Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Boundaries and Borderlands

"Since World War II every successful revolution has defined itself in national terms -- the People's Republic of China, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and so forth -- and, in so doing, has grounded itself in a territorial and social space inherited from the prerevolutionary past" (2).

I'm interested in how the borders of imagined communities are defined and where they emerge from. Must nationalism operate within geopolitical boundaries, and are these boundaries necessarily territorial? If nationalism is based on culture and print-media, then what limits those phenomena to a particular territorial space? Along which spectra (temporal, territorial, ideological, etc.) are communities organized, and is there something unique about locality that makes it a precondition for the idea of the nation?

The necessity of physical proximity is waning. In some large companies, project teams are spread across continents and time zones to allow for around-the-clock work. At the McDonald's drive-thru, the person taking your order may be sitting at a desk in India. Flirtation on AIM and MySpace is replacing the traditional courtship ritual. As spatial relations become skewed and/or irrelevant, will geographic distance be replaced by a different metric? How will we delineate our communities in a virtual world?

Anderson hints briefly at the potential for elasticity at the boundaries in his discussion of United States nationalism (p. 64). What is the relationship of a nation to its bordering nation (or more generally, a community to its bordering community)? To what extent is a nation defined by what it is not, and what are the implications of this for a tenuous or disputed border?
Some other questions that arose during reading:
- "In fact, all communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face contact (and perhaps even these) are imagined" (6). What role, if any, does imagination play in a "face-to-face" community. Is there such a thing as an "unimagined" community?
- Is there a modern analogy to the "awesomeness of excommunication" (16), or does the dissolution of sacred language preclude that possibility?
- Anderson focuses on print-media, specifically novels and newspapers. In a footnote on p. 54, however, he describes the unique contribution of radio as an "aural representation of the imagined community". Besides removing obstacles of literacy, what unique effect does aural representation have on the formation or consciousness of an imagined community? What about other media?

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