Thursday, April 08, 2004

Benedict Anderson on eastern and western nationalisms

This from Daily Times of Pakistan (!). Perhaps the high point is the anecdote at the end of the short essay:

About four years ago I taught a graduate seminar at Yale University on nationalism, and at the outset I asked every student to state their national identity, even if only provisionally. There were three students in the class who, to my eyes, seemed to be ‘Chinese’ from their facial features and skin colour. Their answers surprised me and everyone else in the room. The first, speaking with an absolutely West Coast American accent, firmly said he was ‘Chinese’, though it turned out he was born in America and had never been to China. The second quietly said he was ‘trying to be Taiwanese’. He came from a KMT family that had moved to Taiwan with Chiang Kai-shek in 1949, but was born in Taiwan, and identified there: so, not ‘Chinese’. The third said angrily, ‘I’m a Singaporean, dammit. I’m so tired of Americans thinking I’m Chinese, I’m not!’ So it turned out the only Chinese was the American.

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