The Concept Of National Identity

Though national identity is currently a matter of much-agonized discussion in almost all nations, the discourse is hindered by several questionable assumptions such as the notion that national identity is different from others and changes by intercultural borrowing which is the primary or significant source of political authority, the primary task of the state is to protect it, and that national identity determines the boundaries of permissible diversity.

National identity is one of those ideas, such as political culture, which scholars adopted from the social sciences quite casually and use for their intentions promiscuously.

As many have stated, the concept of national identity is dynamic and differs with time and place in complexity, character, and history. Smith (1991) claims that identity exists in two forms: the person and the collective are sometimes hindered by national identity and ethnic discussions. Collective identities are comprised of individual members who cannot be limited to an aggregate of people that possess a specific cultural identity. Similarly, from a summary of the entities, only the kinds of circumstances and restrictions within which they function cannot be read off the possible behaviour and characteristics of individual people. He also added that the ethnic or multicultural group is the primary subtype of collective cultural identities. Connor (1993) is of the same view.

The interlacing powers of history and public preference establish national identity to whatever degree it remains (Parekh, 1994). It is a complex affiliation system with strong foundations in the past but is expected to change in the future. Nations build their claims to statehood on perceptions of a collective cultural identity, which in effect are mostly focused on mutual ethnicity assumptions. The latter assertion has little to do with a specific ethnicity fact than with a popular ethnicity theory that is placed over multi-ethnic communities to transform them into’ cultural’ politicized populations (Das and Harindranath, 2006).

Many present-day nation-states are multi-ethnical, making it very difficult for all leaders to identify a single concept of national identity. The character and strength of national identity varied greatly from place to place all through the early modern era. A nation-state’s idea of unity might come from either its political or cultural unity. Europe of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was the place where nation-states were formed. In England, Sweden, France, and Spain, by using hierarchical, centralized state structures, the majority ethnic community-integrated outlying areas, and ethnicities into a unique ethnic culture.

Through economic, legal, military, and institutional systems, it often wedged diverse communities together into a collective ethnic community centred on the dominant core’s cultural heritage (Smith, 1991, pg 68). This is what Smith (1991) describes as the prevailing ethnic pattern prevalent in places such as Burma where the majority Burmese ethnic community has strongly influenced the development and structure of the state of Burma (now recognized as Myanmar), rather than the ethnic groups of Shan, Karen or Mon. Many communities continue to thrive, but their prevailing ethnicity’s traditional ideology forms the image of the new political community. Here, nation-building becomes a phase of restoring the ethnic centre and merging identity with modern state demands and minority communities ‘ aspirations. The non-dominant cultures are reduced to the minority cultures ‘ position (Smith, 1991, pp.110-111)

Then the question of having some uniformity between nation-states and the cycle of nation-building surfaces, and most nations turn towards the media to play their part in building “global” society and an “ethnic” community. Why is it the media? Harindranath and Das (2006) clarify that given how much of our world knowledge derives through indirect contact, either through individuals or through mass media, this probably will be a significant source of impact on our identity structures because we cannot reach every abstract form of identification (as with a nation-state) by relying exclusively on our own personally lived identification.

Media have commonly been nationwide organizational products and therefore play a crucial role in maintaining them (Anderson, 1983, pp. 24-25). Public broadcasting in the early forms in most countries (particularly before its commercialization, when it could not afford the stratification of its audience), has made it easier for millions of people who can never communicate with each other to turn individual events (dramas, plays, etc.) into fictions of collective national life. It is a reality that nation-states must have’ a measure of common culture and political tradition, a collection of shared understandings and expectations, emotions, and thoughts that unite people in their homeland.

Mass media and the Mass education system are the main institutions by which this social interaction takes place (Smith, 1991, p.11). Just being notified of something is not identifying with it; identification involves making an emotional investment, and engagement that helps a group of people to understand each other and experience a connection with other group members. Moreover, apart from being aware of the existence of nation-states, its important one must also be mindful that there are many of them, that the one in which you live is distinct from the others, and that because of the connection with others in that nation-state, you belong to a certain one.

Nevertheless, national media are engaged in the two phases of creating a national identity. Second, as tellers of national concepts (especially in times of crisis, external threat or quick social change), as’ engravers’ of national symbols on the history of the country, and presenters of national traditions (elections, festivals, etc.), they are working towards emphasizing the parallels between group members. The awareness supports the importance of national identity in media content for media producers that they are producing coverage for a national audience with which they share community affiliation (Entman, 1991; Rivenburgh, 1999).

Also, though the literature developed lacks concrete evidence of’ media influence’ at the individual level, it nevertheless indicates with some conviction that there is a clear, beneficial link between media consumption and national belonging at the individual level. Based on techniques of textual and historical research, the argument was made that over the past three centuries, the media have been instrumental in personality formation, dissemination, and institutionalization. Martin-Barbero (1993) states that contact is an area in which these identification wars are waged. Nevertheless, the media is the place where governments discuss routes to uniformity among their nations and are, at the same time, the location that allows non-mainstream communities to discover and reveal their distinctive characteristics.