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The Nation As An "Imagined Community"

August 21, 2016

 

The following is an adapted piece from a presentation series featured at Yale University's Young Global Scholars Program for high school students in the study of international affairs and security. 

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Nation — imagined communities


We all have nationalities, look at everyone here: they come from different countries and have different [physical characteristics] colors of skin, speak different languages and have different believes. In short, they belong to different nations.
But if you think nations are just about these physical attributes, and is one of our intrinsic feature you are wrong. 


In the 16th century, a lot of Spanish colonists came to South America, and hundreds years later, many of those Spanish colonists, who shared the same physical feature, the same language and same religion, started to fight against the Spanish rule. They started to believe that Spain is actually a foreign country, and they actually belong to the nation of Peru or Columbia. The Spanish should get out because they are not the same nation as us. And that was the beginning of the spread of nationalism. Before that, counterintuively, people did not even know what nations were.


Another example would be the formation of Indonesia. There are over 17,000 islands in this country, with more than 100 languages and numerous of conflicts and resentment. However, in the 20th century, they suddenly found that they are Indonesians. The interesting thing is, they even believe and have “proven" that the nation of Indonesia has a history of over 3,000 years. 


So what is a nation? According to Benedict Anderson, it is only a imagined community. Yes, that’s right. If we consider nations as the congregation of physically spiritually similar human beings, there are always exceptions. However, it’s against intuition, because people are good at rationalizing their ideas. If they realize that the nations they devout their lives to are imagined, there would be serious disillusionment and our subconsciousness wouldn’t let that happen. As a result, we always see people saying that their nations are the greatest one, and they would devote their life for her revival.
This imagined community is derived from the development of capitalism and printing technology, However, although it’s imagined, we cannot say it’s fictitious, it still has huge effect on us,  the [students of the Yale Young Global Scholars Program]. I noticed that in the dining hall, we often sit by our nationality, and it seems that it’s easier to make friends with people of the same nationality. We are among the best of the youth in the world who definitely have global perspective, but still, we can hardly escape the cage of nationalism. [Yale Young Global Scholars] is providing an excellent platform for international communication, and I believe we should try our best to eliminate this unnecessary barrier.


To the same goal, I have initiated program called PHistory, and we wrote and  articles on the Internet to provide a different perspective on controversial social issues, which already have hundreds of readers. We also manage forums every week at school to help everyone develop a global perspective about history and reality. Now we are trying to expand our influence to other nations, and please contact jasonhu200046@gamil.com if you are interested to use your own knowledge to influence more people and even change the world.
 

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