Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Language and the Nation

In reading Anderson’s Imagined Communities, I was especially interested in the way democracy was implicit in the idea of nation or nationhood. Anderson imagines freedom through the development of a sovereign state, thereby implying that democracy is indeed integral to a nation. What feels interesting to me, however, is who can fit within this democracy and thus be able to imagine themselves as part of the nation. In learning that the nation is textually based and growing out of print capitalism, it becomes clear that the imagined world is “conjured up by the author in his readers’ minds” (26). Of course this raises a question of who the author is and who the readership is or in the case of “Citizen Kane,” who has the power to write and produce the news—is it people with money and particular motives?

The power of language, and the importance of reproducing language, is made very clear however I struggled to grapple with Anderson’s notion that point of origin was not hugely significant. He writes, “he understood rather quickly, that his point of origin—conceived either ethnically, linguistically, or geographically—was of small significance” (114.) I am interested in this notion of transcending origin and place but I wonder, to what extent, it is really true that origin is of little significance. The idea of transcending origin and building comradeship is exciting but I believe that it is dangerous to assume point of origin does not matter. What would it mean for the point of origin (nationality, history, background) to matter while still building alliances across nation and nationality? How are borders being drawn and imagined?  It seems that language of origin matters greatly. Anderson writes, “The Thai government actively discourages attempts by foreign missionaries to provide its hill-tribal minorities with their own transcription-systems and to develop publications in their own languages: the same government is largely indifferent to what these minorities speak.” (45) In this case, we see the extent to which language matters—the government is discouraging a minority people to speak and, equally importantly, to have some method of recording. Thus, it seems that those with the power of language are in a much better position to be able to write and reproduce the print media that we read. 

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