Re-Imagined Communities: Benedict Anderson in the Twenty-First Century
Organized by the Representing Migration and Mobility research network (part of the School's Languages, Cultures and Ideologies research unit), this symposium, held on 4th July, examined the legacy and continued relevance of Benedict Anderson’s theories of the ‘imagined community’, nearly thirty years after the seminal text appeared. The one-day event brought together scholars from across the UK and overseas, exploring the import of Anderson’s work in navigating cultural studies and political and social realities globally.
The importance of digital media in shaping imagined communities was explored in two papers. Esther Whitfield (Brown University) discussed the ways in which the emergence of digital newspapers and blogs in Cuba created a new imagined community of Cubans both on the island and in the wider diaspora, whilst Rachael Langford (Cardiff University) outlined part of a Leverhulme Trust-funded research project, focusing on online photographic archives of Belgians who were formerly colonial administrators and settlers in the Belgian Congo.
Anderson’s relevance in the Italian context was explored through Mario Prisco’s (St Andrews University) paper on the post 9/11 dichotomy between Islam and the West in Lakhous’ novel Divorzio all’italiana, in which the immigrant and host communities are imagined through the eyes of an Italian and an Egyptian immigrant, and through Naomi’s Wells’ (Leeds University) discussion of the competing and conflicting linguistic identities in the Italian nation state, in which Friulian and Sardinian languages compete with the national language in shaping identity.
The political significance of Anderson’s notion of the imagined community was analysed through Roy Smith’s (Nottingham Trent University) questioning of whether an imagined community can still exist for a post-territorial state, as atolls such as Tuvalu begin to disappear, but can retain economic independence through fisheries and internet domain rights, and through Natalia Bremner’s (Leeds University) discussion of the youth movements and new conceptualisations of the Mauritian state in 2011-12.
Geraldine Lublin (Swansea University) indicated the shifting value of the imagined community, discussing the differing ways in the ways in which the Welsh community in Patagonia imagined itself as part of the Patagonian national identity during the centenary in 1910 and the bi-centenary in 2010.
The high-quality papers prompted stimulating discussions across disciplinary, historical and national/geographical boundaries, and provided further impetus for the development of RMM’s projects exploring representations of community, identity and mobility.