Saturday, September 12, 2009

National Awareness

Silvio Waisbord’s article highlights an interesting discussion on the current interaction between media and nationalism. I see media enhancing nationalism by drawing attention to it. In this respect, I suggest changing the wording of Waisbord’s title from Reinvention (which implies a change from a previous form) to Rediscovery (which implies a closer examination of something already established).

This rediscovery involves nationalism becoming more defined when societies come in closer contact with different nations. This interaction, which has been intensified by advances in transportation and media technology, allows us to see more clearly what makes our nation unique (including symbols, history, values, rituals) and further bind us to it.

Weaver discussed this in his reflections at Aoyama Gakuin University in 2007. He says, “Increasingly we become more aware of other cultures and our own. As a result our own culture becomes more important to us.” (Weaver, p11) He also gives the example of Fela Kuti from Nigeria who said he did not know what it meant to be African until he left Africa.

These examples support the idea that interactions with other nations help us more clearly define our own sense of nationalism. Media has increased the speed and volume of these interactions making the world smaller and putting nations in closer communication that ever before.


  1. I like your idea that a more appropriate title for Waisbord's article might be "Rediscovery." I can definitely relate to the feeling of knowing your own national culture more fully when you are away from it. When I studied in France, I was constantly aware of being American--the way I dressed, how I did my hair, my frustrations with French bureaucracy, to say nothing of my accent when I spoke French (which got better over time, but that's another story). However, I mostly didn't mind the feeling of sticking out, because it did make me feel closer to my nationality. This was especially evident when people would assume I was British or Irish. While I wasn't surprised at that assumption, it raised another point--although people from different countries can look physically similar, their national identities make them very different. My time abroad definitely taught me a lot about my culture. Unlike the Nigerian, Fela Kuti, I do think I knew what it meant to be American prior to going abroad, but being in Europe heightened my awareness and made me "rediscover" the essence of my nationality.

  2. I also found the idea of discovering your own culture by living outside of it to be a relatable theme from the last two weeks' reading assignment. However for me, spending time outside the US has not really helped me better define what American culture is but rather what American culture is not. I'm not sure if anyone else has had a similar discovery while living outside of their own country. I'm particularly wondering if this is a phenomenon exclusive to countries that are very internally diverse. For instance, an Asian-American from the West Coast would have a very different definition of American culture than a Cuban-American from Miami. Also, during my times abroad, I felt more of a connection with people from rural areas in foreign countries than I often do with Americans from urban areas, Is this an indication of different cultures in rural areas vs. urban areas within a country? Which brings up another question, across what lines should culture be defined?