MMC304 Sociology of Communication Race, Ethnicity, Nation and Media Paradigms in the study of nations and nationalism • 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’ primordialism • 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. primordialism • 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. ethno-symbolism • 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 notion. • 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 systems. • 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 togetherness. • 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 nationalism. • 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, p.8]. 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 etc. 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 mobilizations. 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 discursively: – “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 world. • Meaning, about “themselves” and the “others”, through these stories result in the creation of an “imagined community” (Anderson, 1991), with which one can identify. ‘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 significant. ‘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 entity. • 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.