Anderson’s Imagined Communities

This was truly a fascinating read. The way Anderson defined community and outlined the development of imaginary communities was illuminating. Essentially Anderson argues that “nationalism” is a relatively modern way to define communities and is ultimately a rather arbitrary method of categorization. Though Anderson did an effective job arguing his point this is a concept that is difficult to reiterate–nationality is a widely accepted premise that connects us to a huge amount of people in spite of the fact that these are people that we never will meet or interact with. Anderson then goes and breaks down the factors that created this phenomena including religion, language, historiography, and the development of print media.

I particularly liked the comparison between nationalism and organized religion. It’s interesting how the decline of religion in Western Europe during the Enlightenment was contemporary with the rise in nationalism. It affirms the idea that people need to feel connected and a part of something–anything–larger than themselves even when it defies realism.

This reading left me to wonder how far this idea of the imaginary community could be broken down. In the United States, smaller groups identify as states even though people in those states cannot possibly interact with every other member of the states. In addition, those states can be divided into counties which are then chunked into cities, towns, and villages. All of these communities are simply geographic places and it is unlikely that even in the smallest unit (towns, villages, hamlets, etc.) that everyone will meet everyone. As those units grow smaller and smaller, the borders that divide them become more and more porous, confusing, and logistically unnecessary yet still remain important factors in how people define themselves. I am a Methuenite, as well as a Massachusetts resident, as well as a New Englander, as well as an American. All of those descriptors bind me to a group of people to whom I have no other ties to besides the fact that we grew up in physical proximity to each other. These connections seem even more superficial when one takes into account the amount of diversity that exists in these imagined communities. As proven by the current political climate there is no guarantee that members in small communities with share the same values, priorities, religion, or language which could all be considered markers of a traditional community.

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