Unimagined Communities 2

in the commential below, barbara writes:

A couple of things: isn’t Benedict Anderson big on Filipino (Philippines-based, versus Fil Am) literature? I think he is. If that is the case, then I really don’t know so well the lit of that time in the Philippines, which dealt with Spain or North America, since we are talking about former colonial powers. I do know of anti-Martial Law lit, which I relate to the anti-US/Philippine “special relations,” so if that’s the case, then like you, I wonder what he was not reading.

Last thing: I wonder if in Philippine lit, he read any strong Catholicism as pro-colonial love, even though Philippine Catholicism also has ties to revolutionary movements.

Maybe he was chastising post-colonial writers for not being anti-colonial enough, which is to say, anti-colonial by his definition/standards. That’s problematic.

Re: “master narrative” which it seems to me he is forwarding even though I really think his agenda (given what little I know about him) was not to forward it – I’ll go with Flavor Flav on this – yo, don’t believe the hype!


i dont know about anderson’s other work, but in Imagined Communities (IC) he writes about rizal (Noli Me Tangere & the poem Ultimo Adios) and francisco balagtas. anderson mainly cites rizal to show how the novel creates a sense of time that shows the ‘simultaneity of homogeneous, empty time’ (which is, imagined by anderson, a precise analogue for the idea of the nation) and how the poem expresses love-against-all-odds for the nation.

it seems fine to say that rizal is a nationalist writer (tho that’s a bit reductionist). but it’s completely problematic to then say that all novels create this analogue and that most cultural forms express love for the nation (as he does in the excerpt in the post below)–and this is of course presupposing his imaginary of the nation.

this leads me to the title of this blog: anderson isn’t able to imagine the vast array of cultural forms that absolutely do express fear and loathing about nation-building projects. those unimagined communities just fit neatly into the borders of anderson’s imaginary of imagined communities.



2 thoughts on “Unimagined Communities 2

  1. OK yeah I see what you mean. Definitely the literary period he is referencing is important, i.e. has nothing to do with Martial Law lit, Bulosan, et al. This is also what his former student backchanneled to me.

    I agree with this: “…and this is of course presupposing his imaginary of the nation.” That is, I understand Rizal’s “love of nation” as also an expression of disgust about that nation’s state of corruption and violent suppression.

    Balagtas also was a “political” poet, wasn’t he? At least, the form named after him, the Balagtasan (something like poetry slam, no?), is a form which lends itself to political debate about the state of the nation.

  2. “I understand Rizal’s “love of nation” as also an expression of disgust about that nation’s state of corruption and violent suppression.”

    totally…anderson, tho, subsumes this disgust within the overarching love of nation he sees in rizal.

    eh, i dont know anything about balagtas. but anderson uses him as counterpoint to rizal–that balagtas’ work is not nationalistic. he even says that there isn’t much ‘filipino’ about his text.

    the literary reference point is important too, as you mention, as anderson sticks tight to a nation-building period. what’s odd though, is that later in the book he writes: “Nations […] have no clearly identifiable births, and their deaths, if they ever happen, are never neutral.” Because of this, one must write the biography of the nation “up time” in a “curious inversion of conventional genealogy” starting from an “originary present”.

    if we translate this national biography to literary criticism, then it just doesn’t make sense for him to ONLY look at literature of a nation within an insular historical moment. that is, it makes more sense to look at the changing literature of nation thru time and diasporic space (thinking here about the development of both Filipino lit and Fil-am lit) to truly understand how culture production shapes the idea of a nation. clearly anderson doesnt do this because it would complicate his theory beyond his imaginary–but it seems to me that any imaginary of nation building must account for these complexities.

    it’s funny because as i was reading imagined communities, esp the part of cultural forms, i was thinking of your recent posts about “American poetry” and you draw attention to what is often excluded from the imaginary of American poetry (emphasis on the nationalist adjective).


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