« Journal 1 | Main | Journal 2 »

Journal 1

Journal #2

The reading for this week was the second reading in Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities. The chapter was segmented into three different sections: Censuses, Maps, and Museums. The class went into detail on how these forms of citation were useful, what they were used for, and the significance of their existence in terms of the classification and segregation of peoples and states.

The first section discussed was the Census. Up until the invention of the census, there were no accurate counts of any number of people. Everyone must be documented. The main point to make about this new method of counting individuals was that it not only recorded their existence, but also put them in categories. This made censuses extremely political, as they could define individuals and effectively change their identity in the eyes of the state. Censuses were developed to create an easier way for the taxation of people within a certain area of rule.

The second section was about the creation of Maps. Maps were a way of documenting area. Up until this time, there was just a vague sense of the area in ones vicinity. Maps now defined areas of ownership and rule. Early maps were more horizontal, giving an idea of the way the surrounding area looked from a particular point. They also gave specific coordinates to area of land that has no one has known about up until this time. This stemmed from the idea that an area did not “exist? until it was bounded.

The third and final section of the chapter discussed the creation of Museums. Museums kept a variety of historical documents and artifacts in hopes to retain a connection to the past. These places were often more educational and the only of the three new creations to emphasize the need for educational aspect of documentation and categorization.


One easy mistake that could be made when looking at this chapter is to look at each of these sections as completely separate ideas. Although they are split up into different sections, The Census, The Map, and The Museum are all a way to categorize individuals completely and utterly in every way possible. According to Anderson, this created a grid of thinking, defined as:

The ‘warp’ of this thinking was a totalizing classificatory grid, which could be applied with endless flexibility to anything under the state’s real or contemplated control: peoples, regions, religions, languages, products, monuments, and so forth. The affect of the grid was always to be able to say of anything that it was this, not that; it belonged here, not there. It was bounded, determinate, and therefore--in principle--countable (Anderson 184).

In addition to this separation, these devices are able to give way to new categories which did not exist previously, only furthering the idea that the grid was a total and all encompassing entity.

The first of the three sections deals with Censuses. This was a new way of recording all peoples within a certain area. One of the most interesting aspects of censuring, is that is forces every single person to be put into a category. No longer could there be question as to where an individual belonged. If a person wasn’t able to fit within the categories provided, then a new segment was made. However, this classification was often very different from the old ways of classification. For example, there was an instance in colonial times where “the [native] court classified people by rank and status, where the ‘Dutch’ court did so by race. This caused many problems in determining the differences between different people.

The second of the sections deals with Maps. Maps were created in order to relate what one sees in relation to everything else around him or in the world. What is most interesting about the creation of maps is that certain areas undiscovered were suddenly accounted for. This was, in a sense, the creation of new area since its existence was previously unknown. According to Anderson, “a map was a model for, [not] a model of, what it was meant to represent? (Anderson 173). This marked the ability for man to create area, bound area, that had never existed before. Also, it was another was of arbitrarily categorizing people by putting imaginary lines through land. Where there exists nothing visible, there is actually a division.

The Museum was the last of the three sections. This way of cataloging the history and all past data and objects for a certain state/area was extremely valuable. The manner of categorizing also begot new sections for individuals to be divided into. Previously uncategorized peoples were now put into sections. Also, since the state controlled the museums, they were able to relay history in a way that may or may not have been entirely accurate or truthful.

The Census, the Map, and the Museum are all extremely valuable forms of categorization. They were a way of collecting and sorting all information. Also, these ways of categorization were not only a means of sorting what is, but creating areas to put previously undefined data through the past, the present, and the future.