Benedict Anderson, the writer of Imagined Communities, presents his view that the concept of a nation is a modern notion in his book. In the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries, the existing power structures that were based on a dynastic rule, sacred language or cosmology, and religion began collapsing one after the other. Instead, a more rational perception of surroundings was used to create what Anderson calls the “Imagined Community,” where everyone may not know the other person, but the boundaries are finite, and there is a sense of comradeship amongst everyone.
The emergence of print-capitalism allowed for an individual to relate to others as well as think about themselves in different ways XXXX. It managed to create multiple parallel realities which allowed individuals to connect to others who existed within an “Imagined Community.”
Anderson takes the argument that the nation and nationalism was a construct with European origins, and counters it with various modeled witnessed elsewhere in the world. The first model is of the early Creole communities which were formed by European settlers in the Americas XXXX. The second model came in the form of evolution of languages and was carried out by scientists who studied the languages and linguistic nationalist in the late eighteenth century. Another model is that which came about in the form of Official Nationalism. It was seen in countries like Japan, Thailand, Russia, and England, and was primarily a retaliatory response by monarchs against linguistic as well as popular nationalists. The fourth model that Anderson points out is one which developed owing to colonial rule, such as in Asia and Africa. In these continents, the educated, bilingual locals thought of themselves as being part of solidarity that lay outside the models of a nation. They had access to education and were also well traveled, which allowed them to gain power.
A nation can exist in one of three conditions, which are Sovereign, Community, or Limited. These states have been shaped by the time and place where they were created, and the manner in which they have been adapted for use around the world. One of the key focuses of the book is on places outside of Europe, such as Latin America, Southeast Asia, China, and Japan, even though these were also colonies at some point in their history.
The way in which the writer deconstructs the concept of nationalism while presenting the notion of Imagined communities on a national basis is quite impressive. It becomes clear in father reading that with the adoption of print-capitalism, as well as the conception of “homogenous, empty time,” a psychological condition was created to allow for the birth of national identities.
Shared pilgrimages, whether to Mecca, any imperial metropolis, or an administrative capital, also have an effect on the concept of a shared community. In essence, there is a multitude of people, i.e., a “we,” which goes to such places. This was further affected by the rationality being brought into maps and times. Earlier, the ideas of imperialist centers of states, unclear boundaries, and an understanding of sovereignty which was based in identity rather than residence defined communities. These were replaced by bounded communities that were enclosed within clearly defined borders.
Anderson’s book is both harsh of, as well as sympathetic with the nationalism. He does note that there have never been any great thinkers who have propounded nationalism, unlike other philosophies such as Marx and Marxism. However, he goes on to show that despite the racism and the associated loss of life, nationalism has also been able to inspire great acts of self-sacrifice XXXX. There is a theme of sympathy towards the movements of liberation, especially those in third world countries. However, the most fantastic aspect of the book is the amount of, and the depth in which, anti-colonial history is covered.
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