Nation Building

Southeast Asia Reading Seminar
Professor Eric Jones
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Michelle Mason

The Meaning of Nation for Citizens through Language

The concept and purpose of a nation has been pondered by philosophers, historians, sociologists, as well as anthropologists for centuries.   Can there truly be a nation?   How is a nation controlled?   What are the political boundaries of a nation?   These are questions that all academics in these various fields and other fields have tried to answer.   In his work, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Benedict Anderson attempts to answer these questions regarding the plight of a nation, and the impact that nationalism has had on the psyche of humans.   He pays particular interest to the ideology of the "emotional legitimacy" humans have given to the creation and mechanisms of a nation.1   Whether it be through language, religion, or monuments, nations utilize these devices to organize and mobilize the citizens of the nation.   In the case of language, Anderson bases most his argument of nationhood on this element of culture, which spans a great scope and breadth of subject matters.
Why monarchies rose and why monarchies declined; why the Creole population of Latin America rebelled against European power; to, why racism was created through varying levels of class; according to Anderson, all centers around language and terminology.   Is this a simplistic view to be able to meander through numerous loosely tied associations, or a truly astute view of the power language has over humankind?   At first, one might agree with the former, due to the divergent tangents Anderson finds within all forms of the nation-state, but upon closer appraisal, Anderson has taken the tool of language, which over time has served to generate and erode commands of nations.   Throughout this work, Anderson points to the movement of Enlightenment in Europe as a great catalyst to the movement of the nation....