Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Language & Imagined Communities

As with many of the books I have read in graduate school, Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities leaves me unable to render a decisive verdict. Convincing arguments share space with questionable assertions. Some of my preconceived notions are challenged, a few reinforced, a number of them untouched. This, of course, has as much to do with my own non-systematic beliefs as it does with internal inconsistencies in the text.

Unlike many of the books I have read in graduate school, Imagined Communities is well-written.

"If every language is acquirable, its acquisition requires a real portion of a person's life: each new contest is measured against shortening days. What limits one's access to other languages is not their imperviousness but one's own mortality. Hence a certain privacy to all languages."

"What the eye is to the lover – that particular, ordinary eye he or she is born with – language – whatever language history has made his or her mother-tongue – is to the patriot. Through that language, encountered at mother's knee and parted with only at the grave, pasts are restored, fellowships are imagined, and futures dreamed."