Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The Power of One Image in the Diaspora
It is clear from the readings this week that conceptualizations of nation-states and nationalism within the ‘global public sphere’ are altering quickly just as fast as constant flows are being transmitted to and from spaces. Karim expounds that nation are becoming more and more imagined, particularly in diasporic communities. From my experience working with disaporic communities, I was particularly fascinated by Karim’s article. The world environment today allows people (within in their agency) to reconnect with their homeland from a far. In an anthropology class I took an undergrad, we read an entire book on how there is a strong west African diasporic community here in Washington, D.C. I remember reading about how in the capital city of Freetown, Sierra Leone there is a large tree that is of little importance to Sierra Leonians living in Africa. Traditionally, the tree represents freedom and growth. The diasporic community here in DC uses this one image to imagine and reaffirm their nationalism and cultural rituals, values, and attitudes. What I found to be most interesting was that this image conquered up these feelings most strongly for the older generation, but that was born in America did not understand, to the same extent of the older generation, what it meant. At the end of the day, nationalism proved to be considerably harder to distinguish for the younger generations. As we know, today’s youth are more high tech than ever and increased communication and information does infiltrate one’s culture or worldview to some extent. Finally, I think it would be fascinating to meet some of the people that were interviewed in this ethnography to hear what they think of nationalism in the 21st century.