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An imagined community is a concept developed by
Benedict Anderson Benedict Richard O'Gorman Anderson (August 26, 1936 – December 13, 2015) was a Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the Lis ...
in his 1983 book ''
Imagined Communities ''Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism'' is a book by Benedict Anderson Benedict Richard O'Gorman Anderson (August 26, 1936 – December 13, 2015) was a Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related t ...
'', to analyze
nationalism Nationalism is an idea and movement that holds that the nation A nation is a community A community is a social unitThe term "level of analysis" is used in the social sciences to point to the location, size, or scale of a research target ...
. Anderson depicts a
nation A nation is a community A community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as Norm (social), norms, religion, values, Convention (norm), customs, or Identity (social science), identity. Communities may share a sense ...

nation
as a socially constructed community, imagined by the people who perceive themselves as part of that group. Anderson focuses on the way
media Media may refer to: Physical means Communication * Media (communication) In mass communication, media are the communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, It ...
creates imagined communities, specifically the power of print media in shaping an individual's social psyche. Anderson analyzes the written word, a tool used by churches, authors, and media companies (notably books, newspapers, and magazines) as well as the governmental tools of the map, the census, and the museum. These tools were all built to target and define a mass audience in the public sphere through dominant images, ideologies, and language. Anderson explores the racist and colonial origins of these practices before explaining a general theory that explains how contemporary governments and corporations can (and frequently do) utilize these same practices. These theories were not originally applied to the internet or television.


Origin

According to Anderson, the creation of imagined communities became possible because of " print capitalism". Capitalist entrepreneurs printed their books and media in the
vernacular A vernacular or vernacular language refers to the language or dialect that is spoken by people that are inhabiting a particular country or region. The vernacular is typically the native language, normally Spoken language, spoken informally rath ...
(instead of exclusive script languages, such as
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
) in order to maximize circulation. As a result, readers speaking various local dialects became able to understand each other, and a common discourse emerged. Anderson argued that the first European
nation state A nation state is a political unit where the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (news ...
s were thus formed around their "national print-languages." Anderson argues that the first form of capitalism started with the process of printing books and religious materials. The process of printing texts in the vernacular started right after books began to be printed in script languages, such as Latin, which saturated the elite market. At the moment it was also observed that just a small category of people was speaking it and was part of the bilingual society. The start of cultural and national revolution was around 1517 when Martin Luther presented his views regarding the scripture, that people should be able to read it in their own homes. In the following years, from 1520 to 1540, more than half of the books printed in German translation bore his name. Moreover, the first European nation states that are presented as having formed around their "national print-languages" are said to be found in the Anglo-Saxon region, nowadays England, and around today's Germany. Not only in Western Europe was the process of creating a nation emerging. In a few centuries, most European nations had created their own national languages but still were using languages such as Latin, French or German (primarily French and German) for political affairs.


Nationalism and imagined communities

According to Anderson's theory of imagined communities, the main causes of nationalism are the movement to abolish the ideas of rule by divine right and hereditary monarchy; and the emergence of printing press capitalism ("the convergence of capitalism and print technology... standardization of national calendars, clocks and language was embodied in books and the publication of daily newspapers")—all phenomena occurring with the start of the
Industrial Revolution The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Great Britain, continental Europe Continental Europe or mainland Europe is the contiguous continent A continent is any of several large landmasse ...
. From this, Anderson argues that in the presence and development of technology, people started to make differences between what means divine and divinity and what really is history and politics because initially, the divine and the history of society and politics was based on the existence of a common religion that was a unification umbrella for all the people across Europe. With the emergence of the printing press and capitalism, people gained national consciousness regarding the common values that bring those people together. The Imagined Communities started with the creation of their own nation print-languages that each individual spoke. That helped develop the first forms of known nation-states, who then created their own form of art, novels, publications, mass media, and communications. While attempting to define nationalism, Anderson identifies three paradoxes: "(1) The objective modernity of nations to the historians' eyes vs. their subjective antiquity in the eyes of nationalists. (2) The formal universality of nationality as a socio-cultural concept (3) the 'political power of such nationalisms vs. their philosophical poverty and even incoherence." Anderson talks of Unknown Soldier tombs as an example of nationalism. The tombs of Unknown Soldiers are either empty or hold unidentified remains, but each nation with these kinds of memorials claims these soldiers as their own. No matter what the actual origin of the Unknown Soldier is, these nations have placed them within their imagined community.


Nation as an imagined community

He defined a nation as "an imagined political community." As Anderson puts it, a nation "is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion." Members of the community probably will never know each of the other members face to face; however, they may have similar interests or identify as part of the same nation. Members hold in their minds a mental image of their affinity. For example, the nationhood felt with other members of your nation when your "imagined community" participates in a larger event such as the
Olympic Games The modern Olympic Games or Olympics (french: Jeux olympiques) are leading international sporting events featuring summer and winter sports competitions in which thousands of athletes An athlete (also sportsman or sportswoman) is a pe ...
. Finally, a nation is a
community A community is a social unit The term "level of analysis" is used in the social sciences to point to the location, size, or scale of a research target. "Level of analysis" is distinct from the term "unit of observation" in that the former refer ...

community
because,


Context and influence

Benedict Anderson arrived at his theory because he felt neither
Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic Socioeconomics (also known as social economics) is the social science that studies how economic activity affects and is shaped by social processes. In general it analyzes how modern society, societies soci ...
nor liberal theory adequately explained nationalism. Anderson falls into the "
historicist Historicism is an approach to Explanation, explaining the existence of Phenomenon, phenomena, especially social and cultural practices (including ideas and beliefs), by studying their history, that is, by studying the process by which they came abo ...
" or "
modernist Modernism is both a philosophical movement A philosophical movement refers to the phenomenon defined by a group of philosophers A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and ...
" school of
nationalism Nationalism is an idea and movement that holds that the nation A nation is a community A community is a social unitThe term "level of analysis" is used in the social sciences to point to the location, size, or scale of a research target ...
along with
Ernest Gellner Ernest André Gellner FRAI The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (RAI) is a long-established anthropological organisation, and Learned Society A learned society (; also known as a learned academy, scholarly ...

Ernest Gellner
and
Eric Hobsbawm Eric John Ernest Hobsbawm (; 9 June 1917 – 1 October 2012) was a British historian of the rise of industrial capitalism Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership Private property is a legal designation for ...

Eric Hobsbawm
in that he posits that nations and nationalism are products of
modernity Modernity, a topic in the humanities and social sciences, is both a historical period (the modern era Human history, or world history, is the narrative of humanity Humanity most commonly refers to: * Human Humans (''Homo sapiens' ...

modernity
and have been created as means to political and economic ends. This school opposes the primordialists, who believe that nations, if not nationalism, have existed since early human history. Imagined communities can be seen as a form of
social constructionism Social constructionism is a theory of knowledge Epistemology (; ) is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epist ...
on par with concept of
imagined geographiesThe concept of imagined geographies (or imaginative geographies) originated from Edward Said, particularly his work on Orientalism (book), critique on Orientalism. Imagined geographies refers to the perception of a space created through certain image ...
. In contrast to Gellner and Hobsbawm, Anderson is not hostile to the idea of nationalism, nor does he think that nationalism is obsolete in a globalizing world. Anderson values the utopian element in nationalism. According to Harald Bauder, the concept of imagined communities remains highly relevant in a contemporary context of how nation-states frame and formulate their identities about domestic and foreign policy, such as policies towards immigrants and migration. According to Euan Hague, "Anderson's concept of nations being 'imagined communities' has become standard within books reviewing geographical thought". Even though the term was coined to specifically describe nationalism, it is now used more broadly, almost blurring it with
community of interest A community of interest, or interest-based community, is a community of people who share a common interest or passion. These people exchange ideas and thoughts about the given passion, but may know (or care) little about each other outside this ar ...
. For instance, it can be used to refer to a community based on sexual orientation, or awareness of global risk factors. The term has been influential on other thinkers. British anthropologist Mark Lindley-Highfield of describes ideas such as ‘the West,’ which are given agentive status as though they are homogeneous real things, as entity-concepts, where these entity-concepts can have different symbolic values attributed to them to those attributed to the individuals comprising the group, who on an individual basis might be perceived differently. Lindley-Highfield explains: ‘Thus the discourse flows at two levels: One at which ideological disembodied concepts are seen to compete and contest, that have an agency of their own and can have agency acted out against them; and another at which people are individuals and may be distinct from the concepts held about their broader society.’Lindley-Highfield of Ballumbie Castle, M. (2015) ''The Politics of Religious Conversion: an exploration of conversion to Islam and Anglican Christianity in Mexico'', Dundee: Academic Publishing, p.102
/ref> This varies from Anderson’s work in that the application of the term is from the outside, and in terms of the focus on the inherent contradiction between the divergent identities of the entity-concepts and those who would fall under them.


See also

*
Invented tradition Invented traditions are cultural practices that are presented or perceived as traditional, arising from the people starting in the distant past, but which in fact are relatively recent and often even consciously invented by identifiable historical ...


References

{{DEFAULTSORT:Imagined community Political science terminology Political philosophy Neologisms Community Sociological theories Social constructionism