MMC220 fourth

MMC304 Sociology of Communication
Race, Ethnicity, Nation and Media
Paradigms in the study of nations and
• It is possible to talk of four fundamental trends being
adopted on the analysis of nations and nationalism
the ‘primordialist’ approach
the ‘ethno-symbolist’ approach
The ‘modernist’ approach
The concept of as ‘banal nationalism’
• The term ‘primordial’ refers to what is primitive,
fundamental, original.
• the primordialist approach is used to refer to those
scholars who claim that nations are bedrocks of human
societies and that they have always been there, even
way before the modern times.
• These scholars formulate their arguments upon the
belief that nations are natural, given traits and that they
will always exist.
• The belief that nations were primordial entities
embedded in human nature has been strongly supported
by many distinguished European scholars until the post
second world war times.
• Even after this period, these arguments have preserved
their places within the field’s literature until 1960s
• Even though the primordialist paradigm has influenced
the field before Second World War times and have
functioned in forming a basis for its successors, today it
does not have much supporters and has lost its
popularity to a great extent.
• The term ethno-symbolic, in this context, is used to refer
to the way of thinking that links the modern nations of
our day with earlier, medieval forms of existences.
• The major scholar who can be seen as the
representative of the ethno-symbolic approach is
Anthony D. Smith
• Modern nations’ developments should be investigated
within a broad period of time.
• the emergence of modern nations cannot be fully
explained without paying attention to their ethnic pasts
and roots, because these scholars believe that the
modern nations of our era are the descendants of the
ethnic communities of the pre-modern epoch.
• the modernist approach marks those thinkers who relate
nations and nationalisms with the characteristics of the
modern epoch.
• It is suggested among the scholars who hold this view,
that nations are recent phenomena produced by the
outcomes of modernity.
“What is a Nation?”
• As a classic statement concerning the concepts
of nations and nationalism Ernest Renan says:
– A nation is a soul, a spiritual principle. Two things, which in truth
are but one, constitute this soul or spiritual principle. One lies in
the past, one in the present. One is the possession in common of
a rich legacy of memories; the other is present-day consent, the
desire to live together, the will to perpetuate the value of the
heritage that one has received in an undivided form [Renan,
1990, p.19].
“What is a Nation?”
• This 'will to live together' which Renan talks about,
usually does not exist in every circumstance as a given
phenomena, rather in many cases it has to be
constructed in the first place in order to be able to talk
about the formation of a nation.
• How might it be possible to construct, within a nation,
this will to live together?
• The major actors in this process are the components of
popular culture, such as, mass media, politics, sports,
traditions etc…
• They function towards formulating a will to live together
and gaining the consent of people towards this goal.
Three major characteristics of nations
• nations are to be understood as mental constructs.
• national identities (as any other social identity) are
produced, reproduced, transformed and shaped
discursively, by means of language and other textual
signifying systems.
• discursive constructions of nations and national identities
always run hand in hand with the “construction of
difference/distinctiveness and uniqueness” [Hall, 1996].
Nation as a social construct
• Nations, nationalisms and national identities are not
given, natural traits
• These phenomena are social constructs and most of the
time exploited for the benefits of certain groups or power
holders within societies
• Nations, as we’ve come to know them today, are socially
constructed ideologies and discourses incited by certain
political, economic, and social interests.
Nation as a social construct
• As being born into a certain culture, nation, religion, or a
family, one tends to identify oneself with these identities
forming the pre-constructed worlds that we find
ourselves living within.
• So, as Ernest Gellner argues, it is important to
understand that the notion of belonging to a nation or
having a nationality should not be seen as an “inherent
attribute of humanity” [Gellner, 1983].
“The Invention of Traditions”
• According to Hobsbawm both the concepts of nation and
nationalism are social constructs, meaning, they are
products of `social engineering`.
• Throughout his attempts to analyze nations and
nationalism he draws much of his arguments from the
idea of `invention of traditions`.
• He suggests, “Traditions which appear or claim to be old
are often quite recent in origin and sometimes invented”
[1983, p.1].
“The Invention of Traditions”
• invented traditions form a bridge between the past and
the present, thus providing historic depth for the nation.
• It is with these invented traditions, Hobsbawm suggests,
that the modern nation transcends its shallow memoryless past (a history of one or two centuries at the most),
and presents itself as a rooted and historically rich
• The major constructed or invented components of the
nation and the idea of nationhood can be highlighted as
“fairly recent symbols or suitably tailored discourse (such
as ‘national history’)” [Hobsbawm, 1983, p.14].
Imagined Communities
• Benedict Anderson formulates his arguments upon the
basis that nations and nationalisms are cultural artefacts.
• Anderson’s theory suggests that nations are imagined
into existence by various human conventions.
• Anderson argues that a nation is imagined because, “the
members of even the smallest nation will never know
most of their fellow members, meet them, or even hear
of them, yet in the minds of each lives the images of their
communion” [Anderson, 1993, p.20].
Imagined Communities
• Within the contemporary world which we live in, this
process of imagining nations into existence, or
reproducing their legitimacies have been possible mostly
by the use of highly developed communication tools and
• While Anderson, in his book suggests that the
emergence and spread of modern nations have been
made possible by the capitalist print press, today the
reproduction and re-imagining of the nation and its
social, physical borders is mostly possible by the use of
mass media.
Nation as a transcendent unifier
• It is important to investigate how ethnic nationalism or
the ethnic sentiments of nations are both used and
reflected in the processes of socially constructing and
reproducing national identities.
• Nations, national cultures and national identities function
to formulate a sense of belonging and unity. National
identities usually tend to assimilate other peripheral
identities, melt them in one pot and evoke the sense of
• Thus, for the theory of nationalism to function
adequately, no ethnic, racial or religious origin/belonging
should disturb or distract the unifying role of nations.
• When referring to the importance of daily cultures for the existence of
nations, national identities and nationalisms, it is said that “nation as an
imagined abstract or subjective community needs to constantly remind itself
its own existence.
• This continuous process of remembering is fed by songs, dances, dialects,
traditions, habits, biases, and even fears, concerns and glooms” [Özkırımlı,
1999, p.226].
• Of course for many people this process is lived without much realization. In
other words this process of remembering and reminding takes place within
the natural dynamics of the society thus never being completely outright.
• Never the less, no matter how interwoven with the daily practices of the
members of the nation these small remindings are, it can be argued that
they result in the legitimization of the nation.
• Hence, it is with these “daily plebiscites” that national consciousness
becomes a way of perceiving the world and national identity turns into a way
of living.
Banal Nationalism
• Michael Billig uses the term ‘banal nationalism’ to
describe, “the ideological habits which enable the
established nations of the West to be reproduced” [Billig,
1995, p.6]
• His primary example is the ubiquity of the American flag
• it is precisely because these reminders are not
consciously noticed (and thereby opened to questioning
or interpretation) that they are powerful.
• people do not forget their nationalism. Instead,
nationalism is routinely ‘flagged’ in the media through
symbols like flags and language-involving phrases like
‘national interest’
Banal Nationalism
• Billig demonstrates the central role that nationalism plays
in the modern world, even if not always recognized as
• He suggests that nationalism exists at all times in less
visible forms which he defines as ‘banal nationalism.’
– In so many little ways, the citizenry are daily reminded of their
national place in the world of nations. However, this reminding is
so familiar, so continual, that it is not consciously registered as
reminding. The metonymic image of banal nationalism is not a
flag which is being consciously waved with fervent passion; it is
the flag hanging unnoticed on the public building [Billig, 1995,
Banal Nationalism
• the concept of banal nationalism conducts an articulation
of how identification with one's nation or country is
reinforced on a daily basis in the most subtle and
unnoticeable (and thus banal) manner:
– the weather maps in newspapers or on television which show
one's country highlighted in a different color, currency or postage
stamps containing patriotic motifs, the sculptures and portraits of
national heroes and saviors, pledging allegiance to the flag every
morning by school children, sports games of the national teams
Banal Nationalism
• The everyday, almost unconscious intake of socially and
psychologically loaded signs, symbols and signals can
be one factor in explaining how easily people come to
adopt nationalist ways of thinking, feeling and belonging
in ordinary times when everything is in track in addition
to times of crisis, such as wars and national
The fluidity of Identity
• Identities, speaking in general, whether it is ethnic,
national, cultural, etc. are not simply things that we attain
when we are born.
• In other words, as Hall states identities are not “literally
imprinted in our genes”, but rather “formed and
transformed within and in relation to representation”
(1996: 611-612).
• People of a certain community, or nation, are only able to
make sense of what it means to be Australian, Scottish,
Peruvian, Indonesian, etc. through the ways the
respective national cultures of these communities, or
nations, have represented as a set of meanings what it
actually is to be Australian, Scottish, Peruvian, etc.
The fluidity of Identity
• Hall extends his statement by expressing that the nation
is simply a symbolic community that is constructed
– “A national culture is a discourse, a way of constructing
meanings which influences and organizes both our actions and
our conception of ourselves. National cultures construct
identities by producing meanings about ‘the nation’, with which
we can identify; these are contained in stories that are told about
it, memories which connect its present with its past and images
which are constructed of it” (1996: 613).
‘Us’ vs ‘them’
Mass media and nationalism
• National identity is shortly a narrative; a story people tell
about themselves in order to lend meaning to their social
• Meaning, about “themselves” and the “others”, through
these stories result in the creation of an “imagined
community” (Anderson, 1991), with which one can
‘Us’ vs ‘them’
Mass media and nationalism
• The term “story”, can specifically account for
representations, symbols or discourses disseminating
via various channels throughout the society.
• As a means of reaching vast masses then, the role that
media plays in the (re)construction of national identities
through representations, discourses and symbols is
‘Us’ vs ‘them’
Mass media and nationalism
• While providing groups with national identities, the
mainstream media homogenize the differences within
the population in order to achieve a so-called unified
• However, providing uniqueness and sameness to
homogenize the differences is not enough for
constructing identities.
• Rather identities are constructed through defining what is
different, or to put it another way, defining whom the
“other” is (Hall, 1997: Woodward, 1997). Shortly, defining
the “other”, or who “we” are not, will give a sense of who
“we” are.
Us’ vs ‘them’
Mass media and nationalism
• While the media try to create a sense of belongingness
to a unified “imagined community” on one hand, they
exclude/distinguish the “others” that do not belong to this
so-called unity.
• This process of defining who belongs to the unified
“imagined community” and who does not is simply a
course of inclusion and exclusion (Schlesinger, 1991),
resulting in the creation of an oversimplified binary
opposition –“us” or “we” against “them” or “other”.
Us’ vs ‘them’
Mass media and nationalism
• Within his study Reljić (2001: 40-42) puts forth three
assumptions related to the role of media communication
that may be applied to all types of conflict. These
assumptions can shortly be listed as follow:
– Media communication is the fastest way of
overcoming spatial and temporal boundaries in the
building of national identities.
– Media communication is the most comprehensive
method for the construction of national identities.
– In situations of conflict preferred interpretations of the
collective memory, the national history, play a decisive
role in media communication.