection. And, in addition to untranslated French and German, there is, I am not making this up, untranslated Indonesian. On the positive side, it is short.
My copy also featured footnotes and commentary by that brainy chick I tricked into marrying me. They allowed me to achieve an understanding which I probably would not have achieved on my own. (A Germanist, she also explained what “hausmacht” and other bits of untranslated German in the text meant.) If you have not had the foresight to be in a long-term relationship with a Germanist who has read and selectively highlighted this volume, I suggest that you refine your Tinder profile to remedy your lack of foresight before starting this book on your own.
It was a frequent experience to come to an end of a paragraph and realized I had retained nothing of what I had just read. I doubted my ability to understand the book as a whole. I made regular trips to the brainy chick to check my comprehension. She said I was understanding it. I think she was sincere, but she might have been just trying to get me to go away. Anyway, here's what I got out of it.
The word “reflections” in the titles is a clue that the book is a series of (at best) loosely-connected ideas the author has had about nationalism.
Think of the first part of this book as the first draft of a cookbook for nations. The author implies that no one before now has understood properly how to make a nation from scratch, and the previous explanations are, almost universally, balderdash. I'll try not to beat the “cookbook” metaphor to death, but the author as cook doesn't supply the exact measurements of various ingredients necessary to make a nation. Nor does the author claim that the ingredients listed are all the ingredients necessary to bake a nation. Instead, he notices that successfully launched nations have had ingredients A, B, and C, and unsuccessful attempts have lacked these ingredients.
One ingredient, if I understand correctly, is the largely unintentional creation of a locally-born set of civil servants, native in birth to the land they live but steeped for a long period in the culture of the occupying colonial power. Furthermore, this set of civil servants must be allowed to receive education in the capital of the colonial power but then routinely denied the opportunity to rise high enough to work and hold a position of power in that capital.
Another ingredient is the appearance of “print-capitalists”, whose products in the local vernacular may include newspapers and books as we understand them today, but also could include pamphlets and broadsheets of the type not really seen in most of the world anymore.
While explaining this book to me recently, above-referenced brainy chick casually threw off the observation that the formulation that different newspapers lead to different nations, may, if true, be a disturbing prediction for our times. We have just come out of a long period where the number of newspaper, television, and other mass media outlets were limited, first by technological constraints and then perhaps artificially. Of course, there was some diversity, and not everybody had the same opinion, but compared to what was before, what is now, and (perhaps) what is to come, it was a period of comparative harmony borne of everyone agreeing on certain basic assumptions. Now that anyone with a computer terminal can generate a story and call it news, we may be headed toward a period of birthing new nations again. Such births are rarely pretty.
In any event, given these (and maybe other) ingredients, then, the sense of nationhood appears. The outward appearance of a nation, meaning, lines on a map that some indifferent cartographer made decades or centuries ago based on a piece of parchment signed by an ignorant King, are not important. The random place where a boatload of adventurers made landfall long before the King laid pen to paper are not important. If the adventurers had landed further north or south, or if the cartographer's pencil had drawn a slightly different line, the results would have been the different only in insignificant detail. (I think that's the message I was supposed to get.)
As a result, we have Chileans, Americans, Ghanians, Indonesians, and others living, declaring allegiance and pride, and sometimes dying for arbitrary lines generated largely by accident, long ago. On one side, the group with which someone shares a vital bond. Many, perhaps most, of members of this group believe their group exceptional, and often that a greater power than themselves guided them and their co-nationals to this spot, making it desirable and worthy of protection.
Outside are people who are at least apathetic and perhaps even downright hostile, the national narrative goes. Depending on circumstance, the malevolence of outsiders can be attributed to envy, or their allegiance to darker powers, either terrestrial or not.
An interesting opinion expressed in this book is that nationalism is not racism, or maybe not racist. The argument, I think, goes like this: Nazis were NOT nationalist because they were not prepared to see, most visibly, Jews as a member of their nation, even the German Jews who were enthusiastic about Germany and its culture, even to the point of changing their religion. On the other hand, says Anderson, real nationalists are willing to admit any and all, regardless of race, who will sincerely believe in the superiority of their nation, because they (the nationalists) are simply champions of a nation. There are certainly cases where this is true, but there are also enough counter-examples of groups excluded by self-proclaimed nationalists by virtue of different appearance or background to draw this assertion into question. However, probably any debate on this topic will degenerate into an argument about definitions (that is, of “nationalism” and “nationalist”). Another different argument might result if you think that requiring others to admire you and your group to get the benefits of inclusion is a mind-set that co-occurs frequently with racism.
Another contention (if I understand correctly) which is much more difficult to dispute in these days: attempts to get people to believe in, defend, and die for institutions (like the European Union, NATO, and the UN) which were not created with the aid of the above-mentioned ingredients, will collapse in the face of the resolution and combativeness routinely generated by strong love of nation.
Sometimes it feels like, if you read this book and do not agree with author's idiosyncratic interpretations, you are likely to be greeted with the adolescent-like “Well, you would think that, wouldn't you?”, which is the consistent last refuge of theorists who have nowhere to hide. Example: near the end of the book, the author notes that, frequently, colonial-era drawings (and other representations) of recently-excavated ruins (like Angkor) are often lacking in human figures. This, says the author, is an implied put-down of the present inhabitants of the land by the colonial image-makers, carrying the message that you, present-day inhabitants of the land, are not capable of such magnificence. This is of course possible. But also possible, and more likely in my sight, is that the makers of illustrations felt they had, on the basis of excavations, enough evidence to make a representation of what the building in question looked like at the height of its magnificence, but did NOT have enough evidence to make a representation of the characteristic skin color, clothing, and activity of the people who lived and worked there. You see? NOT evil hegemons, simply people interested in accuracy. It's possible, right?
Being, on some odd level, an incurable optimist, I hope that everything I read (or even see or hear) will somehow eventually be something practical, something useful. In this case, I hope that understanding this book somehow allow me (or perhaps a more charming person with better persuasive skills) to convince a nationalist that the narrative of history could be different than he/she has imagined up to now. Also, the nationalist will finally understand that the soil for which he/she is prepared to erect walls and limit liberty is an accident of history. A more peaceful and inclusive mindset by the nationalist would be the result, in my dream.
However, even my imaginary conversations are failures. I imagine that, even in the unlikely event that I were to convince the nationalist that Anderson's thesis were a truer reading of history, the nationalist could easily insist that all of it, the print-capitalists, the native-born civil servants, the King's arbitrary lines, are all evidence of God's hand at work on behalf of his favorite nation. It would be, they might say, the intention of divine power to bring the nationalists and their allies where they are now, i.e., threatening the defenseless in the name of liberty.
A hugely influential work, first published in 1983, which delineates the 'processes by which the nation came to be imagined, and, once imagined, modelled, adapted and transformed.' Anderson is an expert on Southeast Asia, and thus manages very successfully to avoid a purely Euro-centric view. Another extremely successful aspect of this work is the structure: each chapter ends with a succinct summary of its main ideas, a boon for those who need to take notes and revise what they've read, or indeed for anyone at all. The author argues his case cogently, emphatically, and with admirable clarity. Exemplary.
This is a very important, but difficult read. Even though the author mentions that he did not want to introduce any academic lingo, it is still difficult to comprehend at times, and the academic structure is obvious.
It will truly make you think about history in a novel way once you do understand what is being described. However, the chapter on the Map, Census and Museum was the hardest to comprehend. Of course, the fact that so many themes in the book were hard to understand only goes to show how different our frame of reference is now that we are products of these 'imagined communities' rather than outsiders looking in.
All in all, it was a worthwhile read, even though a second read would be inevitable.
أعترف بعجزي التام لإكمال هذا الكتاب، وصلتُ إلى المنتصف بصعوبة بالغة، ولستُ بصدد كتابة مراجعة حول محتواه أو أسلوب الكاتب، للمرة الأولى أنفر من الكتب والروايات وما يخص عالمي الحبيب بسبب كتاب لم أستطع فهمه.
ظننتُ العائق في نفوري من معالجة الكتاب، ثم تبيّن لي أن الأمر يكمن في نوعية النماذج التي اختارها الكاتب لمعالجة قضية الجماعات المتخيلة، لستُ على إلمام بأيٍّ من القضايا التاريخية والسياسية المُختَارة، وكان التوغل في تفاصيل تلك الحيثيات مُضنيًا وواضعًا عراقيل بيني وبين القرب من قصد الكاتب.
ربما لي عودةٌ أخرى بعد سنين عديدة، وربما لن أعود له إطلاقًا، ما أحزنني في تجربتي تلك، حالة الانغلاق الكامل بعيدًا عن قراءة صفحة واحدة، أشفق على المترجم والمحرر، فالكتاب متشعب في قضايا ومصطلحات تحتاج هوامش وشروحات مُطوَّلة، ولا أجد فكرةً قد هضمتها بشكل كامل للنقاش حولها في مراجعة، فلم أفهم حتى الآن الفرق بين القومية وظاهرة الجماعات المتخيلة.
As the original text on nationalism as an idea, you would think that this would be a better read. Indeed, the plethora of translations that the author catalogs in the Afterword written for this expanded edition, you would think it would be best thing on nationalism ever. And while it does have a few great ideas, it is a barely developed, almost completely nonsensical book. The first few chapters start out alright as he identifies native languages, bueracratic language requirements, and revolution in public education in the wake of the Reformation as key to the development of nationalism first in Europe then in the Americas. But after that, things begin to break down completely. The author can never sustain a single thought long enough to develop it, bouncing around the globe and the globe of ideas like a ball in a racquetball court, only a ball in a racquetball court would make a loud THUD! to let you know you hit the wall. After the first few chapters, Mr. Anderson can't hit anything. Aside from some good, but half-baked, ideas, I would suggest finding another book to read if you are interested in the development of nationalism as an idea.
هذا الكتاب استغرق مني وقتا لطويلا لقراءته، يتجاوز الشهر بقليل.
لم تكن صعوبة الكتاب هي سبب تأخير القراءة. ربما لأنني تعرفت إلى لعبة سباق السيارات "إسفلت 8"، فشغلني هذا عنه، أو لأن كل فكرة -رغم بساطة عرضها- تحتاج إلى وقت طويل لهضمها واستيعابها.
بلغت شهرة الكتاب الآفاق، وصار مقررا جامعيا في العديد من الجامعات حول العالم، لذلك أي حديث حول أهمية الكتاب لن تكون مناسبة.
أشير فقط إلى بعض النقاط التي استوقفتني أثناء القراءة:
1- الكتاب ليس نظريا بالمرة، أي رغم أنه يتبنى مفهوما جديدا لأساس القومية وانتشارها، إلا أن المؤلف اتجه بأغلب ثقله إلى حقل التاريخ لإبراز نظريته ودعمها بأمثلة تاريخية ووقائع محددة.
2- ورغم الاهتمام بالتاريخ، إلا أن الكتاب تجاهل منطقة الشرق الأوسط تقريبا. أي أن الكتاب يفتح مجالا واسعا للباحثين كي يختبروا هذه النظرية على المجتمعات العربية، وخاصة مصر. إن الحدود الإدارية لمصر في أضيق توسعاتها كانت تقريبا مثل الحدود الحالية، أي أنه لو تجاهلنا فترات التوسع المصري على حساب الأراضي المجاورة، فإن معظم الأسر الفرعونية كانت لها سيطرة على سيناء والواحات الغربية والوجه القبلي والبحري.
إن هذه القومية القديمة، التي يعاد تشكيلها حاليا بناء على أوهام تاريخية متراكمة، تضيف أنموذجا شديد الجدة والغرابة، واستثناء شاذا لقاعدة "أندرسن". إن اتكاء القومية المصرية على تاريخها -رغم الانقطاع المعرفي عنها- والمحافظة على بعض العادات الفرعونية القديمة وتميز اللهجة المصرية عن بقية الألسن العربية، يجعل الباحث في محل مقاربة ومقارنة لطبيعة هذه القومية، وربما يفسر سبب التضخم الذاتي في نفسية المصريين.
3- أشار المؤلف إلى أن القومية الشعبية تختلف عن نظيرتها الرسمية الملكية، حيث قرنت هذه الأخيرة قوميتها بالعنصرية، لكن القومية عامة سر نجاحها واستنساخها هو ببساطة أنها مبنية على نزعات إيمانية لدى الفرد بضرورة التضحية وحب الجماعة والولاء للوطن. لكن ما فات المؤلف ذكره، أن القومية بنسختها الشعبية تتقاطع أحيانا مع العنصرية، بل إن الطبقات الوسطى والأقل من المتوسطة مارست نسخا من العنصرية ضد الأقليات بحجة الوصول إلى نسخة "نظيفة" و"خالية من التشوهات" لقوميتها الخاصة.
إن تحليل برنارد شو -رغم افتقاره إلى أي أسس نظرية- حول أن النظام الفاشي الإيطالي اتكأ في سلطانه على طموح وتطرفات الطبقات الشعبية، هو الأقرب في نظري إلى الصحة. إن القومية -مثلها مثل بقية أشكال الإيمان الغيبي- يمكنها أن تنقلب إلى خطر حقيقي على الإنسانية بمفهومها الواسع.
4- يُفضل قراءة هذا الكتاب مرة أخرى، مباشرة أو بعد مدة من القراءة الأولى. إن القراءة الأولى تعد بمثابة تصفح، لكن الكتاب يحتاج من القارئ الخبير إلى دراسة متأنية واعية كي يستطيع أن يركز ويلخص ويعيد تحرير أبرز فقرات الكتاب، التي تتوه وسط التحليل التاريخي البارز.
ولعشاق النسخ النظيفة والمحافظة على الكتاب من الأحبار والأوراق اللاصقة. لن يكون هذا الكتاب ملائما لذلك. صدقا، اجعل لنفسك على الأقل "نوتة" بجوار الكتاب، فأي قارئ سيحتاج إلى تدوين بعض ملاحظاته.
5- يُنصح بقراءة مقدمة "عزمي بشارة" بعد قراءة متن الكتاب وليس قبله. إن هذه المقدمة الواعية تشتبك مع الكتاب وتفند بعض ملاحظاته وتعقب عليه. وهذا يجعل المقدمة مشوشة للقارئ الذي يتعرف على الكتاب للمرة الأولى، بالإضافة إلى أنه يخلق تحيزات خلال القراءة. وكان بالأحرى أن تكون هذه المقدمة تذييلا للكتاب في النهاية.
بالمناسبة، لا يمكن إخفاء أن بشارة نفسه قدم النسخة العبرية من الكتاب، وأنه كفلسطيني يحمل الجنسية الإسرائيلية ومهتم بالقومية العربية، يحمل هذا الكتاب قضية شخصية بالنسبة إليه.
6- يرى المؤلف أن الكتاب يساري أكثر من اللازم لليبراليين، وليبرالي أكثر من اللازم لليساريين. لكن أي عين فاحصة محايدة ستجد أن الكتاب يميل إلى اليسار أكثر. ولا عجب أن كثيرا من أنصار اليسار الديمقراطي في مصر ممن أعرفهم قرأوا الكتاب أو احتفظوا بنسخة منه على أجهزتهم أو في مكتباتهم.
هذا الكتاب يشتبك مع المقولات اليسارية مثل أن الماركسيين ليسوا قوميين، لكنه خارج من رحم اليسار ومن نقاشات ذات دلالة سبقت عليه، ودرجها المؤلف في متن الكتاب لا في هوامشه فقط.
7- الإسلاميون الذين يقرأون الكتاب بعين تبحث عن تحليل واعي لكيفية نشوء القومية في بلادهم، أو نقض حالة الحداثة التي تجلت مظاهرها في القومية، وذلك لإثبات العودة إلى المربع الأول وأن الدولة الإسلامية يمكن أن ترجع مجددا لتخلف الدولة القومية. صدقا هذا الكتاب لن يعصمكم من أسئلتكم، بل ربما يكون خيبة أمل. إن السؤال الذي لم يجب عنه الباحثون الإسلاميون هو، وبفرض إمكانية رجوع الدولة الإسلامية، فكيف يمكنها أن تتمايز عن ماهيات ومؤطرات الدولة القومية؟ أي أنها ستعيد إنتاج الدولة القومية مرة أخرى لكن بغطاء إسلامي ظاهري.
إن المشروع الإسلامي، باعتباره صورة أشد قبحا وتطرفا من الحداثة، سيدين بالكثير للمجموعة التي تستطيع أن تصل لإجابة هذا السؤال المستغلق.
8- للمقيمين في مصر، اشتروا هذا الكتاب من "الشبكة العربية للأبحاث والنشر" في شارع عبد الخالق ثروت بوسط البلد. فعليه خصم هناك يصل إلى 40%، وعلى كل إصدارات المركز العربي للأبحاث في الواقع.
اللغة المحلية، تراجع الدين، تراجع السلطة، الاستعمار، المصلحة، استخدامها كأداة، هذه الأسباب التي كانت وراء نشأة القوميات، التي يدلل لها أندرسن في كتابه الثقيل مضمونًا قليل الصفحات من خلال تحليل أوضاع دول شرق آسيا وأمريكا الأسبانية، وأوروبا بكل تأكيد.
يغيب على أندرسن تحليل القومية العربية، ولم يأت على ذكرها إلا في اقتباس أنقله عنه:"وكان موارنة وأقباط تخرج كثير منهم في الجامعة الأمريكية في بيروت وجامعة القديس يوسف اليسوعية أكبر المساهمين في إحياء الفصحى وانتشار القومية العربية"، وهذا الاقتباس يوضح مشكلة القومية العربية في فهمها وقت نشأتها كفكرة مقابلة للدين والمنفذ الوحيد للتوحد خارج إطار الإسلام كون أغلب منظريها من المسيحيين العرب، ثم بدء الحرب والاتهامات بين الطرفين، في الوقت الذي لا يمكن تصور انتشار اللغة العربية دون انتشار الإسلام والعكس صحيح، بعيدًا عن كونه دينًا مقدسًا، وأقرب إلى صياغته لثقافة جماعية و وعي مشترك.
توقفت عن قراءة الكتاب بشكل مركز في منتصفه، بسبب الملل الرهيب الذي أصابني منذ بدايته ولم أكن لأكلمه لولا أنني أخاف أن أكون الغبية الوحيدة وقد أجمع كثيرون أنه كتاب رهيب، فكيف تجتمع الأمة على ضلالة، والسبب الثاني هو مقدمة عزمي بشارة الوافية للكتاب والعارضة لفكرة القومية والأمة في نظرته الحديثة لها، لذا يمكنكم الاكتفاء بقراءة مراجعات للكتاب أومشاهدة ملخصات يوتيوبية عنه.
Asserted as a Marxist text, Anderson attempts to revise readings of the development of nationalism in attempt to sort out the possibilities its offers for a Marxist agenda. Most importantly, Anderson defines the nation as 1) sovereign, 2) limited, and 3) fraternal. He sees the nation as a structural form of collective imagination that works to cohere through the rise of print capitalism (specifically mass-marketed news media and novels, but one could easily add photography to this list) and the institutionalization of what he calls “calendrical time.” Through these structural rituals, the nation becomes the primary tool of modernity through which the subject is able to mediate his/her relationship to his/her own finitude. Obviously this is a seminal text for anyone interested in nationalism. Anderson's argument regarding the connection between print culture and modern national identity made way for so much current scholarship on the topic, and he is easily the most oft-cited critic regarding nationalism studies. However, the most interesting part of Anderson’s argument for me isn’t necessarily his discussion of the print capitalism, which is often read as a chronological catalyst for the development of nationalism (almost like a weird sort of telos). It’s too easy, I think, to read Anderson’s proposed history exactly within the temporal linearity he critiques (but ultimately advocates), which is why I think this aspect of his argument often gets overlooked, both in the classroom and in scholarly use of the book. It seems to me that the arbitrariness of calendrical time, as a kind of cultural logic that develops in tandem with the culture of print capitalism, is exactly what makes it so manipulatable for Anderson, and thus is where he is able to locate the promise of nationalism.
Imagined Communities is (was) a seminal work on nationalism that people love to reference. Its core argument revolves around how nationalism is a product of a certain political economy of mass consciousness that utilises myths and collectively held memories that charismatic figures then mobilise to draw imaginary boundaries between groups of people. This project is not possible without the existence of an economic order and relations that allow for the mass production and distribution of information; Anderson calls this ‘print capitalism’. It was this material base along with the colonial project that the idea of nationhood could arise.
A strength of the book lies in its attention to the formation of nationalism in former colonies. These states do not share the same cultural history as Europe yet still developed nationalistic identities. This is because nationalism is not a product of history, but of politics. Nationalism is actively composed through the mobilisation of cultural cues, myths and traumas latent in the people’s minds. A contemporary example could here be the Hindu-nationalism in India; India is a land that offers an abundance of history and cultures to draw on and conjure a narrative that ultimately serves to justify violent acts against those excluded by it (here, the Muslim population).
On December 13, 2015, Indonesia expert and history scholar Benedict Anderson passed away in Malang (Indonesia). Many obituaries in his honor have appeared in traditional press and online media. When I read his life story, I was very impressed by his study of Indonesia (esp. regarding the 1965 incident, which led to him being banned from entering Indonesia for over 20 years) and his abilities to speak so many languages! His best-known work is “Imagined Communities,” where he discusses the origins of nationalism and how they were shaped differently in the New World, Old World and Third World. For an academic book, his language was surprisingly very easy to understand (not dry!) and sometimes even humorous. For this review, I decided to add my notes for each of the eleven chapters:
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Cultural Roots My favorite chapter! Written beautifully. Anderson traces the origins of nationalism to three important cultural phenomena; religious community (& the language/script of the Truth), dynastic realm and the apprehension of time (most of which deals with death and to a certain extent makes an individual question his existence).
Chapter 3: The Origins of National Consciousness This chapter highlights the importance of "print-capitalism" in forming imagined communities. Simultaneously many vernacular dialects were wiped out by the introduction of print-capitalism.
Chapter 4: Creole Pioneers A very interesting observation by Anderson, that nationalism began in the New World instead of the Old World! The Europeans born and raised in America ("Creoles") felt a deep connection with the land and due to the arduous travelling conditions back then, many have never even been to Europe. At the same time, creoles were looked down upon by the Europeans, which only reinforced their "us vs them" consciousness. Parallel to Europe, they wanted their own country.
Chapter 5: Old Languages, New Models This chapter focuses on the Old World vernacular languages that started to shape nations. When people think about history, it is very difficult to pinpoint the beginning, thus language provides an infinite continuity to the starting point, which can never be traced back. I also enjoyed Anderson's descriptions of how various European aristocrats used to speak different languages compared to the lower-class population (e.g. Dutch aristocrats spoke French, Russian czars spoke German).
Chapter 6: Official Nationalism and Imperialism
Chapter 7: The Last Wave Mainly about linguistic conformity to enforce the imagined community, but Anderson also uses the example of Switzerland to highlight a different type of nation-building.
Chapter 8: Patriotism & Racism Anderson makes a distinction between patriotism and pure racism, also talks about how strangers are able to become a national of a nation (due to sentiments), but which may lead to varying degrees of racism.
Chapter 9: The Angel of History Short chapter on the Vietnam-Cambodia-China war and Marxism and how nationalism fits or doesn't fit in.
Chapter 10: Census, Map, Museum Very interesting chapter on three specific institutions that are used to enforce the imagined communities upon the masses through classification and control. Census is a systematic quantification of the population to proclaim the state domain. Maps visually depict the imagined communities, as well as to classify the border of colonial property. I very much appreciate Anderson's example of West Papua, that is culturally significantly different from the "Malay/Javanese" side of the nation. However, due to the maps and the Dutch imperial concept of the East Indies, Indonesian nationalists are adamant that West Papua belongs to Indonesia. Finally, the museums established the official narratives and also includes the commercialization aspects.
Chapter 11: Memory & Forgetting Change also brings about some elements of amnesia, which results in a certain "narrative." I'm always interested to understand how these narratives came to be, which essentially means which memories were retained.
Finally, while reading this book, I kept wondering how today's technology and social media have formed even more peculiar imagined communities. Are we now living in two realities?
Imagined Communities : Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, by Benedict Anderson is an interesting look at the development of the idea of Nationalism, and its close association to human conceptions of community and identity. Nationalism has led to many horrible things; Nazi genocide, colonialism, war, ethnic cleansing, and repression of minority groups. Many of these factors are still at play in the modern world. This is because all nations currently in existence derive their legitimacy, much of their culture, and therefore much of their power, from nationalism. Defined here in this book, nationalism is a set of ideas, principles, and connections that build up a feeling of community within a nation state. These ideas come from many avenues, some which transcend modern concepts of nation states. For example, Anderson discusses the similar feelings of connectivity that have historically been derived from religion (imagine the Haj in medieval times, or Catholics from France and Croatia meeting), and from dynasty (legitimacy often stems from a dynastic seat, think of the multi-ethnic and long ruling empires in Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Turkey and so on).
Anderson goes over this conception of nationalism. The phrase "Imagined Communities" is interesting - Anderson looks at the use and abuse of nationalistic connections and ideas. The development of a group conscious stemming from communal and national connections is fickle, and can come from many sources. The movement away from writing in high tongue - like Latin, for example, into vernacular language, French, German etc. had a huge impact on the development of nationalism in Europe. This stemmed from the translation of important works from Latin and Greek into the local vernacular, and encouraged the development of ideas, the collective consumption of localized myths, legends, histories and ideas, and the collective absorption of the idea of "us" and "other" that has come to define national boundaries and regional autonomous regions or minority groups.
Anderson goes through the history of the creation of nation states, and ironically, the first wave, as he calls it, is in America. The creation of modern American nations were some of the first to remove the old principles of dynasty and religion, and build Republican states. The composition of states varied as well. Some (like Canada) developed dominion status to their old colonial regime, slowly gaining independence through negotiation, and the slow transfer of sovereign power by the colonial power. In the United States, independence was violent. Nationalism was based not upon the idea of a nation per se (the original declaration of independence, for example, makes not mention of an American state as an entity, but discusses the thirteen colonial entities instead), but on a shared sense of community and spirit derived from the mutual feeling of oppression shared by many Americans. The close connection between the colonies, and their similar print culture, ethnicity and language encouraged they join together in union. These two cases, however, are unusual. In South America, which was a homogeneous territory of Spanish controlled territory where the elite were the same ethnicity, spoke the same language, and had the same spirit of oppression as in the North, nation states evolved around colonial boundaries, and larger collections of states, like the UPCA (United Provinces of Central America) or Gran Colombia (Panama, Colombia, Ecuador) broke apart quickly. This is because the metropole in Madrid did not encourage colonial connectivity either economically or through the development of some sort of united culture. Conceptions of unity and community revolved around the colony only, and there was little in the way of economic or even physical connectivity between, say Venezuela and Chile, or Ecuador and Argentina. These states developed their own systems of power, culture and identity that often revolved around religion (Catholicism), indigenous myth, and racial superiority.
Anderson also discusses the creation of completely new nations. Indonesia, for example, was a collection of states of extremely diverse cultures, ethnicity, languages and religion that was very slowly colonized by the Dutch. The slow colonization was barely complete by the end of Dutch control in WWII. Even so, separate identities did not arise that could compete with the wish that many elite had for a united Indonesia. The uniting factor here was a shared sense of oppression against the Dutch, as well as the development of an "us" vs. "them" culture. The Dutch would never hire an Indonesian to colonial posts of any power. Even more alien was the concept of an Indonesian working in the Netherlands. This hostility created the concept that Indonesians were not Dutch, and would never be - a spoiling factor for the Dutch when they sought control. An ironic story from this era speaks about Dutch independence celebrations in Batavia from French rule. Locals were tasked with celebrating this event, and the Dutch seemed confused and shocked when Indonesians did not as enthusiastically participate. The Dutch saw them as Dutch subjects, but not of equal value. The Indonesians, on the other hand, were completely indifferent to Dutch identity due to marginalization and irrelevance. Similar stories can be told about colonies everywhere; in French Africa, Malaysia under the British, and India.
Anderson discusses many other topics, such as the use of museum, census, statistics and the misuse of history to build national identities on the fly. Nationalism, in short, can be created and spread by co-opting ideas, shared identities, history, language and religion, among other conceptions, to build nations with defined borders. Nationalism is a useful concept that allows states to centralize power away from competing institutions or groups, press territorial claims on other regions, reduce unrest by building a sense of common identity that may overcome oppression, and, in the modern world, create electoral success in representative democracies. This book was very interesting. Anderson has done a wonderful job bringing together various ideas into a concise text on Nationalism and how it is created and spread. This is one of the key -isms in the modern world, the real framework that most nations build their legitimacy. This book is an important read, and I can easily recommend it (and indeed strongly recommend it) to those interested in political theory.
This book is one of the best examples to understand the constructivism tradition of nationalism. The "Imagined Communities" explains how the nationalism discourse is created and how the members of communities based on certain elements (like texts) come to find the commonality with the other members of the same community. The most important takeaway from the book is the emergence of nationalism with the emergence of the texts in vernaculars and capitalism with the spread of printing books.
Another most important aspect of the book and the concept of the "imagined communities" in general is its non-Eurocentrism. It is (probably) the first nationalism analysis to claim the non-European origin of nationalism.
However, there is some French text appearing in the book without translation.
This book is a very good start so sink in the questions of nationalism and identity even without previous knowledge of nationalism theories.
A now classic book on the origins of nationalism and how it became a global phenomenon. Within this presents the theories about the birth of nationalism, with particular emphasis on regional differences. Excellent book, essential for anyone who thinks outside the box. It offers several answers and you generates even more questions for further study of the issue.
Much has been said on the dynamics, roles and subsequent consequences of nationalism, much of the Earth as it stands right now, is the creation of either an older(imperialist) or newer(anti-colonial) form of nationalism, eitherway, they both represent a series of scars on the evolution of mankinds identification with a larger group, that, unlike some jingoistic fantasy, are not the consequences of a ''natural'' progression of convergence into nationhood, but rather the manufactured consequence of several cultural, political and economic factors, which Anderson skillfully explores in this book, together with repositioning of the birthplace of nationalism /gasp/ outside of Europe.
Tracing the origins of nationalism, Anderson takes a first look at the cultural factors helped shape it. Prior to any ideas of nationalism or identity to a group or for that matter, the feudal sovereigns identity as being linked to a unifying nationhood, most of the larger congregations that unified people where that of religion. Weather it be the congregation of the Catholic Church or the Islamic Ummah, it used, through the medium of language and semiotics as well as the ritual of pilgrimage, a unifying system that brought together people of various ethnicities, races and languages to identify with a larger group. In the case of Christianity, the linguistic unifier was Latin,used both by Church and King, they created the divinely mandated hierarchy that enforced onthological truths from a privileged elite, that could speak the 'sacral language'. Coupled with the feudal system of regal and aristocratic kinships, there existed only a network of sovereigns or vassals, nationhood did not exist..yet.
With the gradual erosion of the power of the Church, the distancing of kings from Pope and aristocrats from the power of the king and the establishment of vernacular administrative languages, other than Latin by certain European courts, the process was put in motion, of a contouring of future to be imagined community based, at first, fundamentally on linguistic affinity. Furthermore, the role of capitalism or early forms of capitalism via the printing industry play a crucial role, together with the rise of the Reformation, that brought a revolution of vernacularization of had previous been a highly restricted and out of reach wisdom and guiding text, the Bible.
This sets the tone for the fundamental drivers of the evolution later on of immagined communities, as outlined by Anderson, the rise of capitalism together with a technology that extended the possibilities of communication together with the establishment of a print and administrative language that would seek to form vernacular languages that would later lie at the basis of future conceptions of nationhood.
Radically and fundamentally for Andersons work, is the concept that nationalism did not, as traditionally would be thought, had its roots in 19th century European nationalism, but rather it its birthplace is in the Americas, in the British and Spanish colonial empires and through their separation from their mother countries. In both cases there existed a homogenous vernacular language English and Spanish, used in administrative vernacular and in daily interactions, both empires saw a distinct demarcation line based on economic and administrative boundaries set to increase the benefit for the mother country together with a locally restricted 'bureaucratic pilgrimage' where colonial born functionaries were limited in their interactions physically and institutionally with the structures of the empire, confined to their respective zones limiting interactions and identity building. The commonness of language, the rise of print capitalism through newspapers and journals coupled with aggressive political and economic pressures from the center and liberal ideas of the Enlightenment, started the spark that would lead to the downfall of Colonial empires of the Americas. In doing so, they would create the model of future nation states, by, emulating and in parallel to their respective mother countries, turn the absolutist monarchist system upside down and infusing it with the seeds of a new born national identity, separate from the dynastic, monarchist European models. It is very important to note, that the rise of these new nations was spurred on not by a mass popular uprising against the Crown, rather, it was largely motivated by the need for the colonial bourgeois to retain and expand their privileges and in no way did this include the inclusion of the inhabitants that were indigenous or African, on the contrary, it was a specific desire of these new ruling classes to maintain the most abhorrent aspects of the colonial economy in their favor.
From this point Anderson explores how the American models became gradually accepted first as ''official nationalisms'' of the absolutist states such Austria or Russia to counteract the rise of print vernacular languages that helped shape identity for their polyglot empires, to reinforce their dominant positions by essentially choosing to speak German in the case of the former and Russian in the case of the latter, although prior to this the court languages had been Latin and French respectively. This was followed by the appropriate institutional measures of linguistic coercion as such creation a sanctioned ''imagined community''.
In analyzing the colonial perspective on the use of nationalism to reinforce colonial rule but also the post-colonial states, the bureaucratic pilgrimage of natives in Indonesia or in the British Empire is explored as well as the dynamics of the creation of a sense of unity round a language, one often constructed out of the print vernacular imposed by the colonizers i.e Bahasa Indonesian. Furthermore, in the chapter added in the revised edition ''Census, Map, Museum'' explores the use of colonial archaeology, administrative delimitations and the inherent racism and ignorance of colonizers in essentially setting the stage of the future birth of colonial states, based on their constructed systems that were inherently exclusive to most, exploitative and wildly unjust.
All in all, the book has great rereading value, there is much to go over and even more to explore from other sources as it is limited in its expanse of 200 or so pages and many questions are raised that are only partially answered, however it does an amazing job of explaining the rise of nationalism from a nuanced and refined perspective, taking into account palpable and measurable dynamics that led to the formation of collective identities that we now know as nationhood or nationalism, the ways in which these changes impacted perception of time and belonging, explores the horrors of nationalism from an imperialist perspective and shows the inherent absurdity of the claims that most nationalists make.
After making an effort to summarise this book, I am not convinced that I can defend all of its arguments, which on balance must reflect on me rather than the book. Apart from anything else, I am not prepared to put in the time; I write a review quickly when I finish a book only to convey my immediate impression. It is nicely written, very well organised and very credible. I suspect, though, that it presents its arguments in a form that requires a lot of elaboration before they will convince a sceptic. For example,it asserts that "Where racism developed outside Europe in the nineteenth century, it was always associated with European domination," [p186] and this opinion has been expressed by other writers (for example, in the autobiography of Malcolm X which I have read and reviewed only recently), but I find his supporting arguments too elusive to really pin them down and make use of them. To phrase this differently, the more persuaded I am the more I need to understand and pin down the supporting arguments and evidence, and I just need more than I am given here. It is not enough for him to persaude me - I need the materials for me to persuade someone else.
I take from this book an appreciation that nationalism is a modern construction, which serves important functions, makes use of tangible objects - language, culture, religion, geography, history - and which appeals very strongly to many people, but remains elusive. Just because nationalism can appeal to facts, just because these are "real", does not make it any less imaginary. The facts it relies on - such as maps, census data, museums, written records - have often been manufactured or at least carefully selected and presented to serve a political purpose. We can imagine things differently and should not, I think, be so easily persuaded.
"The more the ancient dynastic state is naturalized, the more its antique finery can be wrapped around revolutionary shoulders." [p200]
" As observed earlier, the major states of nineteenth-century Europe were vast polyglot polities, of which the boundaries almost never coincided with language-communities. Most of their literate members had inherited from mediaeval times the habit of thinking of certain languages – if no longer Latin, then French, English, Spanish or German – as languages of civilization. Rich eighteenth-century Dutch burghers were proud to speak only French at home; German was the language of cultivation in much of the western Czarist empire, no less than in ‘Czech’ Bohemia. Until late in the eighteenth century no one thought of these languages as belonging to any territorially defined group. But soon thereafter, for reasons sketched out in Chapter 3, ‘uncivilized’ vernaculars began to function politically in the same way as the Atlantic Ocean had earlier done: i.e. to ‘separate’ subjected national communities off from ancient dynastic realms. And since in the vanguard of most European popular nationalist movements were literate people often unaccustomed to using these vernaculars, this anomaly needed explanation. None seemed better than ‘sleep,’ for it permitted those intelligentsias and bourgeoisies who were becoming conscious of themselves as Czechs, Hungarians, or Finns to figure their study of Czech, Magyar, or Finnish languages, folklores, and musics as ‘rediscovering’ something deep-down always known. (Furthermore, once one starts thinking about nationality in terms of continuity, few things seem as historically deep-rooted as languages, for which no dated origins can ever be given.)" p239
"It is an astonishing sign of the depth of Eurocentrism that so many European scholars persist, in the face of all the evidence, in regarding nationalism as a European invention." Footnote, page 251
"Spanish America ... fought over many bloody years for multiple republican independences, while sharing language and religion with imperial Spain – long before Magyars, Czechs, Norwegians, Scots, and Italians got into the act."p258
"It allowed me to think about the early USA, in the Pan-American context, as just another creole-led revolutionary state, and furthermore in some respects more reactionary than its Southern sisters. (Unlike Washington, the Liberator put a step-by-step end to slavery, and unlike Jefferson, San Martín did not speak of the original inhabitants of his country as savages, but invited them to become Peruvians)." [p258]
Of the Angel of History, Walter Benjamin wrote that "His face is turned towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistably propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress." [p201]
The introduction is a little scary because Anderson uses an unnecessarily complicated academic lingo, but it gets better afterwards. You'll get a brief account of the rise of nationalism in varied places: from the Americas to Hungary and Indonesia.
His main focus is on nationalism as way of perceiving society and oneself as a member of this society. There are a couple of things necessary to imagine the national community and it became possible only in modern times, with the advance of print-capitalism. Anderson argues that in order to sell more books, printers used vernacular languages instead of holy but dead languages such as Latin. This lead to the rise of national languages, while marginalizing intermediary dialects. But more importantly, the circulation of newspapers and books allowed people who will never see each other to read the same information everyday, to absorb or debate the same ideas and to be aware of the others like them (when a German read his German-language newspaper in the evening, he knew that millions of others were doing the same thing).
Another thing necessary to imagine the national community was empty homogeneous time (unlike the old religious sacral time). Modern time is the same for everyone and it moves uniformly. Anderson's example is very illustrative: there was no 'meanwhile' in ancient Greek plays. However, modern novels abound in 'meanwhile's: simultaneity made possible by this new conception of time allows for multiple narrative threads involving different characters in separate locations yet part of the same story. This way of thinking helped readers' imaginations conceive of themselves and their nations in the same way: different characters in different places yet simultaneously involved in the same story.
Anderson doesn't like Eurocentrism, so he puts the emphasis on the more exotic places and argues that nationalism is not an European product. I was particularly curious about his thoughts about New World nationalisms. Why did the administrative units of old empires like Spain become nations instead of, say, uniting? One of the causes, even though maybe not the crucial one, seems to lie in pilgrimage structures in the old administrative units. As Madrid was far away, each colonial province had its own centre and the local Creole elites had to circulate the same administrative and educational routes, which created a kind of consciousness of belonging to the same group. Local newspapers, obviously, wrote about the stuff happening in the metropole and in the particular province. So, a young bureaucrat from Peru might have be up to date with the news about his province and Madrid, but ignorant about what was happening in Argentina.
The book deals with a lot of other issues, including the difference between popular nationalisms and official nationalism used by dynastic states to legitimize themselves, the use of museums and maps to build new identities and so forth. Anderson's perspective is pretty interesting, thus worth a read.
بدأت في قراءة هذا الكتاب وفي ذهني أنه يبحث في سؤال كيف يتم تخيل المجتمعات، أي أنه بحث في الصورة النمطية للشعوب كما درسها إدوارد سعيد وانطوني موريسون وفرانز فانون أو تسري هناء في الشرق المتخيل او محمد أفاية في الغرب المتخيل.
إلا انني تفاجأت ويا لجمال المفاجأة أنه بحث في نشأة فكرة القومية، ولا شك أن الصورة النمطية مبحث مهم في فكرة نشاة القومية، لأن الصور النمطية لا تقوم على تصوير الآخر المختلف، بل تقوم حتى على تصوير الذات أيضا فكرة الكتاب الرئيسية هي أن هناك روابط متخيلة (وليست خيالية) تربط بين أفرادها تؤدي بدورها إلى نشأة القومية أو الأمة أو الوطنية أو غيرها من المصطلحات الإشكالية
تصدرت الطبعة مقدمة ضافية عميقة للدكتور عزمي بشارة تجاوزت الثلاثين صفحة ملخصا أهم ما جاء في الكتاب مع بعض الملحوظات التي رصدها
هنا بعض المختارات التي انتقيتها من المقدمة غالبا ومن فصل العنصرية والوطنية
* الجماعات المتخيلة تنحسر بانحسار روابطها * القومية تقوم على محددات لغوية، أيديولوجية (دينية، سياسية، اقتصادية) الدين، القبيلة * من اهم المفكرين في نظرية القومية، البريطاني هيوستون واطسون، نوم نايرون مؤلف كتاب تفكك بريطانيا) * الأمة جماعة سياسية متخيلة ذات حدود وسيادة * انتماء الفرد يعتبر مكون أساسي في شخصيته * الانتماء يقوم على المحبة لا المصلحة * فكرة القومية يمكن استخدامها للتجييش والحشد * لا يضحي الانسان من اجل تعاقد بل من اجل انتماء) * الجماعات المتخيلة ليست خيالية، هو تخيل رابط يربط بيني وبين غيري ممن انتمي لهم * الدين عني بالإجابة عن أسئلة المعنى في حين فشلت الأيديولجيات الوضعية في الإجابة عليا * “القومية نشأت مع العلمنة وانحسار عملية التدين” عزمي بشارة * الشروط التاريخية التي أنشات القومية هي ١-انحسار اللغة، ٢-الدين ، ٣- تغير مفهوم الزمن وأضاف إليه عزمي بشارة تفكك الجماعة المحلية مثل القبيلة وأهل القرية * “ولم يكن ممكنا تخيل انتشار الإصلاح الديني من دون الطباعة” عزمي بشارة يتحدث عن حركة مارتن لوثر كنج الإصلاحية * ارتباط العربية بالمقدس جعل الناس يتخيلون تدين كل متحدث بالعربية * تمت أمركة الكرسماس ورأس السنة. عزمي بشارة * القومية تقوم على إشراك الطبقات الدنيا ولذا ثار عليها ملاك العبيد في أمريكا * الحرب الأهلية في أمريكا لم تكن داخل الأمة الأمريكية لذا عزمي بشارة يتحفظ على تسميتها أهلية * كان اسم الفلبين الأرخبيل ولكن ملك أسبانيا فيليب الثاني غيرها * تصنيف الناس بموجب أعراقهم جاءت من قبل المستعمر * “المنهج من دون قيم وجماعة تؤمن بهذه القيم وينتمي إليها الناس لا يصلح لتأسيس حركة تسعى لتحسين المجتمع ناهيك عن السعي لعالم أفضل” عزمي بشارة * القومية تفكر بلغة التاريخ (التغيير) العنصرية تفكر بلغة الطبيعة (الثبات) * “لقد بدأت العنصرية من التسويغ الطبيعي النظري أو العلمي للسلالات ال��اكمة والعائلات الاستقراطية وانتقلت إلى تبرير طبيعي علمي لتفوق السلالات العرقية والإثنية واللغوية” * “ما من شيء يربطنا بالموتى عاطفيا مثل اللغة” أندرسن بندكنت