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Unimagined community: a pragmatics of nation and social unity in the Republic of Panama

Reynolds, R.; (2009) Unimagined community: a pragmatics of nation and social unity in the Republic of Panama. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

This study offers a material culture grounded critique of and alternative to Benedict Anderson’s formulation of nation as an imagined community (2006). Based on twenty two months of fieldwork conducted in the Republic of Panama between 2002 and 2004, I argue for a pragmatics of localized imaginaries that find expression through interpersonal networks, public spectacle and strategies of motility. The question of nation and its expression became salient in Panama when the United States handed over the Canal and accompanying territory to Panama in 2000 and in response to the Republic’s 2003 independence centenary. The everyday practices identified in this research have proliferated in the absence of an assertively omnipresent state. These practices give rise to and reflect ways of belonging and techniques of social unity that emphasize individuality and choice, and which are rooted in territorial locality and the slow expansion of networks of known people. The indeterminacy of the state in the context of the real awareness of fellow citizens emerges through a moral discourse of shifting values that constitute nation by way of processes of belonging that are other than exclusively ideational or technological. These observations are described and analyzed through the movement of seven chapters that address biographical narratives as history, differing conceptions of Panama as nation in literature and lived experience, carnival and lottery play, through the circulation of cultural programs sponsored by the Museum of Contemporary Art and a Panama City based NGO, and finally by way of the modes in which maps, consumer items and the porous relationship of the capital city and its analogous territory, “the Interior”, are lived.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Unimagined community: a pragmatics of nation and social unity in the Republic of Panama
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Anthropology

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