Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Religion, Class, and the State of the Nation

In the chapter entitled "Creole Pioneers," Anderson discusses several ways in which nationalism, though not a direct successor of broadly defined religious communities, to some degree necessarily usurps similar techniques of subjectification. The pilgrimage emerges as a prime example: in large religious realms, pilgrims are defined as members of a shared community by their orientation towards the same sacred locales, while they are united through communication made possible by the shared language of the religious elite. In nationalist societies, on the other hand, secular pilgrimages are made by civil servants and members of the middle class bureaucracy, who became interchangeable parts in the disciplinary national machinery. I suspect that, for Anderson, the class distinction brought to light by this discussion plays an important role. Indeed, Anderson disagrees with the analysis that nationalist movements must be populist movements that induct the lower classes into political life. On the contrary, he argues that the leaders of the nationalist revolutions include "substantial landowners... merchants, and various types of professional (lawyers, military men, local and provincial functionaries) (48). Despite Anderson's protests, this laundry list certainly reads like the roll call for a nascent middle class. In the examples that follow this statement, nationalism generally emerges as a fundamentally bourgeois ideology.

My question, then, pertains to the present. What does it mean for the nation state when such a unit of identity is defended in the name of religion? After religious leaders lost their status as the elite/intelligentsia, and after the churches lost their position as prominent property holders, did the religious community lose its relevance to subjective identities? What happens when the religious leaders become the ruling middle class, or vice versa? Is there a possibility for a supernational religious community to take precedence over national boundaries, or is this just the ultimate expression of the middle class appropriating the ideological tools of their predecessors?

No comments: