The beginning pages of this chapter are significant because they do a good job of explaining the relationship between the Enlightenment and modernity, which helps establish a cultural framework for works from modern times. In addition, they help demonstrate that modernity can help explain the eternal if one looks at discrete units of time and all of its qualities.
Anderson, Benedict. "Introduction." Imagined Communities. New York: Verso, 1991. 1-7.
Benedict Anderson begins his introduction by talking about the major transformation in Marxism that was occurring at the time of his writing. He believes that these transformations were self-evident because of wars occurring in Vietnam, Cambodia, and China. Furthermore, he states that these wars of historically important because the violence has been largely indefensible from a Marxist perspective, even if the world has to acknowledge the legitimacy of the original Marxist states. Post World War II revolutions have been characterized by self-defined nationalism, and such nationalism builds upon a history of imperial colonialism, which is how national borders were defined both before and after these revolutions. Anderson posits that this nationalism will face increasing challenges, as subgroups in these newly-formed nations seek recognition. He refers to this as sub-nationalism. However, rather than seeing sub-nationalism as the end to nationalism, he views nationalism as "the most universally legitimate value in the political life of our time." (Anderson, p.3). Despite the push for nationalism and sub-nationalism, Anderson recognizes a problem with nationalism, which is that the concept of the nation has been difficult to define. In fact, he thinks that nationalism is one of the problems that plagued Marxism, because Marx suggested that the working class in each nation tackle the problems of their own bourgeois, despite the fact that there was considerable overlap between nations of who controlled production and resources. As a result, he offers his book as a way to deal with the anomaly of nationalism. To understand nationalism, Anderson plans to look at its historical development, and examine how nations have come into being, how they have changed over time, and why they continue to be viewed as emotionally legitimate. Anderson attempts to define nationalism. First, he discusses the three paradoxes of nationalism: the objective modernity of nations vs. their subjective antiquity; the formal universality of nationalism vs. The irremediable particularity of its concrete manifestations; and the political power of nationalisms vs. their philosophical poverty. Acknowledging that he is unable to resolves these paradoxes, Anderson suggests the following definition of the nation, "it is an imagined political community -- and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign." (Anderson, p. 6). The nation is imagined because the members of a nation will generally remain strangers. However, the nation is also described as limited because even the largest nations have limits, described by their physical boundaries and the number of inhabitants. Anderson's introduction is helpful when examining cultural texts because it is too easy for people to confuse the idea of culture and nation. However, when one understands that nations are not synonymous with culture, it becomes much easier to understand how different cultures can and do exist within nations. Moreover, it helps one understand how cultural values can and do conflict with national values. While this may not lead to war in all cases, it helps explain the conflicts between seemingly ideologically identical countries, such as Marxist Vietnam and Marxist China, and also helps explain why sub-national groups are increasing in number.
de Certeau, Michel. "Walking in the City." The Cultural Studies Reader, 2d. Ed. Simon
During. New York: Routledge, 1999. 126-133.
In "Walking in the City," Michel de Certeau looks at daily urban life from the point-of-view of one of its inhabitants. The city he chooses is New York City, and, he begins his journey at the World Trade Center. He contrasts New York to other cities, which celebrate their pasts, because he views New York as a city that is constantly reinventing itself. Despite that reinvention, he sees New York as a city of extremes, and envisions conflict between these extremes. Looking out at the city from the heights of the World Trade Center transforms the observer from walker to voyeur. Furthermore, he discusses the fact that the desire to view a city like someone could from the World Trade Center predated the ability to do so. For example, both Medieval and Renaissance artists depicted birds-eye views of cities, before they actually had the ability to view cities that way. However, he believes that ability to view the city is no less fictional than it was in Medieval and Renaissance times, because the spectator is still not all-knowing. He talks about the fiction that created gods, and the perpetuation of that type of perceived omniscience. de Certeau then discusses the walkers, who he describes as the authors of an urban text that they are unable to read. He also discusses the networks that are formed when these walkers interact with each other, and how these networks are formed despite the fact that each participant is essentially blind to the network formation. He uses these contrasts to look at the differences between urban reality and the concept of city, basically juxtaposing the differences between city inhabitants and those people who attempt to organize and structure a city. He discusses the city a defined by three operations: the production of its own space; the substitution of a synchronic system for tradition; and the creation of a universal and anonymous subject that is the city, itself. After so-defining the city, de Certeau looks at city administration as a process of elimination. This is because even the best city administration produces waste products that are actually contrary to the goals of such administration. He also breaks this down into smaller units, discussing how smaller universal and anonymous units take on their own identities, such as streets and landmarks, contributing to the idea of the city itself. Finally, he cautions that, despite the attempts to organize and administer the city, that is basically impossible, and the order of the city is constantly bombarded by disorder. de Certeau's work is significant in the study of cultural texts because of the increasing urbanization of the modern world. Cities, unlike smaller rural areas, are not developed solely by their inhabitants, nor can their inhabitants even begin to conceive of the impact of the individual on the texture of the city. Understanding how the top-down and bottom-up forces interact can help one understand the culture of the city, which includes…