By Margar Sleeboom
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Additional info for Academic Nationalism in China and Japan: Framed in Concepts of Nature, Culture and the Universal (Nissan Institute Routledge Japanese Studies Series)
It is a shift from social relations to cultural images. Here Anderson’s thesis, unlike Douglas’ argument, makes scale a central issue; not on the basis of some presumed correlation between size, efficiency and reason, but on that of the semiotic technology required for maintaining a sense of cohesion. Douglas’ analysis seems to imply that symbols themselves are powerful and therefore effective no matter on what scale. However, the symbols themselves are not so much the carriers of magic as the triggers of effects.
Thus the Chinese media daily report on the respect paid at state visits by state leaders from all corners of the world usually depicted as ravishingly successful and full of promises of success. Of great strategic importance are ‘significant others’, that is, international reference groups on to which powerful images of strength and morality are projected. Such reference groups can be both negative and positive. 7 When protest groups turn up just as foreign dignitaries are being received with stately honours, these groups are likely to be damned by rulers as a great nuisance.
Benedict Anderson’s thesis on imagined communities describes this up-scaling of the level of daily relations as a process in which people move from a social to a cultural understanding of loyalty (Anderson 1995). It is a process of progressive reification, in which social immediacy makes room for cultivated imagination (Anderson 1995: 37–46). At the level of state policy, systematic and large-scale organizations are liable to such reification. For example, the creation of a national language from a dialect that has adapted successfully is an effective tool and symbol of unification.
Academic Nationalism in China and Japan: Framed in Concepts of Nature, Culture and the Universal (Nissan Institute Routledge Japanese Studies Series) by Margar Sleeboom