Thoughts on Anderson’s Article

Anderson’s article “The Nation as Imagined Community” was an interesting read, although I agree with some points, I can’t say agree with all of what he says or understand Anderson entirely. The point I mostly agreed with is the idea of the nation being an imagined community. I don’t know every American citizen or resident that lives in this country, let alone in our small class. However, I do know that since you live in this country, you are part of one of many different communities of American citizens and residents. I don’t have to know you to respect you or to acknowledge you as a part of America.

Perhaps I didn’t see it, but the french quote by Renan was not translated. Here’s the quote in french: “l’essence d’une nation est que tous les individus aient beaucoup de choses en commun, et aussi que tous aient oublié bien des choses.” Translated, it reads: “the essence of a nation is that all individuals have many things in common, and also that they have forgotten many things” (via

I agree. I seem to relate everything in this class to my Irish Folklore class last quarter, but anyway, what I learned in that folklore class was that, according to Henry Glassie who wrote The Stars of Ballymenone (read it.), technology brings comfort to the body, but it also brings moral and social decay. What I take this to mean is (and this is based off of Glassie’s ethnography) that once technology and modern appliances are introduced into a nation or a community, people stop interacting with each other. Community is based on certain values: a hard work ethic, reciprocation, generosity. You feed your hungry neighbor so that when you are hungry, your neighbor feeds you, whether you like him/her or not. In the evening you have your neighbors over so they can rest their tired feet, and have a hot mug of tea, and talk about your days. When people have a TV, tons of food in the fridge, a computer, social interaction sort of takes a backseat, unless it is consciously striven for.

Of course, this is hard to find. When everyone is concerned about making the most money and looking the best, personal success becomes more important than social solidarity. I know the only time I ever see my neighbors is when I’m going to get the mail and they are too. The question I wonder about is, are communities more tight knit when there is poverty and/or less technology? I think this might be the case. When my father was growing up in impoverished Pakistan, there was only one house that had a television in his neighborhood. All of the kids in the neighborhood would go to this person’s house and watch TV. The rest of the time, they would be jumping off the roof of their houses, playing soccer, interacting with one another.

There’s also an implication of this in Attenborough’s Gandhi. There’s a part where Gandhi says that it is impossible to represent India unless you’ve known and seen the people who do hard labor, such as working in the fields, harvesting crops, spinning cotton. There’s a reason why Gandhi dresses the way he does. He doesn’t dress in lavish clothing. He wears a loin cloth and makes his own clothes in order to humble himself and really be a part of India and her community.

Going back to the article, I think that a nation is made up of many different communities. I don’t think it represents one community. These communities have one major thing in common: they are part of the same country. But, these communities have different ideas of what it means to be part of the country. Not every community in India in Gandhi’s time agreed with Gandhi and/or Jinnah. Gandhi himself wanted unification, while Jinnah wanted separation. They were both Indian. So, who decides the nation’s values? Those who live in luxury or those who live without it? Those who agree with a pivotal figure or those who don’t? The majority’s views push the minority’s views into a subaltern state, but who says a subaltern society’s views are wrong, or backwards?

I don’t want to go on about my thoughts about Nation vs Community issues, but I just want to add one thing. In Anderson’s article he states: “The nation is imagined as limited because even the largest of them encompassing perhaps a billion living human beings, has finite, if elastic boundaries, beyond which lie other nations. No nation imagines itself coterminous with mankind. The most messianic nationalists do not dream of a day when all the members of the human race will join their nation in the way that it was possible, in certain epochs, for, say, Christians to dream of a wholly Christian planet”

What I got from this is that nationalism is not akin to religion because nobody dreams of global “conversion” of citizenship to another country. Not in the religious sense anyway. I do think however, from what we’ve read of Kipling and learned of history, that empires do want to dominate the earth. The West has had a history of imperialism and colonialism. What is that if not forced, brutal, political-nationalistic conversion? The difference, perhaps, is that in that era, being white meant everything, if you weren’t white, you weren’t right. But domination of land, spreading Western ideals, forcing people to give up cultural values, i think that’s definitely forced conversion of a kind, and i think it does conflict with the above quote.

Sorry about the babbling. I have a lot of thoughts. Sorry if I was unclear in anything, hopefully I can clear it up for you!



One thought on “Thoughts on Anderson’s Article

  1. Excellent, thoughtful post on the reading. This is what the blog is about.

    I generally don’t want to squelch discussion by chiming in but I feel I need to here. Let me just say that Anderson is giving a framework to challenge nationalism’s claim to represent all communities, that it attempts to do this, not that it’s necessarily successful. So this fits exactly with your point about Jinnah. The reality is that several visions of the nation were competing for dominance, some based on communities defined by religion (the Muslim League’s ideas that Muslims are a nation, often called the ‘two-nation theory’) and some based on regions, etc.

    But when we look at the uprisings in Pakistan today, from Baluchis and others, or when we look at the Bangladeshi struggle of 1971, we can see that Pakistani nationalism has also been challenged in *its* attempts to claim dominance over all communities in its national borders. The same is true for India, with the uprisings in Kashmir and the Northeast.

    So Anderson is describing and analyzing what nationalism *aims* to do. But what really happens depends on the ability of other world-views, whether they are nationalists or not, to assert themselves.

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