Imagined Communities

"The irony of these times is that as actual places and localities become ever more blurred and indeterminate, ideas of culturally and ethnically distinct places become perhaps even more salient. It is here that it becomes most visible how imagined communities (Anderson 1983) come to be attached to imagined places, as displaced peoples cluster around remembered or imagined homelands, places, or communities in a world that seems increasingly to deny such firm territorialized anchors in their actuality. In such a world, it becomes ever more important to train an anthropological eye on processes of construction of place and homeland by mobile and displaced people. 

Remembered places have, of course, often served as symbolic anchors of community for dispersed people. This has long been true of immigrants, who use memory of place to construct their new lived world imaginatively. "Homeland" in this way remains one of the most powerful unifying symbols for mobile and displaced peoples, though the relation to homeland may be very differently constructed in different settings. Moreover, even in more completely deterritorialized times and settings - settings not only where "home" is distant but also where the very notion of "home" as a durably fixed place is in doubt - aspects of ours lives remain highly "localized" in a social sense. We need to give up naive ideas of communities as literal entities (compare Anthony Cohen 1985) but remain sensitive to the profound "bifocality" that characterizes locally lived existences in a globally interconnected world and to the powerful role of place in the "near view" of lived experience (Peters, this volume)."

Beyond "Culture", Akhil Gupta and James Ferguson, from "Culture Power Place: Explorations in Critical Anthropology," Duke University Press 1997