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Benedict Anderson

Benedict Anderson

Overview
Benedict Richard O'Gorman Anderson (born August 26, 1936) is Aaron L. Binenkorb Professor Emeritus of International Studies, Government & Asian Studies at Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

, and is best known for his celebrated book Imagined Communities
Imagined communities
Imagined communities are a concept coined by Benedict Anderson. He believes that a nation is a community socially constructed, imagined by the people who perceive themselves as part of that group...

, first published in 1983. Anderson was born in Kunming
Kunming
' is the capital and largest city of Yunnan Province in Southwest China. It was known as Yunnan-Fou until the 1920s. A prefecture-level city, it is the political, economic, communications and cultural centre of Yunnan, and is the seat of the provincial government...

, China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 to James O'Gorman and Veronica Beatrice Mary Anderson, and in 1941 the family moved to California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

. In 1957, Anderson received a Bachelor of Arts
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 in Classics
Classics
Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...

 from Cambridge University, and he later earned a Ph.D.
Ph.D.
A Ph.D. is a Doctor of Philosophy, an academic degree.Ph.D. may also refer to:* Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*Piled Higher and Deeper, a web comic strip*PhD: Phantasy Degree, a Korean comic series* PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...

 from Cornell's Department of Government, where he numbered among the cadre of talented students from around the world drawn to Ithaca, New York, during the 1950s and early 1960s to study modern Indonesia under the guidance of George Kahin.
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Benedict Richard O'Gorman Anderson (born August 26, 1936) is Aaron L. Binenkorb Professor Emeritus of International Studies, Government & Asian Studies at Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

, and is best known for his celebrated book Imagined Communities
Imagined communities
Imagined communities are a concept coined by Benedict Anderson. He believes that a nation is a community socially constructed, imagined by the people who perceive themselves as part of that group...

, first published in 1983. Anderson was born in Kunming
Kunming
' is the capital and largest city of Yunnan Province in Southwest China. It was known as Yunnan-Fou until the 1920s. A prefecture-level city, it is the political, economic, communications and cultural centre of Yunnan, and is the seat of the provincial government...

, China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 to James O'Gorman and Veronica Beatrice Mary Anderson, and in 1941 the family moved to California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

. In 1957, Anderson received a Bachelor of Arts
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 in Classics
Classics
Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...

 from Cambridge University, and he later earned a Ph.D.
Ph.D.
A Ph.D. is a Doctor of Philosophy, an academic degree.Ph.D. may also refer to:* Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*Piled Higher and Deeper, a web comic strip*PhD: Phantasy Degree, a Korean comic series* PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...

 from Cornell's Department of Government, where he numbered among the cadre of talented students from around the world drawn to Ithaca, New York, during the 1950s and early 1960s to study modern Indonesia under the guidance of George Kahin. He is the brother of historian Perry Anderson
Perry Anderson
Perry Anderson is a British Leftist intellectual, historian, and political essayist. He is often identified with the post-1956 Western Marxism of the New Left in Europe. He is Professor of History and Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles and an editor of the New Left Review. He...

.

Biography


Anderson was born in 1936 in Kunming
Kunming
' is the capital and largest city of Yunnan Province in Southwest China. It was known as Yunnan-Fou until the 1920s. A prefecture-level city, it is the political, economic, communications and cultural centre of Yunnan, and is the seat of the provincial government...

, China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, to an Anglo-Irish father and English mother. He was brought up mainly in California, and after moving to Ireland, studied at Eton College
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

 and at the University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

. His graduate work in politics at Cornell resulted in a paper (the "Cornell Paper
Cornell Paper
A Preliminary Analysis of the October 1, 1965, Coup in Indonesia, more commonly known as the "Cornell Paper", is an academic publication detailing the events of an abortive coup d'état attempt by the self-proclaimed September 30 Movement, produced on January 10, 1966...

") detailing the political situation in Indonesia for which he was barred from the country.

He is best known for his book Imagined Communities
Imagined communities
Imagined communities are a concept coined by Benedict Anderson. He believes that a nation is a community socially constructed, imagined by the people who perceive themselves as part of that group...

, in which he systematically describes, using an historical materialist
Historical materialism
Historical materialism is a methodological approach to the study of society, economics, and history, first articulated by Karl Marx as "the materialist conception of history". Historical materialism looks for the causes of developments and changes in human society in the means by which humans...

 or Marxist
Marxist historiography
Marxist or historical materialist historiography is a school of historiography influenced by Marxism. The chief tenets of Marxist historiography are the centrality of social class and economic constraints in determining historical outcomes....

 approach, the major factors contributing to the emergence of nationalism
Nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 in the world during the past three centuries. Anderson defined a nation as "an imagined political community [that is] imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign".

Anderson is currently professor emeritus of International Studies
International studies
International Studies generally refers to the specific University Degrees and courses which are concerned with the study of ‘the major political, economic, social, cultural and sacral issues that dominate the international agenda’...

 at Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

, and head of its Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

n program. He is also widely regarded as an authority on twentieth-century Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

n history and politics. He has published widely on Thailand and the Philippines. As in the case of his work on Indonesia, his work on those countries is grounded in his formidable linguistic competence. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...

 in 1994.

Imagined Communities


Anderson argues that the main causes of nationalism and the creation of an imagined community are the reduction of privileged access to particular script languages (e.g. Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

), the movement to abolish the ideas of divine rule and monarchy
Monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

, as well as the emergence of the printing press
Printing press
A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium , thereby transferring the ink...

 under a system of capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 (or, as Anderson calls it, 'print-capitalism').

Anderson's view of nationalism places the roots of the notion of 'nation' at the end of the 18th century. While Ernest Gellner
Ernest Gellner
Ernest André Gellner was a philosopher and social anthropologist, described by The Daily Telegraph when he died as one of the world's most vigorous intellectuals and by The Independent as a "one-man crusade for critical rationalism."His first book, Words and Things —famously, and uniquely...

 considers the spread of nationalism in connection with industrialism in Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 (and thus not explaining sufficiently nationalism in the eastern non-industrialised European regions), Elie Kedourie
Elie Kedourie
Elie Kedourie C.B.E., FBA was a British historian of the Middle East. He wrote from a conservative perspective, dissenting from many points of view taken as orthodox in the field...

 connects nationalism with ideas of the Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

, with the French revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 and the birth of the centralised French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 state, Anderson contends that the European nation-state came into being as a response to nationalism in the European diaspora beyond the ocean, in colonies, namely in both Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

.

He considers nation state building as imitative action, in which new political entities were ‘pirating’ the model of the nation state. As Anderson sees it, the large cluster of political entities that sprang up in North America and South America between 1778 and 1838, almost all of which self-consciously defined themselves as nations, were historically the first such states to emerge and therefore inevitably provided the first real model of what such states should look like. If, for the more elite-centric theorizing of Kedourie, it was the Enlightenment and Kant
KANT
KANT is a computer algebra system for mathematicians interested in algebraic number theory, performing sophisticated computations in algebraic number fields, in global function fields, and in local fields. KASH is the associated command line interface...

 who produced the ‘nation’, Anderson holds that nationalism, as an instrument of nation-state building, began in the Americas and France. He calls this first wave nationalism, and ascribes to it a civic nationalist
Civic nationalism
Liberal Nationalism is a kind of nationalism identified by political philosophers who believe in a non-xenophobic form of nationalism compatible with liberal values of freedom, tolerance, equality, and individual rights. Ernest Renan and John Stuart Mill are often thought to be early liberal...

 character, differentiating it from the ethnic nationalism
Ethnic nationalism
Ethnic nationalism is a form of nationalism wherein the "nation" is defined in terms of ethnicity. Whatever specific ethnicity is involved, ethnic nationalism always includes some element of descent from previous generations and the implied claim of ethnic essentialism, i.e...

 of the second wave.

Nationalism and Print


Of particular importance to Anderson’s theory is his stress on the role of printed literature and its dissemination. The rise of nationalism is in Anderson's mind closely connected with the growth of printed books and with the technical development of print as a whole.

According to Anderson, a new emerging nation imagines itself to be antique. In this he somewhat takes the point of Anthony D. Smith
Anthony D. Smith
Anthony D. Smith is Professor Emeritus of Nationalism and Ethnicity at the London School of Economics, and is considered one of the founders of the interdisciplinary field of nationalism studies...

, who considers the nation-building mythology and national myths of the ‘origin‘ in rather functionalist terms—they are more invented narratives than real stories. Anderson supposes that ’antiquity’ was, at a certain historical juncture, the necessary consequence of ‘novelty’. Though after the 1820s, atavistic fantasizing characteristics of most nationalists appear an epiphenomenon: what is really important is the structural alignment of post 1820s nationalist ‘memory’ with the inner premises and conventions of modern biography
Biography
A biography is a detailed description or account of someone's life. More than a list of basic facts , biography also portrays the subject's experience of those events...

 and autobiography
Autobiography
An autobiography is a book about the life of a person, written by that person.-Origin of the term:...

.

Multi-ethnic Empires


Anderson, more than other theoreticians, focuses his attention on the official nationalism in multiethnic empires. He introduces an important concept: “naturalization” of Europe's dynasties that represented retention of power over huge polyglot domains.

Some of them, like the Romanov
Romanov
The House of Romanov was the second and last imperial dynasty to rule over Russia, reigning from 1613 until the February Revolution abolished the crown in 1917...

 empire, successfully transformed into “national” empires. According to Anderson, in the course of the 19th century, the philological-lexicographic revolution and the rise of nationalist movements, themselves the products not only of capitalism, but of the hypertrophy of the dynastic states, created increasing cultural and therefore political difficulties for many “dynasts”. Until that time the legitimacy of these dynasties had nothing to do with nationalness.

Yet those dynasties, for exclusively administrative purposes, tried to settle on certain print-vernaculars before the nationalist big bang. Simultaneously with the rise of nationalism in Europe, there were tendencies among Central and Eastern Europe
Central and Eastern Europe
Central and Eastern Europe is a term describing former communist states in Europe, after the collapse of the Iron Curtain in 1989/90. In scholarly literature the abbreviations CEE or CEEC are often used for this concept...

 and Balkan monarchies to re-identify themselves, to re-legitimise themselves on nationalist grounds. This will for re-identification caused, in fact, well-known crises of legitimacy of multiethnic empires. Dynasties and monarchies, re-identifying themselves as members of the particular ethno-linguistic group, lost their universalistic legitimacy and became only the most privileged members of the one large family.

Anderson's historical materialist approach may be contrasted with Liah Greenfeld
Liah Greenfeld
Liah Greenfeld is a professor of Political Science and Sociology and the Director of the Institute for the Advancement of the Social Sciences at Boston University....

's methodological individualist or Max Weber
Max Weber
Karl Emil Maximilian "Max" Weber was a German sociologist and political economist who profoundly influenced social theory, social research, and the discipline of sociology itself...

's approach in "Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity".

Indonesia


Anderson was banned from Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

 during the Suharto era because of his treatment of materials relevant to the overthrow of Sukarno. Wrote the Jakarta Post: "Anderson... was banned from entering Indonesia in 1973 after he and colleague Ruth McVey at Cornell produced a paper, known as the Cornell Paper
Cornell Paper
A Preliminary Analysis of the October 1, 1965, Coup in Indonesia, more commonly known as the "Cornell Paper", is an academic publication detailing the events of an abortive coup d'état attempt by the self-proclaimed September 30 Movement, produced on January 10, 1966...

 disputing Indonesia's claim that the Sept. 30, 1965 Movement
30 September Movement
The Thirtieth of September Movement ) was a self-proclaimed organization of Indonesian National Armed Forces members who, in the early hours of 1 October 1965, assassinated six Indonesian Army generals in an abortive coup d'état. Later that morning, the organization declared that it was in control...

 was the work of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI)." He returned to the country in 1999.

Selected works


In a statistical overview derived from writings by and about Benedict Anderson, OCLC
OCLC
OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. is "a nonprofit, membership, computer library service and research organization dedicated to the public purposes of furthering access to the world’s information and reducing information costs"...

/WorldCat
WorldCat
WorldCat is a union catalog which itemizes the collections of 72,000 libraries in 170 countries and territories which participate in the Online Computer Library Center global cooperative...

 encompasses roughly 100+ works in 400+ publications in 20+ languages and 7,500+ library holdings.
  • Some Aspects of Indonesian Politics under the Japanese Occupation: 1944-1945 (1961)
  • Mythology and the Tolerance of the Javanese (1965)
  • A Preliminary Analysis of the October 1, 1965, Coup in Indonesia (1966)
  • Java in a Time of Revolution; Occupation and Resistance, 1944-1946 (1972)
  • Religion and Social Ethos in Indonesia (1977)
  • Interpreting Indonesian Politics: Thirteen Contributions to the Debate (1982)
  • Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (1983)
  • In the Mirror: Literature and Politics in Siam in the American Era (1985)
  • Language and Power: Exploring Political Cultures in Indonesia (1990)
  • The Spectre of Comparisons: Nationalism, Southeast Asia, and the World (1998)
  • Violence and the State in Suharto's Indonesia (2001)
  • Debating World Literature (2004)
  • Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination (2005)

Honors

  • Association for Asian Studies
    Association for Asian Studies
    The Association for Asian Studies is a U.S. society focused on facilitating contact and information exchange among scholars of Asian fields. It is the self-proclaimed largest society of its kind. The Association consists of eminent Asianists, and is a non-profit organization...

     (AAS), 1998 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies

External links