Synchronicity and Community Formation in Fandom and Otherwise

Imagined Communities is a classic work of theory, but not necessarily one that is especially widely read among literary studies students (in my experience, at least. This is a bit weird to me, especially considering how focused Benedict Anderson is on language and the role of material texts in providing a mooring point for citizenship as identity.

Anderson writes:

There is a special kind of contemporaneous community which language alone suggests – above all in the form of poetry and songs. Take national anthems, for example, sung on national holidays. No matter how banal the words and mediocre the tunes, there is in this singing an experience of simultaneity. At precisely such moments, people wholly unknown to each other utter the same verses to the same melody. The image: unisonance. (167)

There is a pleasure in singing national anthems. An affective connection that allows us to imagine ourselves as mutually Canadian – something that feels more meaningful than being part of a community that has shared knowledge of a single song. I’ve been thinking about how I might teach Imagined Communities and my (maybe unreasonable) impulse is that most students are going to be more likely to find pop culture examples more accessible/relatable than historical examples. Cultural texts that unite fan communities or generational groups might be based on a connection that has a bit more substance than the national one, and it seems more reasonable to make further assumptions about a person’s identity or experiences based on the former than the later. I don’t want to argue that nationalism and fannishness are completely equivalent, but I think pop culture might also be an illuminating example of how texts can create imagined communities. Read More “Synchronicity and Community Formation in Fandom and Otherwise”