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Nations Are Best Seen as Imagined Communities

Autor:   •  November 21, 2018  •  Essay  •  1,128 Words (5 Pages)  •  134 Views

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Question 1: Nations are best seen as imagined communities

Nationalism is the order of society in present times. In almost all facets of life, the nation has one of the highest priorities. However, in spite of its importance in all areas of life, the concept of the nation and all that stems from it is relatively recent, having become a global trend since the late eighteenth century.

Countries and nations have been in existence for a relatively short time. With the exception of a few notable nations that have been in existence for far longer, many of the nations existing today were officially formed from the late eighteenth century onwards. The nation is formed from the fundamental idea that a group of people living in one geographic location necessarily share some commonalities. The nation simply groups these common characteristics together and claims the territory in which they exist. However, the idea of the nation is subject to a number of weaknesses. In light of this, nations can best be described as imagined communities.

To prove this statement, there is a need to first define an ‘imagined community’ and differentiate it from a real community. The definition of a real community can be derived from the characteristics of communities and societies before the advent of the modern nation-state. Communities were formed largely on the basis of a common characteristic or a common goal. In prehistoric times, communities were formed in order to receive advantages and benefits that were not available to people when living in isolation. Such benefits included security, food, social interactions such as they were, and reproduction. In essence, prehistoric communities were formed to address real-world issues; issues that were essential to the survival of the individual. A real community can thus be described as a collection of individuals brought together in response to a certain aspect of survival. The geographic location of such a community was as well a function of the purpose of the community’s formation.

An imagined community is the antithesis of a real community. Its formation is the direct opposite of a real community. While in a real community purpose informed form and location, in an imagined community, location and form informed purpose. That is, geographic location was the determinant as to who would belong to this community and what the purpose of the community would be. When maps were drawn, no heed was paid to other characteristics of a community. An excellent example is the colonization of Africa. Africa is home to hundreds of ‘real communities’ brought together by a common characteristic (such as language). The present boundaries of African countries were mostly drawn up by colonialists and the preservation of real communities was not a priority. Such an exercise resulted in conflict among real communities and the forced nationalism, creating the foundation for disastrous conflicts such as the Rwanda Genocide, and the ongoing situation in the Sudans.


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