Monday, September 14, 2009

Diaspora Communities As a Threat to Nationalism?

Both the Karim reading and the Waisbord reading present a unique perspective into the national identity crisis by examining the influence of two subjects: communication and Diaspora communities.

Waisbord begins by suggesting that for many communities, nationalism replaced religion as a form of identity, and that media was a vehicle through which new nationalistic ideas were promoted. The author argues there were two main communication mediums through which nationalism grew: print media, especially in Latin America, and radio. With the development of print technology, national figures and symbols became public and more prominent aspects of the nation-state. In addition, radio became a popular tool for nation building, as its “low barriers to entry” made it easily available and accessible for even developing nations. Thus, while these two forms of communication developed or publicized the nascent nationalism, both authors also claim that certain factors simultaneously threaten the identity of the nation-state: Diaspora communities.

What I found so interesting about these articles was the idea that Diaspora communities threaten national identity. Never before had I truly examined the extent to which Diaspora communities present an opportunity for nationalism revision. For example, Karim notes that “the European concept of the nation-state was loosely based on the idea of a shared ethnicity of the population that lived within a particular territory” (394). But if nation-states are based on ethnicity, how are the outlier communities factored in? Adversely, if a nation-state is based on national borders, as the Treaty of Westphalia suggests, then are the Diaspora communities living within the national boundaries part of the national identity? Thus, does an ethnically homogenous nation exist?

In my experiences, the nation-state with the strongest sense of nationalism is Italy. After spending a significant amount of time there, I noticed the xenophobic tendencies of Italians. Yes, Italy too has a large immigrant community, but the immigrants and Diaspora communities have not formed a strong culture or identity that questions the nationalism of Italy. Italian racism towards immigrants deters the Diaspora populations, in my opinion, from maintaining their former identities.

In conclusion, this week’s articles encouraged me to question the meaning of nationalism, and its development through the media. The media has become an essential tool in legitimizing components of a nationalistic identity, such as language, history, and fables. I was also prompted to question the affect of Diaspora communities on national identity. As ethnic conflicts continue to heighten, we must wonder; do the Diaspora communities threaten a state’s nationalism, or do they actually harness more pride in an effort to deter Diaspora identities?

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