Printing made it possible for people who have never met to develop bonds, says Benedict Anderson (1983). For this to become possible, vernaculars needed to be clustered into standardised languages. Identities to be constructed in this way supports my claim of the nation-state being a modernist construct. (Faludi 2020 [2018])

In an idle moment, I considered revisiting Anderson. I hit upon Jason Xidias (2017) discussing his work. First I suspected Xidias providing undergraduates easy access to Anderson’s works but found him – you can’t read it all –  useful. Anyway, an internet search revealed the series in which Xidias had come out to be from Taylor and Francis. They would not lend their name to something less than serious.

Xidias taught me about a branch of the social sciences called nationalism studies with distinct schools: the ‘modernists’ with Anderson its the most influential representative and ‘ethno-symbolists’ believing that nations and nationalism are rooted pre-modern conditions with Anthony Smith (2000) its most prominent proponent. Xidias (2017, 73-74) concludes: ‘One particularly promising area for future exploration is the rise of imagined communities through social media. The mobilization of different causes through platforms such as Facebook and Twitter will likely attract more and more scholarly interest in the coming years.’

What I have not found mentioned is multi-lingualism creating new, overlapping ‘imagined communities‘.Like so many others in research, business and administration, the group at Delft University of Technology I am attached to is international, speaking many languages but sharing a command of English. No big deal! They are of course nothing like Anderson’s imagined communities. However, each one also has multiple – and multi-lingual – networks, presumably creating overlapping loyalties. They are part of communities formed, not only through the printing press, but through the ether. Not an original thought, but what does their prevalence mean for nationalism?

 

References:

Anderson, B. (2006, [1983]) Imagined Communities (Revised 3rd edition) Verso, London, New York.

Faludi, A. (2020 [2018]) The Poverty of Territorialism:  A Neo-Medieval View of Europe and European Planning, Edgar Elgar, Cheltenham, UK, Northampton, MA, USA.

Smith, A. (2000) The Nation in History: Historiogeographical Debates about Ethnicity and Nationalism, University Press of New England, New Haven.

Xidias, J. (2017) An Analysis of Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, Macat International, London.

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