Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson

I picked up this book because there were some questions that needed some answering. As the title suggest, the concept of nation is imagined. It is not concrete, there were many factors that can lead to nationalism and every country has it’s own path.

To name a few, the rise of mass printing and shared stories, the increase demand for public needs where a group of people need to be able organized themselves and not be subjected to a foreign language or ruler, or the shared pilgrimage of education which culminated in the capital city.

These factors lead us to believe that our story, and that of someone random and physically far away make us believe that our stories are the same, and that makes us a nation, and we would want to defend that

I keep on asking, if its all just imagined, and its all just a construct, then no ever really belong anywhere. Why is Indonesia and its 17,000 islands a nation? Why is China and Vietnam whose geographical location so close not a nation? How does it make the people feel that they’re part of a nation, and that they’re not part of the other nation? If we are on the border of 2 nations, we could have easily been one or the other. Does that mean anything? In countries where wars are still being fought like South Korea/North Korea, India/Pakistan, it means a lot more than say countries were they are peaceful with each other.

Anderson doesn’t really touch on these questions, he was asking a very different question on a macro level.

Reading this book brought me back to where i was before i started asking these questions, it doesn’t matter. Everything is a construct. There is no real definite answer. Where you were born largely determines your fate.

I was born in an Indonesian-Chinese family where the Chinese have not fully assimilated with the local community. We have created a construct with our shared stories on why we have come here, and why we are still here. If we go back to our original roots, to China, it is another social construct, a new one which have experienced the downfall of the monarchy, communism, the cultural revolution, and the fastest and biggest capitalistic reforms the world has ever seen. It is a different construct, different from when my ancestors immigrated from. Even China in itself is so big, 1.4 billion citizens each with their own different aspirations.

Like i said, Anderson was answering a very different question, it is interesting to read the book and to see how nations are formed. Maybe it given me something to think about, that maybe nation is not something anyone can really belong to, there is no real essence to it.

P.S. This book was really difficult for me to read, especially since many of the concepts and things i’m not familiar with. The author was trying to explain it as concise as possible within 140 pages which made the book very very dense. I believe it could have been 200 pages long, and i could have digest it easier.

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