« Journal 1 | Main | Journal 1 »

Journal 2

Journal 1
April 10, 2008

In class, April 3, we began discussing chapter ten of Benedict Anderson’s book Imagined Communities. The chapter is composed of three main points: The census, the map, and the museum. For the most part, the class had hardly considered the possibility of these three things being tools which are used to develop and promote a ‘national identity.’ In order to gain a better idea of how that is possible, we discussed first the historical context into which these three elements of nationalism were introduced. Through the use of a map and a bit of background information on the countries which were colonizing the area of Southeast Asia, we came to a better basic understanding of the premises surrounding the growth and promotion of these elements of nationalism.

The first question we encountered was brought up after reading the second paragraph on page 163: How is it that the rise of nationalism can be so directly linked to the map, the census, and the museum, creations of the colonizers, if the colonizers themselves were the ones who were attempting to discourage nationalism? As we broke into our small groups, we were prompted to consider anything that might help us understand the “grammar? of the opposing sides, the colonizers and the colonized, as well as the effects of colonialism even after the colonizers had been displaced - the lingering effects colonialism on the nationalist movement.
Through our smaller group discussions as well as through the synthesis of these in a larger class discussion, we were able to identify a number of ‘grammatical’ signifiers that helped many of us come to better grasp the concepts within the chapter, as well as the role of the three elements – the census, the map, and the museum – within nationalism.

Anderson defines the three aforementioned elements as “institutions of power? (163). Although they were not created just at the time of colonization, it is the first time that they can be seen as used so directly covertly assert the dominance of the ruling “power? over the native people of the territories that were colonized. It is important to note the covert nature of each “institution? because its true effect was not only evident to the natives, but also to the colonizers. Anderson’s chapter revolves around the idea that although the colonizers and the native people of these regions were fighting for control, they both embraced these “institutions? as justification for each party’s right to the territory. This is the discrepancy in ‘grammar’ that Anderson refers to throughout the chapter; while each party was arguing toward opposite directions, they were both pointing to the same elements and artifacts to justify their right.

First Anderson discusses the census. This institution is what enabled the colonizers to define “the nature of the human beings it ruled? (164). By breaking down, separating, and singling out the various people within the territories, the colonizers were able to identify and accentuate the differences amongst the people, and therefore classify them in a way that the native people themselves would have possibly overlooked or simply ignored otherwise. Though this is not the case to every degree, the census enabled the native people themselves to identify with other people within their group and separate themselves from the ‘other’ that was now classified as being outside of that group. This was the first in developing a national identity. Even though nationalism was the very thing that the colonizers fought to discourage, their own classification of the people let the people themselves identify the colonizers as an outside ‘other’ and thus an opposing force.

The next institution detailed is the map. By defining and outlining the territories and creating imaginary lines draped across the land, the colonizers accentuated “the geography of its dominion? (164). This took the groups of people outlined by the census and gave them a place that they were allowed to call theirs, when in actuality the colonizers would define it as their own as well. These lines were drawn by the colonizing parties, but they were assigned to the groups that lived there, whether the agreed or not. Quickly, as the generations changed, they began to identify with those boundaries instead of oppose and work against them. The colonizers themselves had defined and created the fighting ring in which the match for control was to take place.

Lastly, through the promotion of the museum, the colonizers were able to justify “the legitimacy of [the country’s] ancestry? (164). The country itself was something created along with the institution of borders, and yet the people native to these regions identified with the artifacts of their own culture within those museums. When that culture and those artifacts were assigned to that region, it reaffirmed the initial feeling of identity that was created with the censuses and maps. All three of these institutions were manifestations of the colonizers power over the people, but they were accepted by the people and turned around to justify their argument for their own national identity – the thing in which the colonizers were trying to inhibit with these institutions. The two sides were both pushing for different causes, but using the same tools fight the battle against each other.