Spectacular Nationism in Colombia: Making War Make Sense
Universidad de los Andes
This article argues that the modernist perspective of the nation as an ‘imagined community’ outlined in the classic thesis of Benedict Anderson fails to understand why people would kill and die for countries. This stems from the inability to grasp how men and women perceive their nations. It may be sufficient for social scientists to understand the nation as an ‘imagined community’, but nobody would kill or die for such a thing. This paper addresses the relationship between the nation and sacrifice – a soldier’s willingness to kill and die for his country.
Lobo suggests that looking at what people such as Abbe de Sieyes, Ernest Renan, and Pericles said about the nation and sacrifice puts us on the right track for understanding the relation. Reflecting on their words, we get a sense not only of what the nation is in a political science sense, but of what the nation qua community is in the minds of people: something glorious, great, and therefore compelling. Pericles' words embody this paper's main claim: that the existence of a solidarious, even virtuous community – in modern terms, a nation – is demonstrated by virtue of people’s willingness to die for it.
The author argues that Colombians have not perceived their nation in this way, suggesting that although Colombia is recognized as a nation and Colombians are quick to proclaim their national pride, there is in fact little social solidarity in Colombia. However, current public advertising campaigns try to persuade Colombians otherwise.
Lobo looks at the “Heroes really do exist in Colombia” marketing campaign, which includes television commercials, billboards, and print media. They represent an attempt to create or conjure up the national conscience out of (almost) nothing. More specifically, the commercials are engaged the spectacular production of nationism – not nationalism, because there is plenty of that already in Colombia. Nationalism is understood as a superficial, almost reflexive affirmation of national identity and pride. Nationism may be understood as a deeper, fundamental and perhaps a priori belief in the nation as such – as a historical force and entity in its own right.
This paper offers an ideology critique of Colombia’s ongoing media campaign to recruit martyrs for the nation. A contextually rich analysis is juxtaposed with the ancient – yet persisting – exaltation of national sacrifice as the ultimate proof for the nation’s actual existence.