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Table of contents :
List of figures
List of tables
List of contributors
1 Popular culture and quotidian nationalism
PART I Geopolitics
2 Donut Nation: Tim Hortons and Canadian identity
3 Völkisch vibes: neofolk, place, politics, and pan-European nationalism
PART II Membership
4 Contemporary Israeli television challenges national traumas
5 The burka and beyond: Burka Avenger, Muslim women, and Pakistani national identity
6 Triple j’s Hottest 100: Australia’s largest music democracy?
PART III Flows
7 Transnational laughter: reception and conservative policies of transposition. The case of The Nanny and Married with Children
8 Understanding nationalism in popular culture through the lenses of affect and circulation
PART IV Contestation
9 “Nothing here is what it seems”: Firefly, anti-statism, and American national identity
Nationalism and Popular Culture
How do nations come to shape our collective imagination so profoundly? This book argues that the power of national identity and national belonging stems, in part, from the ways in which nationalism is embedded in popular culture. Comprised of chapters covering a wide range of cases from both the Global North and Global South (including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Europe, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States), the text unpacks the connections between nationalism and film, television, music, and other facets of everyday culture. In doing so, it demonstrates that popular culture can help us understand why and how nationhood has become so deeply entrenched in modern society. This book will be of interest to scholars of political science, nationalism, sociology, history, media studies, and cultural studies. Tim Nieguth is Associate Professor of Political Science at Laurentian University. His research centres on nationalism, popular culture, and state apologies; his work has been published in the Canadian Journal of Political Science, Nations & Nationalism, and Space & Polity, among others. Dr. Nieguth is the editor of The Politics of Popular Culture and co-editor of Investigating Shrek.
Popular Culture and World Politics Edited by Matt Davies, Kyle Grayson and Simon Philpott Newcastle University
Christina Rowley and Jutta Weldes University of Bristol
The Popular Culture World Politics (PCWP) book series is the forum for leading interdisciplinary research that explores the profound and diverse interconnections between popular culture and world politics. It aims to bring further innovation, rigor, and recognition to this emerging sub-field of international relations. To these ends, the PCWP series is interested in various themes, from the juxtaposition of cultural artefacts that are increasingly global in scope and regional, local and domestic forms of production, distribution, and consumption; to the confrontations between cultural life and global political, social, and economic forces; to the new or emergent forms of politics that result from the rescaling or internationalization of popular culture. Similarly, the series provides a venue for work that explores the effects of new technologies and new media on established practices of representation and the making of political meaning. It encourages engagement with popular culture as a means for contesting powerful narratives of particular events and political settlements as well as explorations of the ways that popular culture informs mainstream political discourse. The series promotes investigation into how popular culture contributes to changing perceptions of time, space, scale, identity, and participation while establishing the outer limits of what is popularly understood as ‘political’ or ‘cultural’. In addition to film, television, literature, and art, the series actively encourages research into diverse artefacts including sound, music, food cultures, gaming, design, architecture, programming, leisure, sport, fandom, and celebrity. The series is fiercely pluralist in its approaches to the study of popular culture and world politics and is interested in the past, present, and future cultural dimensions of hegemony, resistance, and power. The Art of Global Power Artwork and Popular Cultures as World-Making Practices Edited by Emily Merson Nationalism and Popular Culture Edited by Tim Nieguth For more information about this series, please visit: www.routledge.com/ Popular-Culture-and-World-Politics/book-series/PCWP
Nationalism and Popular Culture
Edited by Tim Nieguth
First published 2020 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2020 selection and editorial matter, Tim Nieguth; individual chapters, the contributors The right of Tim Nieguth to be identified as the author of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested ISBN: 978-0-367-33763-6 (hbk) ISBN: 978-0-429-32176-4 (ebk) Typeset in Times New Roman by Apex CoVantage, LLC
List of figures List of tables Acknowledgements List of contributors 1
Popular culture and quotidian nationalism
vii viii ix x 1
Donut Nation: Tim Hortons and Canadian identity YASMEEN ABU-LABAN
Völkisch vibes: neofolk, place, politics, and pan-European nationalism
ROBERT A. SAUNDERS
Contemporary Israeli television challenges national traumas ADIA MENDELSON-MAOZ AND LIAT STEIR-LIVNY
The burka and beyond: Burka Avenger, Muslim women, and Pakistani national identity
Triple j’s Hottest 100: Australia’s largest music democracy? JENNIFER PHILLIPS
Transnational laughter: reception and conservative policies of transposition. The case of The Nanny and Married with Children
FERNANDO GABRIEL PAGNONI BERNS
Understanding nationalism in popular culture through the lenses of affect and circulation
“Nothing here is what it seems”: Firefly, anti-statism, and American national identity
3.1 A mapping of Neofolk and Folk Metal 3.2 Album artwork for Skyforger’s album Kauja Pie Saules (1998) 3.3 Promotional photo of Estonian band Metsatöll 3.4 ‘Build Fortress Europa’. Political promotional sticker by Generation Identitær in Aarhus, Denmark (2018)
40 45 47 50
3.1 Prominent Neofolk and Folk Metal bands 6.1 Hottest 100 top songs with country of origin and ARIA rank
Any book, but especially an edited collection such as this, involves the collaboration of a good many people. As editor, it has been my decided privilege to steer this particular collective effort from inception to publication. Along the way, I have incurred numerous debts. My thanks go, first and foremost, to the contributors of this volume – their acute analytical insights have made this journey both worthwhile and enjoyable, and their dedication and enthusiasm have made it manageable. I would also like to express my gratitude to the anonymous reviewers at Routledge; the volume profited immensely from their comments and is much stronger as a result of their suggestions. I am likewise thankful to the editors of the Popular Culture and World Politics series (most especially Simon Philpott and Kyle Grayson). Their patience and encouragement were crucial in seeing this project through to completion. As well, I would like to thank Emily Ross, Nicola Parkin, Robert Sorsby, Ella Halstead, and Jessica Holmes at Routledge, who have guided this volume through various stages of its development. Their deft hand has made a formidable task seem less daunting. Finally, my heartfelt thanks go to my partner, Tracey, and to my parents, Dirk and Elke. Without their support, forbearance, wisdom, and good humour, none of this would have been possible.
Yasmeen Abu-Laban is Professor of Political Science and Canada Research Chair in the Politics of Citizenship and Human Rights at the University of Alberta. Her published research addresses themes relating to: ethnic and gender politics; nationalism, globalization and processes of racialization; immigration policies and politics; surveillance and border control; and multiculturalism and anti-racism. She served as President of the Canadian Political Science Association, and in 2018 became Vice President of the International Political Science Association. Adia Mendelson-Maoz is an associate professor in Israeli literature and culture and the Chair of the Department of Literature, Language and the Arts at the Open University of Israel. She investigates the multifaceted relationships between literature, ethics, politics, and culture, mainly in the context of Hebrew Literature and Israeli culture. Mendelson-Maoz is the author of numerous articles in books and journals. She published three books: Literature as Moral Laboratory 2009 (in Hebrew), Multiculturalism in Israel – Literary perspective (Purdue UP, 2014), and Borders, Territories, and Ethics: Hebrew Literature in the Shadow of the Intifada (Purdue UP, 2018). Tim Nieguth is Associate Professor of Political Science at Laurentian University. His research centres on nationalism, popular culture, and state apologies; his work has been published in the Canadian Journal of Political Science, Nations and Nationalism, and Space & Polity, among others. Dr. Nieguth is the editor of The Politics of Popular Culture (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015) and co-editor of Investigating Shrek (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). Fernando Gabriel Pagnoni Berns (PhD student) works as a professor at the Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA) – Facultad de Filosofía y Letras (Argentina). He teaches courses on international horror film and has published chapters in the books To See the Saw Movies: Essays on Torture Porn and Post 9/11 Horror, edited by John Wallis, Critical Insights: Alfred Hitchcock, edited by Douglas Cunningham, and Gender and Environment in Science Fiction, edited by Christy Tidwell, among others. He is currently writing a book about the Spanish horror TV series Historias para no Dormir and edited a book on the Frankenstein Bicentennial.
Jennifer Phillips is an honorary research associate at the University of Wollongong, Australia. Her research interests are chiefly the relationship between narrative forms and thematic content, although she is also keen to use her research portfolio to expand the understanding of Australian history, literature, and culture across the globe. Lena Saleh is a doctoral candidate in Political Science at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. Her research explores the relationship between popular culture and gender norms in the Arab-Islamic world. She has taught courses on international and Middle Eastern politics. Her research has been presented at the annual conferences of the American Political Science Association, International Studies Association, and Popular Culture Association. Robert A. Saunders is a professor in the Department of History, Politics, and Geography at Farmingdale State College, a campus of the State University of New York (SUNY). His research explores various intersections of popular culture, geopolitics, nationalism, and religious identity. Dr. Saunders’ scholarship has appeared in Millennium, Politics, Political Geography, Social and Cultural Geography, Nations and Nationalism, and Geopolitics, among other journals. He is the author of four monographs, including Popular Geopolitics and Nation Branding in the Post-Soviet Realm (Routledge, 2017), as well as the co-editor of Popular Geopolitics: Plotting an Evolving Interdiscipline (Routledge, 2018). Liat Steir-Livny is an Assistant Professor (senior lecturer) in the Department of Cultural Studies, Creation and Production at Sapir Academic College, and a tutor and course coordinator for the Cultural Studies MA program and the Department of Literature, Language, and the Arts at the Open University of Israel. Her research focuses on the changing commemoration of the Holocaust in Israel from the 1940s until the present. It combines Holocaust studies, memory studies, cultural studies, trauma studies and film studies. She has authored numerous articles and five books. Emily West is Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her research interests are in promotion, technology, and culture; media and nationalism; audiences, users, and consumers; and critical studies of health communication. Her publications have appeared in journals such as Surveillance & Society, International Journal of Communication, Health Communication, Popular Communication, and International Journal of Cultural Studies. She is the co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Advertising and Promotional Culture (2013) and her current project is about Amazon as an affective brand in digital capitalism.
Popular culture and quotidian nationalism Tim Nieguth
In most modern societies, the idea that everyone belongs to a nation has become so deeply entrenched as to be taken for granted. In many ways, this is a profoundly puzzling state of affairs: as Benedict Anderson (1991) points out, members of a nation do not (and cannot) know every fellow member; they nonetheless assume that they have something meaningful in common that allows them to think of each other as members of the same community. Similar to many other social categories that play a central role in the formation of individual and collective identity, then, nations are exceedingly abstract concepts. To imbue the nation with the aura of a natural “given” accordingly requires substantial, repeated, and ongoing effort on the part of groups and individuals. The fact that nations require constant maintenance raises a number of crucial questions. Most importantly, why should nationalism resonate with individuals and social groups? Why should nations come to be regarded as natural building blocks of politics and society? Why do individuals buy into the idea of the nation? Why, for instance, should a resident of Buffalo feel more closely connected to someone from rural Alabama than to someone from Toronto? Why should someone born and raised in São Paulo think that they belong to the same community as someone from Manaus? Why would a German-speaking Catholic from rural Uri see a French-speaking, Protestant urbanite from Geneva as a fellow member of his or her nation? The chapters collected in this volume suggest that part of the answer has to do with the ways in which nationalism is embedded in popular culture. Partly by virtue of its ubiquity, popular culture exercises a significant influence over the way individuals perceive themselves, their society, and the world at large. Sometimes, it does so in ways that are overt, direct, and quite deliberate; more often, its effects are subtle, indirect, and unintentional, but nonetheless powerful. While representations of national communities, boundaries, or values in popular culture may appear insignificant when considered as separate instances, their cumulative effect is anything but. Thus, it matters that the original Star Trek series closely reflected American values and political sensibilities; that superheroes such as Captain Canuck play on and into the construction of national identity; and that sporting events such as the Olympics offer an important venue for the dissemination of nationalism (Booker, 2008; Dittmer, 2012; Hargreaves, 2000).
2 Tim Nieguth
Unpacking the connections between nationalism and everyday culture can therefore help us understand why national identities have become so deeply entrenched in modern society. However, with a few notable exceptions, the literature on nationalism has paid relatively little attention to popular culture. The chapters collected in the present volume seek to fill some of this gap. By way of contextualizing their arguments, the remainder of this chapter will discuss the place of culture in nationalism studies, followed by a discussion of the “quotidian turn” in the field. This turn holds considerable promise for the study of the relationship between nationalism and culture, and popular culture in particular. The introduction will conclude by discussing some of the ways in which popular culture produces, entrenches, or contests ideas of nationhood and national belonging.
Culture, nations, nationalism Cultural conceptions of the nation have been crucial to the rhetoric, practice, and ideology of nationalism at least since Herder famously linked a nation’s “genius” to its language and cultural heritage (2002). This is most readily apparent in ethnic nationalist descriptions of the nation as an ancestral community possessing a common heritage, language, and ethos. However, cultural conceptions of the nation also underpin routine appeals to shared “national” values, beliefs, and characteristics in so-called civic nations. Regardless of the type of nationalism that dominates in a given society, the idea of a national culture has played an important role in fostering a sense of national identity, community, and belonging (Bouchard, 2013; Henderson & McEwen, 2005; Jusdanis, 1991). As the history of the last two centuries has repeatedly shown, the belief that one’s nation is a distinct, clearly bounded, and ancient cultural group can consequently serve as a powerful motivator for collective action. The centrality of culture to nationalist practice has influenced the study of nations and nationalism as well. Cultural conceptions of the nation have been widely accepted in the scholarly literature on nationalism, both within the field of nationalism studies and beyond. To mention but a few examples, Anthony D. Smith, one of the leading authorities on nationalism, defines the nation as “a named human population sharing an historic territory, common myths and historical memories, a mass, public culture, a common economy and common legal rights and duties for all members” (1991, p. 14). To philosopher Will Kymlicka, a nation is “a historical community, more or less institutionally complete, occupying a given territory or homeland, sharing a distinct language and culture” (1995, p. 11). Similarly, Christopher Wellman, one of the leading philosophers of secession, defines the nation as “a cultural group of people who identify with one another and either have or seek some degree of political self-determination” (2003, p. 267). Cultural definitions of the nation need to be treated with some analytical caution. To begin with, they run the risk of treating cultures as givens, as clearly bounded, and as relatively stable. In fact, cultures are none of these things. Cultural
Popular culture and quotidian nationalism
definitions of nationhood also risk submerging the heterogeneity of values, customs, habits, and traditions that characterizes most national communities (putative or otherwise). For example, there are significant differences between the history, dialects, political cultures, or culinary traditions of Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna, and Calabria (see, for example, Capatti & Montanari, 2003; Maiden & Parry, 1997; Putnam, 1993). Yet, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, all of these regions are typically considered part of an overarching Italian nation. Similar observations apply to many, if not most, other national communities. At the same time, cultural conceptions of the nation do have one significant analytical advantage, which is that they reflect – without necessarily accepting – nationalist rhetoric, ideology, and practice. Students of nationalism have deployed cultural ideas of nationhood in a variety of ways, since there is no disciplinary consensus on the precise nature of the relationship between culture and nationalism, nor on the nature of culture itself. Anderson’s influential study of nations as “imagined communities,” for example, examines the intersection of religious, linguistic, and socio-economic transformations in order to explain the rise of nationalism. More specifically, the analysis focuses on the emergence of print capitalism, the erosion of Latin as a sacred language linking literate elites across much of the European continent, and simultaneous changes in societal perceptions of time. According to Anderson, these interlocking developments undercut older forms of community, creating the necessary conditions for the emergence of new, national communities (Anderson, 1991). Gellner’s approach similarly places the genesis of nationalism in the context of broad social transformations – specifically, industrialization. In Gellner’s view, industrial societies require cultural homogeneity. In consequence, they inevitably prompt concerted efforts on the part of social elites to promote common, “national” cultures. Typically, and contrary to the claims of nationalists, these “national” cultures are not simply a continuation of local folk cultures. In Gellner’s words, nationalism is, essentially, the general imposition of a high culture on society, where previously low cultures had taken up the lives of the majority, and in some cases of the totality, of the population. It means that generalized diffusion of a school-mediated, academy-supervised idiom, codified for the requirements of reasonably precise bureaucratic and technological communication. It is the establishment of an anonymous, impersonal society, with mutually substitutable atomized individuals, held together above all by a shared culture of this kind (1983, p. 57) Gellner’s analysis thus focuses on the particular kind of culture associated with industrialization (a literate, highly specialized, and universal public culture), as well as the institutional underpinnings that facilitate its production, dissemination, and consumption.
4 Tim Nieguth
Other students of nationalism have focused on culture in the sense of ethnicity, language, or religion. For example, the ethno-symbolic approach associated with the work of Anthony Smith, John Armstrong, and John Hutchison situates the emergence of nationalism in the context of older ethnies or ethnic groups. According to this approach, nations are not fabricated out of whole cloth, nor are national cultures constructed in a vacuum. Rather, nations emerge in a complicated transformative process from existing ethnic groups. Ethno-symbolists consequently insist that attempts to understand what is truly new in nationalism – and what is not – require us to expand our temporal horizon beyond modernity and to emphasize the longue durée (Armstrong, 1982; Hutchinson, 2005; Smith, 2009). According to ethno-symbolists, cultural traditions and repertories are central features of ethnies. As Hutchinson puts it: Ethnicity is [. . .] meaning-directed, revealed in assemblages of myths, which define for populations unique origins [. . .], location [. . .], a golden age [. . .], degeneration [. . .] and regeneration [. . .]. Memories are important, especially as portrayed in commemorative rituals of epochal events and heroes that provide role models and lessons for the present. Symbols, when encoded in the urban architecture of capital cities, sacred religious texts or sites, legal codes, languages and political charters and constitutions, persist over long expanses of time and space and thereby communicate a sense of group meaning. (2005, p. 15) Smith (1991, 2009) likewise regards symbols, myths, and memories as defining elements of ethnic groups. In consequence, these cultural artefacts play a crucial role in the genesis of national communities, not least because they filter the kind of national narratives that might successfully be employed in generating a sense of nationhood. Smith’s emphasis on macro-levels of analysis and the longue durée have led some critics to detect a “shadowy presence of Durkheim” in his work (Malešević, 2006, p. 112), an assessment Smith himself strenuously opposed (Smith, 2009). In contrast, other nationalism scholars have explicitly embraced Durkheim’s legacy, formulating a neo-Durkheimian perspective on the relationship between culture and nationalism. Partly inspired by the Strong Program in Cultural Sociology, these scholars have paid especially close attention to matters of ritual and ritualization in the production, dissemination, and consumption of the nation. “Drawing on Durkheimian distinctions between the sacred, profane and mundane, the general thrust of this work is to uncover how particular meanings and cultural forms are contested, replaced and established in the national ‘collective consciousness’” (Woods & Tsang, 2013, p. 10). Much of the research in this tradition has focused on official ceremonies and public engagements with exceptional events; it has paid less attention to the linkages between rituals and national identity in quotidian settings. In this respect, neo-Durkheimian approaches to nationalism mirror the Strong Program’s tendency to foreground
Popular culture and quotidian nationalism
the analysis of disruptive and exceptional events, rather than routines and rituals embedded in everyday life (West, 2015, p. 11). Culture has figured prominently in the nationalism literature in yet another form: there is a substantial body of research on the “art” of nationalism, that is, the link between nationalism and literature, music, architecture, statuary, and the visual arts. For example, the relationship between national identity and the modern novel has been explored in considerable depth (Lewis, 2007; Parrinder, 2006; Trumpener, 1997). Similarly, scholars have paid a great deal of attention to the role of visual arts in producing, disseminating, or contesting particular versions of national identity (Dawn, 2006; Etlin, 1991; Morrison, 2003). Relatedly, there is a burgeoning literature on the role of museums and galleries in nation building (Aronsson & Elgenius, 2015; Knell, 2016; Ostow, 2008). Commenting on the connection between nationalism and arts more generally, Smith offers the following observation: Just as nationalism has become a global movement and the nation the accepted norm of political sovereignty, so a national culture has become entrenched as the raison d’être of each and every national community, its differentia specifica and distinguishing mark. The arts played a crucial role in this process of global nationalization by providing images and symbols of the unity, history, homeland, and regeneration of the nation which were peculiar to each national community (2013, pp. 179–80) Taken as a whole, competing theories of nationalism have devoted considerable attention to ethnicity, language, religion, art, and patterns of social organization. However, they have paid much less attention to another key facet of culture: popular culture. By way of illustration, the index to one of the standard overviews of theories of nationalism, Anthony Smith’s Nationalism and Modernism (1998), contains several entries on various aspects of culture, such as art, civic and ethnic nationalisms, high and low culture, custom, folk culture, ideology, language, literature, memory, minorities, multiculturalism, myths, print, religion, ritual, symbols, traditions, and Zeitgeist. Notably, the index does not contain any references to film, food, games, popular music, sports, television, and the like. A perusal of most seminal texts within nationalism studies yields similar results (see, for instance, Anderson, 1991; Armstrong, 1982; Breuilly, 1994; Gellner, 1983; Hutchinson, 2005; Kedourie, 1993; Smith, 1991). While dominant theoretical accounts of nationalism have not engaged with popular culture in a sustained fashion, they have not entirely ignored popular culture. In fact, key theorists of nationalism do, on occasion, acknowledge the importance of popular culture to nationalism (and vice versa). For example, Hobsbawm stresses the role of sport and the mass media in the inculcation of national identities during the inter-war period. In his view, competitive international sport served as an important focal point of nationalism. Regarding the media, Hobsbawm singles out its “ability [. . .] to make what were in effect
6 Tim Nieguth
national symbols part of the life of every individual, and thus to break down the divisions between the private and local spheres in which most citizens normally lived, and the public and national one” (1992, p. 142). Hobsbawm’s observations suggest that sport and the mass media were – and continue to be – important vectors for the dissemination and consumption of nationalism. From the vantage point of the early twenty-first century, one might draw similar conclusions about television, popular music, video games, or other aspects of popular culture. Consequently, a sustained engagement with popular culture would allow the nationalism literature to supplement and build on the insights gleaned from the work on other aspects of culture. In particular, examining popular culture in greater depth could arguably help to answer key questions about the roots of nationalism, the relationship between elite and non-elite constructions of national identity, the conditions in which (particular) versions of nationhood flourish or fail, and the dynamics of reproducing or contesting national narratives.
The quotidian turn Dominant theories of nationalism share an analytical focus on history, broad social transformations, and the role of social elites. They are less focused on the present-day, the texture of everyday lives, and non-elite actors. Addressing the relative neglect of popular culture within nationalism therefore requires not so much a move away from the debates that have shaped the field of nationalism studies for the past 50 years, but a broadening of these debates. There are, in fact, two strands in the recent developments of nationalism literature that open analytical space for a more systematic analysis of the relationship between popular culture and nationalism: Billig’s “banal nationalism” thesis, and the “everyday nationhood” perspective articulated by scholars such as Fox, MillerIdriss, and Brubaker. Billig’s influential study objected to the reduction of nationalism to “hot” forms of nationalism, that is, national conflicts and violence. It also took issue with a tendency in Western media, public discourse, and scholarship to view nationalism as something that is primarily confined to non-Western societies. Billig argues that nationalism is, in fact, endemic in the “established” nationstates of the West. Within these states, Billig suggests, the nation, national identity, and nationalism are constantly “flagged” in a multiplicity of ways embedded in the mundane routines of everyday life. For example, public space may literally be dotted with national flags. Similarly, frequent newspaper references to “the English” sports team simultaneously invoke and naturalize a number of assumptions about the English nation – most importantly, that such a thing exists. These ubiquitous signs constantly remind us that there is a nation, reinforce national identities, and entrench national boundaries. For the most part, they do so in ways that are unnoticed, precisely because they are part of the backdrop of everyday life. In this way, nationalism shapes individuals’ apprehension of the world in ways that they are not necessarily aware of, but that become part of
Popular culture and quotidian nationalism
“common sense” (Billig, 1995, pp. 13–15). To a large extent, then, the reproduction and societal entrenchment of nationalism unfolds through subconscious processes – processes that are therefore no less powerful, and no less serious, than more overt, deliberate, and forceful demonstrations of nationalist ideologies, sentiments, or conflicts. As an approach, banal nationalism focuses primarily on the effect of nationalism on individuals, rather than the other way around. Put differently, it is keenly interested in the impact of nationalism on individuals and their mental map of the world, but is less concerned with the everyday enactment of nationalism by these same individuals. This everyday reproduction of nationalism is the central concern of a second element in the quotidian turn, the emerging literature on everyday nationhood (see, inter alia, Brubaker et al., 2006; Fox & Miller-Idriss, 2008a, 2008b; Skey, 2011). Two key protagonists of this research tradition, Fox and Miller-Idriss, describe their approach as follows: First, we explore the ways in which the nation as a discursive construct is constituted and legitimated not (only) in response to elite dictates but also according to the contingencies of everyday life. [. . .] Second, we turn to the ways in which nationhood frames the choices people make. [. . .] Third, we explore the everyday meanings and invocations of national symbols. [. . .] Fourth, we examine national distinction in the mundane tastes and preferences of ordinary people. (2008a, pp. 537–8) This statement neatly encapsulates the theoretical and methodological commitments that drive the everyday nationhood perspective. Taking its cue, in part, from Jones and Merriman’s critique of the banal nationalism tradition (2009), that perspective focuses squarely on the presence, production, deployment, and contestation of nationalism in everyday settings, paying special attention to the agency of non-elite actors. The contrast between banal and everyday perspectives on nationalism, while important, should perhaps not be overstated. Despite their theoretical and methodological differences, both approaches share a common interest in routine manifestations of nationalism, the entrenchment of nationalism in mundane practices, and the “what” and “how” of nationalism rather than its “when,” “where,” and “why.” In practice, individual researchers often draw on both perspectives. Tim Edensor’s seminal study of National Identity, Popular Culture and Everyday Life (2002) is a case in point. These commonalities arguably allow us to group banal and everyday perspectives together as parts of a broader “quotidian” tradition. The quotidian tradition has produced a rich and fertile literature on such diverse issues as the links between national identity and food (DeSoucey, 2010; Hiroko, 2008; Ichijo & Ranta, 2016), the performing arts (Mason & Gainor, 1999; Sweigart-Gallagher & Lantz, 2014; Zerdy, 2013), or graphic novels and comic books (Dittmer, 2012; Otmazgin & Suter, 2016). Nonetheless, it is possible to
8 Tim Nieguth
distinguish four major thematic emphases in the quotidian literature. First, much of this literature has followed Billig’s lead by focusing on state symbols. For example, there has been extensive research on the relationship between national identity and national flags (Butz, Plant, & Doerr, 2007; Elgenius, 2011; Eriksen & Jenkins, 2007; Kemmelmeier & Winter, 2008), currency, postage stamps, and license plates (Airriess, Hawkins & Vaughan, 2012; Garson, 2001; Leib, 2011; Penrose, 2011; Raento & Brunn, 2005), street names and road signs (Azaryahu & Kook, 2002; Mellon, 2008; Nieguth, 2017), or the politics of memory (Daugbjerg, 2011; Elgenius, 2011; McCrone & McPherson, 2009). This focus on state symbols and state-sponsored representations of the nation is not surprising. After all, the state is one of the key actors in constructing nations and national identities. In fact, countries such as Canada are sometimes referred to as “state-nations,” a term that highlights the crucial role of the state in producing and reproducing a sense of nationhood. Accordingly, many of the major contributions to the study of nationalism have given pride of place to the role of state actors (see, for example, Breuilly, 1994). In a way, then, the emphasis on state symbols in the quotidian turn echoes existing preoccupations with the state within nationalism studies. The second major emphasis in the quotidian literature has been on the relationship between national identity, communication, and the news media (Dekavalla, 2010; Köse & Yilmaz, 2012; Law, 2001; Petersoo, 2007). This emphasis likewise reflects long-standing research concerns in nationalism studies (see, for example, the treatment of print capitalism in Anderson, 1991). If the nation can indeed best be understood as an “imagined” community, then the news media – whether print or electronic – serve as a crucial vehicle that allows the “imagining” to unfold. More generally, the news media are a key player in political socialization processes; accordingly, they exercise considerable influence over the development of collective identities, values, and beliefs. As the scholarship on everyday nationhood has pointed out, it is important to keep in mind that audiences are not homogeneous actors. Members of the public occupy vastly different subject positions and may therefore consume, interpret, and respond to media constructions of the nation in distinct ways (Antonsich, 2016; Skey, 2011). The analysis of sport has been the third mainstay in the quotidian tradition. The last two decades, in particular, have seen the emergence of a rapidly expanding corpus of work on the links between nationalism and sport, ranging from studies of international sporting events (D’Agati, 2011; Hong, 2013) to country-specific studies (Cronin, 1999; Hargreaves, 2000; Jöckel, 2015) and comparative analyses (Bairner, 2001). This keen interest in the links between sport and nationalism is owed to the fact that sport not only involves considerable social, political, cultural, and economic resources, but also plays an important role in shaping (and reflecting) people’s identities and broader social attitudes. As Billig observes, “[m]odern sport has a social and political significance, extending through the media beyond the player and the spectator. [. . .] Not least of this significance is that the sporting pages repeat the commonplace stereotypes of nation, place and race, not to mention those of masculinity” (1995,
Popular culture and quotidian nationalism
p. 120). Thus, sport offers a venue for performing and delimiting national identity, both on the field of play and among the audience (Gibbons, 2015). Sport is particularly effective in this regard, in part, because it reinforces the affective dimension of nationalism (Scheve et al., 2014). Finally, a number of seminal contributions to the quotidian literature have examined the reproduction of nationalism in everyday discourse. For example, Miller-Idriss (2009) provides a detailed analysis of competing national narratives at three vocational schools in Berlin. Her findings suggest that teachers at those schools, having predominantly been socialized in pre-unification Germany, are reticent to engage with nationalism and tend to regard expressions of nationalism with considerable scepticism. Students, on the other hand, tend to conceive of national identity as much less problematic; to many of them, nationalism is a normal and positive aspect of their identity. Based on focus group interviews conducted in a variety of settings across England, Skey (2011) offers a similarly fine-grained account of the ways in which nationhood is negotiated by ordinary citizens. These studies offer important insights into the role of citizens in articulating and contesting national identities, the terms of national belonging, and the definition of national values. Not least, they demonstrate that members of the public are active participants in nation-making and draw our attention to the ways in which citizens stitch national identity into their everyday lives.
Popular culture and the nation While state symbols, the news media, sports, and everyday speech have attracted considerable attention in the quotidian literature on nationalism, other aspects of everyday culture – such as popular music, video games, or television shows – have been studied in less detail. This is especially true in the social sciences, which have arguably dominated theoretical discussions in the field of nationalism studies. The present volume seeks to fill this gap by focusing squarely on the relationship between nationalism and popular culture, and by doing so primarily from the vantage point of political science, sociology, anthropology, and communication studies. The essays collected here focus on three dimensions that are of central importance in studying the intersection of nationalism and popular culture: geopolitical contexts, membership, and flows. The first section of the volume draws our attention to questions of geopolitics. More specifically, it underlines the fact that nations are produced under conditions that are inescapably transnational: geopolitical contexts matter in shaping the production of nationalism, the content of national identity, and the ability of various actors to define national narratives. Thus, Yasmeen Abu-Laban’s chapter examines the relationship between Canadian national identity and the popular coffee and donut chain Tim Hortons. As Abu-Laban argues, Tim Hortons has been an important site in the production of commercial nationalism in Canada. Co-founded by one of Canada’s national icons, hockey player Tim Horton, the brand is closely associated with Canadian identity. The company’s advertisements regularly tap into this connection, mobilizing Canadian
nationalism and projecting a particular version of Canada. This version is deeply rooted in the country’s history as a European settler society that disenfranchised Indigenous peoples and marginalized ethnic minorities. In consequence, AbuLaban’s chapter offers important insights into the complex legacy of European imperialism for nation-building projects. Given that Tim Hortons has not been an independent, Canadian-owned company for some time (it is currently a subsidiary of multinational food conglomerate Restaurant Brands International), Abu-Laban’s analysis also points to the implications of corporate globalization for the production of national identities. Shifting the geographical focus from North America to Europe, Robert A. Saunders’s chapter offers a nuanced reading of Neofolk, a genre that has enjoyed increasing popularity and rapid growth since it emerged about thirty years ago. Differentiating Neofolk from related genres, such as Folk Metal, the chapter examines both the musical and lyrical characteristics of Neofolk. Regarding the genre’s lyrical qualities, Saunders notes a distinct emphasis on quasi-medieval, pre-Christian and pre-Roman European themes, coupled with an orientation towards transnationalism and pan-Europeanism. While Neofolk groups usually describe themselves as apolitical, Saunders shows that these thematic orientations strongly resonate with a recent rise in right-wing, exclusionary discourses about European identity, as manifested, for example, in the so-called identitarian movement or radical traditionalism. Saunders’s analysis demonstrates that Neofolk is not politically innocent, but parallels, and contributes to, a discursive closure of “Europeanness” that potentially excludes migrants and religious minorities. It also demonstrates that the kind of nationalist discourse associated with the identitarian movement is, in fact, thoroughly transnational in nature. The volume’s second section examines the relationship between popular culture and the politics of belonging. In Nira Yuval-Davis’s words, the “politics of belonging involve not only the maintenance and reproduction of the boundaries of the community of belonging by the hegemonic political powers (within and outside the community), but also their contestation, challenge and resistance by other political agents” (2011, p. 20). As the three following chapters demonstrate, popular culture is intimately involved in debates over the assignment of insider/outsider status, the criteria of admission to the nation, and inequalities in membership status. It can thus serve as a site for reproducing exclusionary, unequal models of nationhood, but can also provide a vehicle for the articulation of inclusionary and egalitarian definitions of the nation that challenge entrenched power structures. The first chapter in the section underlines the potential of popular culture for challenging restrictive notions of nationhood. Examining Arab Labor and Zaguri Empire, two recent televisions series that have enjoyed considerable success and popularity in Israel, Adia Mendelson-Maoz and Liat Steir-Livny demonstrate that both shows unsettle hegemonic assumptions about who is – and who is not – a member of the nation. Where Zaguri Empire does so by emphasizing the voices of Mizrahi Jews (often in ways that challenge practices of memory and commemoration), Arab Labor focuses on the marginalization of Israeli Arabs and the complexities inherent in fashioning, negotiating, and preserving
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national identities in a context marked by ethnic conflict and inequality. In such contexts, different social groups may not have equal access to full membership in the nation; instead, as Hage’s influential study of Australian nationalism, whiteness, and multiculturalism puts it, some groups may be judged “more or less national than others” (1998, p. 52). Mendelson-Maoz and Steir-Livny’s chapter illuminates some of the ways in which these gradations play out – and can effectively be troubled – through popular culture. Lena Saleh’s chapter likewise points to the emancipatory potential of popular culture. Focusing on the case of Burka Avenger, it provides a gendered analysis of nationalism and popular culture in the context of Pakistan. Saleh argues that Burka Avenger – the first television series featuring a Muslim female superhero – reimagines the contours of Pakistani nationhood in important ways, especially as regards the role of women. Drawing on key works on nationalism, gender, and post-colonialism, Saleh shows that Burka Avenger re-articulates the terms of membership in the Pakistani nation by emphasizing the role of women as (future) “mothers of the nation,” and by claiming equal citizenship status for women and men. Rounding out the second section, the chapter by Jennifer Phillips analyses the annual Hottest 100 song countdown organized by Australia’s public broadcaster triple j. More specifically, it examines the tensions between the notion of a “music democracy” embedded in the fact that rankings are partly based on public polls, and exclusionary constructions of Australian national identity – manifested, for example, in the under-representation of female or Indigenous artists. In addition, Phillips’s analysis points to questions about participation in nation-making processes; thus, conflicts over the Hottest 100 ranking itself – and in particular, the question whether songs by American singer Taylor Swift ought to be included or excluded from consideration – illustrate the complex interplay of social elites and “ordinary citizens” in defining the boundaries of the nation, the content of national identity, and the location of the nation in the international environment. The volume’s third section addresses questions related to inter- and intra-state flows of nationalism. Fernando Gabriel Pagnoni Berns’s chapter shows that the transfer of popular culture artefacts from one national context to another influences both their reception and content. His study of Argentine television series is especially instructive in this regard, since it focuses on two cases – La Niñera and Casados con Hijos – that were remakes of successful American shows (The Nanny in one case, Married with Children in the other). Pagnoni Berns argues that the remake of The Nanny underwent very few adaptations, since the original show’s insistence on social integration and traditional “family values” resonated strongly with the Argentine viewing public and produced high ratings. According to Pagnoni Berns, the remake of Married with Children was initially much less successful, precisely because its critical views of the family and societal power relations challenged dominant cultural norms. Interestingly, the Argentine version of the show began to attract considerable success once it had been reframed as a celebration of the nuclear family and its importance as the basic building block of society.
In the second chapter of the section, Emily West approaches national flows by examining recent developments in critical theory. In particular, her chapter considers the theoretical implications – and empirical purchase – of the “affective” and “circulatory” turns in communication theory. West suggests that affect theory provides valuable tools that can help to supplement existing insights into the power and resonance of popular culture and national identity. This dovetails with several recent studies that have emphasized the role of affect in marshalling support for and resistance against particular constructions of nationhood (see, for instance, Closs Stephens, 2016; Militz & Schurr, 2016; Wetherell et al., 2015). West further suggests that our understanding of the linkages between popular culture and nationalism can be enriched by focusing, not just on the content of cultural artefacts, but on their patterns of circulation. In developing this anti-interpretivist stance, her chapter encourages us to pay as much attention to the “how” of national identity production as to the “what.” Despite their differences in approach, methodology, and subject material, the chapters assembled in the three preceding sections share several recurring themes: an assumption that nations are works in progress and, as such, subject to a process of constant reproduction and contestation; that there is a range of actors involved in this process; and that popular culture is one important site where this process unfolds. Picking up on these themes, Tim Nieguth’s chapter completes the volume with an examination of Firefly, Joss Whedon’s shortlived space Western. Fans of the show often interpret it as an uncompromising defence of values closely associated with the so-called American Creed: individual liberty and mistrust of the state. The chapter argues that Firefly, in fact, offers a nuanced and deeply ambiguous perspective on government authority. In doing so, it both reflects and contributes to the complexities of American identity formation. Firefly therefore illustrates the importance of popular culture in the articulation and contestation of nationalism. In addition, the gap between the political content of the show and widespread “Creedal” readings demonstrates that nonelite actors are not simply passive consumers of narratives produced and circulated by social elites. Rather, as the literature on everyday nationhood would suggest, they play an active role in the dissemination, articulation, and contestation of these narratives. Finally, debates around Firefly are not typically framed in terms of nationalism, but nonetheless draw on values, beliefs, and myths that are intimately linked to (American) national identity. As Nieguth argues, this underlines the fact that the reproduction – or contestation – of national identity is not always an overt, direct, and deliberate process, but one that may occur subterraneously, indirectly, and unintentionally.
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Donut Nation Tim Hortons and Canadian identity Yasmeen Abu-Laban
On October 11, 2016, the grand opening ceremony of the first Tim Hortons full service restaurant on a First Nations reserve near Brantford, Ontario featured drummers and traditional dancers. Co-owned by Ted Noland, a former National Hockey League (NHL) coach and player who is also Ojibwe, the donut and coffee franchise was welcomed by Six Nations reserve members who gathered in the hundreds to celebrate (CTVNews, 2016). By employing 61 people from the community, in the eyes of Six Nations Chief Ava Hill the restaurant was projected to “boost our economy and maybe bring more people to our community” (cited in CTVNews, 2016). Noland himself reasoned that having Tim Hortons on the reserve also made a “good statement” relating to Indigenous business ownership on their own territory (cited in CTVNews, 2016). At first glance, this recently opened franchise may seem to conform to a certain script that has become widely embraced in recent years – Tim Hortons is so ubiquitous and loved it can be found on and off reserves in Canada and it is connected to hockey which is also ubiquitous and loved by all. This script draws inspiration from the fact that the real Tim Horton (1930–1974) was a National Hockey League defenceman – sharing the NHL connection with Ted Noland. Horton founded the first donut shop in Hamilton, Ontario in 1964, and prior to the 1974 car accident which claimed Horton’s life, his cartoon image shooting donuts with his hockey stick was part of the advertising associated with the chain (Cormack, 2008, p. 374). This early on cemented the connection between the restaurant chain and the sport that evolved to represent a quintessential “Canadianness.” Hockey, not being an “American sport” like baseball, was open for Canadians to claim. Moreover, its connection with Canada may be strong precisely because the sport was so associated with masculinized Canadianness (Gruneau & Whitson, 1993). Yet the relationship between Tim Hortons and hockey was merely a start. As Douglas Hunter (2012) argues in his book Double Double: How Tim Hortons Became a Canadian Way of Life, One Cup at a Time by the 1990s the chain began to evolve further: Tim Hortons moved from being a component of Canadian identity to actually standing for Canada itself. The phrasing “double double” (a reference to a coffee with two doses of sugar and two doses of cream) also exemplifies a specifically Canadian form of speech, as well as an expression distinctly related to Tim Hortons
products. “Double double” is an example of how what is Canadian and what is Tim Hortons seem to blur, and in this particular instance the fact that the expression is used in both English as well as in French is notable. In short, Tim Hortons is a part of Canadian popular culture, stands for the nation, and is a way to even literally consume the nation in both official languages through its food and beverages. This Canadian script may also be seen to find resonance in a raft of more recent theoretical literature that has appeared in the wake of Michael Billig’s important book Banal Nationalism (1995). Billig’s pivotal work draws attention to the ways that nationalism operates in the everyday in liberal democratic countries like the United States or the UK. In such Western countries, nationalism is effectively flagged through a spate of ordinary symbols and discourses and thereby reproduced. As set against older, or at least different, literature of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s concerned with the historical origin of nations (Smith, 2008, pp. 563–4), Billig’s work opened up new space. In particular, Billig’s work has led to new explorations of popular culture, routine activities, and visual images in the study of nationalism (Edensor, 2002; Fox & Miller-Idriss, 2008; Dodds, 2016; Fox, 2017). Billig’s work and focus on the everyday has also inspired new ways of considering how ordinary people speak about and reproduce the nation (even in globalizing contexts) (Antonsich, 2015; Skey, 2009) as well as the role of the state in branding exercises (Volcic & Andrejevic, 2011) and the possible interfaces with corporate expressions of nationalism, particularly through advertising (Prideaux, 2009; Castelló & Mihelj, 2017). However, to accept the Canadian familiar script about Tim Hortons at face value (meaning to simply leave the story at the sometimes indistinguishable lines between “Canadian” and “Tim Hortons”), or to accept expressions of everyday (corporate) nationalism as monolithic, would ignore the very real complexities of national identity and belonging in a settler colony like Canada or for that matter doing business successfully in such a locale. These complexities require also attending to stateless nations, diversity, and history alongside popular culture (see also Smith, 2008, pp. 567–8). For example, owing to the history of colonization, today economic/material and identity/symbolic concerns are typically fused in Indigenous claims for land and sovereignty in Canada (Ladner, 2014; Coulthard, 2014). Returning to the example of the first Tim Hortons to appear on a reserve, it is important to note that the reasons given for the acceptance of the franchise had to do with what it might mean for the people of that community in economic and symbolic terms, not because it represented Canada. It was, in this certain way, off the Canadian script. Moreover, the way it was off script is significant. As will be shown in this chapter, (particular) group-based inequalities and identity claims in settler colonies are hard to square with simplistic representations of a national popular culture. This is precisely because there is a heterogeneous population that also contains minority nationalism (or stateless nations) because of Indigenous Peoples. In this chapter, I argue that Tim Hortons is a site for both identity expression and also identity suppression. As will be shown, in addition to being a successful
business, both ubiquity and careful marketing attuned to some differences have allowed Tim Hortons to assume an important place in relation to contemporary expressions of nationalism and popular culture, and especially an EnglishCanadian form of nationalism. Representations of ordinary (no doubt hockeyloving) Canadians who come together in buying the beverage and pastry products Tim Hortons sells are suggestive of a common destiny. However, this particular consumptive version of commonality relies heavily on individual struggle, challenge, and triumph, and therefore ignores long-standing inequalities relating to Canada’s foundation and evolution as a settler colony in the North American space. The silences concerning domestic social relations of inequality, as well as an international political economy marked by American hegemony and militarized violence are significant, and it is this suppression that serves to help make Tim Hortons uniquely susceptible to a mythic and nostalgic conservatism. Put differently, when the coffee cup (or donut) replaces the flag as a rallying point, it is potentially subject to the same dynamic tension always inherent in all nationalisms: depending on content it can be progressive or regressive (Nairn, 2003). The particular expressions and silences surrounding Tim Hortons advertising and marketing make it an important subject for understanding contemporary Canada, the power of popular culture, and the opportunities and limits for manipulating popular culture in liberal democratic contexts like Canada which contain stateless nations. The case of Canada and Tim Hortons also provides some insights into how corporate expressions of nationalism and advertising may navigate between majority and minority expressions of the nation, making the content of everyday nationalism far from monolithic. The chapter proceeds in three parts. In the first part I examine Canada’s complexity owing to its foundations and place. In the second part I consider the elements that have allowed Tim Hortons to stand for a (mythologized) Canadian national destiny. In the third part I address the social complexities that characterize contemporary Canada, and the manner in which Tim Hortons iconic status and national representation was appropriated by Conservative party (and conservatively oriented) political elites in the elections and governance of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper (2006–2015). The chapter concludes with a discussion of how the Canadian case of Tim Hortons may inform the study of popular culture and nationalism.
Part one: the Canadian settler colony Canada’s foundation as a European settler colony, along with repeated and ongoing waves of immigration, forms a starting point for understanding its complexity and diversity. The Indigenous population was also culturally diverse prior to first contact with Europeans. Contemporary social relations of power – including those between Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups, those between French and English speakers, those between immigrants and those born in Canada, as well as those between whites and non-whites – are rooted in Canada’s foundation as a so-called “white settler colony” of Britain. Specifically, as a “white settler
colony,” the historic project of modelling Canada after Britain often led to assimilative and discriminatory measures. Such measures favoured white male Britishorigin Protestants in everything from immigration entry to citizenship access and cultural belonging (Abu-Laban, 2014). Because this settler colony history fostered group-based inequalities, there are grievances that continue to reverberate, even if post-1960s Canada has pursued policies that favour cultural pluralism and human rights. As a consequence, in contemporary Canada the number of minority groups involved in varying quests for recognition and fairness are numerous, complex, and variegated (along regional, class, gender, and other lines). These groups include what might be termed national minorities (or stateless nations or minority nations), linguistic minorities, and ethnocultural minorities. There is also a national majority that may seek to protect the status quo or even status quo ante. Specifically, “national minorities” include the French-speaking Quebecois and Indigenous groups. “Linguistic minorities” would include French-speakers outside Quebec and English-speakers inside Quebec. “Ethnocultural minorities” consist of refugees, immigrants, and racialized minorities from non-French, non-British, and non-Aboriginal backgrounds. There is also the English-speaking majority in Canada as a whole. What I will call “the English-speaking white settler majority” is not typically formally named in contemporary government policies, practices, and discourses responding to demands of minoritized groups. Put differently, while the federal government has concerned itself with official language minorities since an official language policy was established in 1969, multiculturalism policy and ethnocultural minorities since 1971, and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples since 2015, there may be different ways of conceptualizing who constitutes the majority for each collectivity. However, since reconciliation has become the term used to encapsulate an ongoing process of establishing and maintaining “respectful relationships” between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples to acknowledge and deal with the legacy of Indian residential schools (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015, pp. 17–18) it is relevant to name “settlers” in the current context. The 2015 report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada presents these residential schools, enabled through a collaboration between the Canadian state and Christian churches, as fostering the “cultural genocide” of Indigenous peoples. Arguably, whether in relation to residential schools or other areas, it is helpful to consider an English-speaking white settler majority for understanding how for many Canadians, especially for those outside of Quebec, it is often perceived differences with the United States that trigger assertions of Canadian identity, distinctiveness, and even sovereignty (Schwartz, 1998; see also Brooks, 2002a). This too is tied to Canada’s history. As a “white settler colony,” Canada’s economic and industrial development was closely linked to Britain historically, and fear of American encroachment led to protectionist trade measures from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. It was only after World War Two that this changed. More specifically, Canada’s trading patterns grew in relation to the United States.
Moreover, by 1988, the Canada–US Free Trade Agreement removed tariff and non-tariff barriers to the goods that flowed over the borders of the two countries. This was later extended to include Mexico with the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement. This continentalism is reflected in contemporary trade patterns – in 2014 some 75% of Canada’s trade was with the United States, and for the US, Canada was its largest export market, accounting for 19% of its trade (Crane, 2015). These historic and contemporary patterns in the international political economy, and the North American region, are relevant for understanding how perceived Canadian and American distinctions may bolster an English–Canadian nationalism that feeds on what has been likened to a kind of Freudian “narcissism of minor differences” (Brooks, 2002b). As Stephen Brooks argues, English Canadian nationalism is rooted in the origins of nonrevolutionary English–Canadian society and an unresolved identity crisis flowing from two things: the denial of fundamental similarities between Canada and the United States and the exaggeration of relatively minor differences (Brooks, 2002b, p. 42). Indeed, the US and Canada might actually be seen to share very real similarities in histories and discourses and practices as settler colonies. This includes the historic dominance of white British-origin Protestants and their clear preference in immigration practices until the mid-1960s in both countries, the marginalization of Indigenous peoples, and the enslavement of Africans – albeit the latter was not on the same scale in Canada. It also includes frontier and industrial expansion, the internment of Japanese-Americans and Japanese-Canadians during World War Two, and todays clear forms of state profiling on both sides of the Canada–US Border directed at those that are or are perceived to be Arab and/or Muslim irrespective of citizenship. As Tamara Seiler Palmer succinctly puts it: both countries have histories that feature many nearly identical plots, characters, and themes: the exploration of rugged, largely unsettled land; the exploitation of vast resources; the pioneer settlement of an ever-expanding western frontier; the tragic denigration and destruction of indigenous peoples; the growth of a national consciousness and sensibility of the bureaucratic structures that inevitably accompany them; the seemingly relentless march of industrialization, urbanization and technological change. And, of course, closely linked with all of these has been immigration, both solicited and unsolicited, of vast numbers of increasingly diverse peoples. (2000, p. 103) In addition to the way in which the English-speaking white settler majority may be helpful for critically engaging a vocal insistence on US and Canadian differences, it is also relevant to consider the English-speaking white settler majority for understanding how quests for recognition, self-rule, and fairness by minority collectivities co-exist with elements of resistance to cultural pluralism. In this way, assertions of “Canadianness” (whether in terms of values, culture, or
ethnic identity) have been used to exclude minoritized and racialized groups from citizenship, and still today such assertions can sometimes reflect on a backlash to the embrace of pluralism as it has developed in Canada since the 1960s (Abu-Laban, 2014). Because civil society groups can express conflict and seek recognition from a variety of governments, institutions, and mechanisms, the existence of a backlash does not mean an end to demands for recognition and equity or for possibilities of accommodation. Moreover, assertions of “Canadianness” can also be expressions of inclusion. This was graphically indicated when newly elected Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proclaimed in 2015 “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.” This refrain came in the wake of Conservative party election promises to use legal measures to ban Muslim women wearing the niqab from citizenship ceremonies (and therefore Canadian citizenship) as well as to set up a hotline to report on so-called “barbaric cultural practices,” a call widely interpreted to be directed at Muslim Canadians and relying on stereotyped assumptions concerning the subordination of Muslim women to Muslim men (Abu-Laban, 2017). Clearly, invocations of “Canadianness” can be used for both regressive (exclusionary) and progressive (inclusionary) purposes. This, as Tom Nairn suggests, is always the case with nationalism since it is Janus-faced, and hence “both progress and regress are inscribed in its genetic code from the start” (2003, p. 335). Still not all iterations of nationalism are exactly the same and may vary by time and place. Specifically, national myths in settler colonies cannot easily rely on or speak of a common origin – as such they instead tend to speak to the promise of a common destiny. This future focus, as Daiva Stasiulis and Nira YuvalDavis point out, is central in all settler colonies precisely because it is less feasible to rely on memories of common origin (Stasiulis & Yuval-Davis, 1995). While allusions to that common destiny have been seen to be contained in the metaphor of the mosaic in the case of Canada and the melting pot in the case of the United States, these are older ideas associated with early twentieth-century government policies and discourses (Abu-Laban & Lamont, 1997). How Tim Hortons is especially interesting is that it provides an entirely consumptive entry point into the late twentieth-century and twenty-first-century ideas of a shared fate.
Part two: the national imaginary and Tim Hortons When Tim Horton opened the first donut shop in 1964, it might have been hard to imagine that Tim Hortons restaurants would grow into the national and multinational phenomenon it has. As of September 2014 there were 3,665 restaurants in Canada as well as notably 889 in the United States and 56 in countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Tim Hortons, 2016). There are even discussions of outlets opening in England, Scotland, Wales, and the Philippines (Canadian Press, 2016). But it is for Canadians especially that Tim Hortons is accessible, not only by virtue of the sheer number of outlets in a country of some 36 million, but also because the restaurant has a kind of pan-class appropriateness. The Tim
Hortons paper cup, in most seasons a rather plain brown and white with the red logo, seemingly accessorizes everyone. Whereas the iconic green and white paper cup from a chain like Starbucks might be seen as a monument to bourgeois taste and deep pockets, Tim Hortons is not only more accessible, but a Tim Hortons coffee cup seems appropriate for anyone – whether rich or poor, a professional or a labourer, in a big city or in a small town. In the words of marketing professor Alan Middleton “Tim’s is every man and every woman, and that’s its power” (cited in Gollom, 2014). Tim Hortons arguably manages that task precisely by not being threatening or creating discomfort. In the estimation of sociologist Patricia Cormack, “there is little to intimidate the customer, as Tim Hortons, even when located in the heart of large cities, lacks any urban pretension” (Cormack, 2008, p. 374). In combination then, the sheer number of restaurants and the accessibility of the venues and products can begin to explain some of its success. But it should also be understood that Tim Hortons does not market or advertise the same way in all of Canada. Examining the English and French language websites is a good starting point for delving into the careful marketing done by Tim Hortons that might further account for it being such a business success story. It also provides insight into the difficulties of actually “selling” a simplistic national popular culture in a settler colony. Consider, for example, that in November 2016, the Tim Hortons Englishlanguage website makes much of its saturation of the Canadian market by appealing to the colloquial expression “eh” stereotypically associated with informal speech in Canadian English, as well as a map of Canada. To quote: In Canada, you can buy a Double Double as far north as Iqaluit, NU, as far south as Kingsville, ON, as far west as Campbell River, BC and as far east as St. John’s NF. Not bad, eh? (Tim Hortons, 2016a) But this impression of Tim Hortons as a kind of pan-Canadian meeting point for consumption is actually belied by the differing messages that accompany the top of the homepage on each language version website at timhortons.ca. Whereas in English Tim Hortons proclaims “Canada, you are why we brew,” in French Tim Hortons proclaims “Local people inspire our coffee” (“Gens du coins, vous inspirez notre café”). These are not simply features of translation choices or oversight, but rather go to the heart of the way Tim Hortons straddles being a Canadian success despite not only an expanding fleet of restaurants in the US and in the Middle East, but differences in experiences across the country of Canada. The choices in advertising provide some clues into strategy. It is notable that the early advertising for the restaurant chain tended to focus on the image of Tim Horton and his hockey stick (Cormack, 2008, p. 374). Given that hockey is a sport enjoyed by many in Canada, it is possible that this same focus might have appeal both inside and outside Quebec. Indeed, in November 2016 the same 1968 interview with the real Tim Horton was featured on both the English and
French language websites for Tim Hortons, the latter with French subtitles (Tim Hortons, 2016b). However, following Horton’s death in a car accident in 1974 there was a shift away from the hockey star in the English-language advertising. Specifically, advertisements of the 1980s tended to focus on products and by the 1990s advertisements became increasingly focused on connecting to images of Canada, winter weather, and sports (Jennings, 2014, pp. 99–200). This led to an increase in journalistic and other English-language media accounts that began to associate Tim Hortons with Canadian identity (Jennings, 2014, pp. 99–200). Key to this transition were the “True Stories” television ads in which, beginning in 1995, individual customers were featured in and even outside of Canada. The “True Stories” advertisements follow a clear script displaying “rugged people, who often endure hardship (self-imposed or otherwise) and find psychological comfort in their rituals involving Tim Hortons” (Cormack, 2008, p. 375). It is well understood by marketing experts that the kinds of advertisements and images that work well outside Quebec may not work well in Quebec. Not only do Quebecers tend to favour advertisements created in Quebec, as opposed to adapted from elsewhere, but they also prefer those that use Quebec celebrities and humour (Léger, Nantel, & Duhamel, 2016, pp. 144–6). While the Tim Hortons products in and outside Quebec have remained the same (save for the choice of language used in signage and the recommendation for Quebec to use both French and English), Tim Hortons has been seen as adapting especially well to the Quebec environment by getting involved in local activities and charities and developing ads with wellknown Quebec actors (Strauss, 2005). In all this, Tim Hortons has been extremely sensitive to the limitations of trying to successfully sell “Canadiana” in Quebec. Graphically, for example, in its Christmas season holiday mugs of 2010 the red maple leaf featured on the cups sold outside Quebec was replaced by a snowflake on the cups sold inside Quebec, and the “pan-Canadian” images from across the country were also removed (these were images like the western Canadian Rocky Mountains and Toronto’s CN tower) (CTVNews, 2010). Community-oriented good works in supporting children’s participation in sports like hockey, as well as the camps for less advantaged children supported by the Tim Hortons Children Foundation, are popular. On the French-language website this may account for the videos featuring the experiences of children who benefit from camps. Under the French-language website’s tab marked “café,” what is featured are French-language interviews with Quebec-based individual customers (or staff) speaking about why they like Tim Hortons’ coffee and restaurants (Tim Hortons, 2016c). In contrast, on the English-language website, Tim Hortons reach into GCC countries begins to make more sense with the image of a Canadian soldier stationed in Kandahar. Under the caption “a hot place with a warm cup of home” he writes of Tim Hortons coffee representing home – which implicitly means Canada: Being away from home for several months is hard. But when you have a loving family and friends its [sic.] a little easier. A cup of Tim Horton’s coffee lets me remember that we go to places like Afghanistan to give
people a better chance to have what we have. A better life. Thanks for being there. This is a photo taken while visiting Kandahar Airfield, just before going back out to one of our FOB’s (forward operating bases). I decided to skip a chance at lunch and went for a coffee with my crew instead. MCpl Brazeau B-Company 2 Bn. Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Shilo, Manitoba. (Tim Hortons, 2016d) By providing similar food and beverages, but at times different marketing strategies in and outside of Quebec, Tim Hortons has had success in solidifying its customer base and reputation. For example, in 2014 surveys of Canadians, Tim Hortons emerges as one of the most influential brands (along with the likes of Google, Facebook, and Visa) as well as one of the most loved brands by Canadian women outside Quebec, and just second to the Montreal-founded drugstore chain Jean Coutu by Quebec women (Haynes, 2014). Read from the angle of reputation, Tim Hortons is clearly appreciated across gender, linguistic, and regional communities. However, the Tim Hortons approach to constructing a donut (and coffee) nation does little to foster a better sense of the issues and perspectives that may differ, or be similar, across Canada. As the advertising nexus between Tim Hortons, coffee, hockey, and Canadian identity grew stronger over the course of the 2000s and 2010s (Jennings, 2014, p. 100) so too did the embrace of certain associations and strategic silences that go well beyond the fact that marketing is different in and outside of Quebec. In a 2006 “True Stories” ad featuring three generations of Chinese-Canadian males hovering over an ice rink where the youngest amongst them is a boy playing hockey, it is stereotypes of Asian studiousness and hard work, as well as intergenerational differences, that are on full display (Cormack, 2008, p. 378). This very popular ad says nothing about the discrimination and exclusions that ChineseCanadians have historically faced that have profoundly impacted family life in Canada (Li, 1998). Rather, the advertisement’s concluding message is pretty clear: hockey/Tim Hortons are the shared destiny for all in Canada, and this destiny can create a (male) bond across cultural and generational divides. There are equivalent silences around the Canadian military that are also notable in the context of the post US-led 9/11 “war on terror.” From Tim Hortons being granted the exclusive right to sell Royal Canadian Mint Remembrance Day commemorative coins, to its opening of a franchise in Kandahar to serve the Canadian military in its Afghanistan operation, there is a curious association between the restaurant chain and the state. As Cormack notes of the announcement of the 2006 Tim Hortons outlet in Afghanistan: The Chief of the Defence Staff was quoted on the Tim Hortons website saying “Opening a Tim Hortons to serve our troops in Afghanistan strengthens an already superb relationship between two great Canadian institutions.” Later that year when [then] US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Canada, she was taken to Tim Hortons by [then] Foreign Minister, Peter
McKay, where the international press eagerly documented the two drinking Tim’s coffee. (Cormack, 2008, pp. 370–1) Yet, in this colourful and purposeful expression of a kind of militarized coffee consumption and patriotism there is a silence concerning the many debates that have attended Canada’s role in Afghanistan (Richler, 2012). Perhaps the biggest and most perplexing silence concerning Tim Hortons, given the salience of the differentiation from the United States in many expressions of (English) Canadian settler identity, concerns the fact that Tim Hortons has been subject to an American takeover. Despite this, Tim Hortons ability to continue to stand for or represent Canada has never been seriously challenged. This first happened even when, in 1995, Tim Hortons moved to being a partner of the American hamburger chain Wendy’s and became an American managed company. And it went further in 2014 as actual ownership changed hands through a merger with the US-based global fast food chain Burger King, which in turn became part of Restaurant Brands International overseen by a Brazilian private equity owner (3G Capital) which has majority shares. Of course, the issue of the Burger King merger was well covered in Canada. In fact, purporting to speak to “Canada,” Maclean’s columnist and humourist Scott Feschuk took advantage of the occasion to take a stab at the iconic national status of Tim Hortons. In his satirical words to “Canada” in 2014: I noticed you’ve been in a downward spiral since Burger King announced its plan to buy Tim Hortons for $12 billion – or roughly $1 for every Tims on Yonge Street in Toronto. You’re worried about what the takeover will mean for your morning coffee – and for the corporation that is traditionally depicted in our media as adored, iconic and able to cure hepatitis with its donut glaze. (I’m paraphrasing.) [. . .] These words will be painful, but it’s important you hear them: Tim Hortons is not a defining national institution. Rather, it is a chain of thousands of donut shops, several of which have working toilets. Tim Hortons is not an indispensable part of the Canadian experience. Rather, it is a place that sells a breakfast sandwich that tastes like a dishcloth soaked in egg yolk and left out overnight on top of a radiator. Tim Hortons is not an anti-Starbucks choice that makes you a more relatable politician or a more authentic Canadian. Rather, it is a great place to buy a muffin if you’ve always wondered what it would be like to eat blueberry air. [. . .] Am I getting through to you, Canada? While we’re on the topic of hard truths, there is something else that needs to be said. Canada, you sure do like your double-double – or, as it is by law referred to in news reports, the “beloved double-double.” But here’s a newsflash for you: If you drink your coffee with two creams and two sugars, the quality of the coffee itself is of little consequence. (Feschuk, 2014)
In taking a shot at the status of Tim Hortons as national destiny, Feschuk in a humorous way exposes some of the weaknesses not only in the perceived quality of Tim Hortons products, but also in the mythic representation of the restaurant chain with all that is Canada. However, Tim Hortons place in national mythology has remained largely unchallenged despite all manner of silences. It has also remained despite non-Canadian ownership which has raised new questions regarding the implications of Restaurant Brands International seeming to expand its profits on the back of Canadian franchise owners and workers (Shaw, 2018). This resilience in status as an icon of popular culture and simplistic national expression, and a disavowal of the complex inequalities in Canada and beyond, makes Tim Hortons a site for a very conservative and static expression of nationalism. It is no wonder that it was also so easily appropriated in the messaging of the decade-long rule of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Part three: Donut Nation and Harper conservatism It was during the decade-long governance of Prime Minister Stephen Harper (2006–2015) that an entirely new discourse emerged on the Canadian scene: “the Tim Hortons voter.” For political journalist Susan Delacourt the Tim Hortons voter had certain enduring characteristics: The Tim Hortons constituency speaks of solid, double-double-drinking citizens, looking for politicians to serve them up simple, plain-spoken truths in Timbit-sized, consumable portions. They are the “ordinary” Canadians depicted in the hugely popular “True Stories” ads for the donut chain, which helped vault this fast-food outlet to Canadian-icon status. Tim Hortons voters don’t like fancy, foreign synonyms for their morning coffee and they like their politics to be predictable, beige – just like the donuts and decor at their national treasure of a food retailer. Tim Hortons voters support the Canadian troops. (Delacourt, 2013) Of course, the Tim Hortons voter is an electoral and marketing construction, and it is a caricature of the Tim Hortons customer. Still, it would be a mistake to assume that this voter, however caricatured, was not actively cultivated in the election campaign and public engagement strategies of the Harper Conservatives. As Scherer and McDermott note, while Harper was not the first Canadian Prime Minister to mention hockey, the kind of promotional politics in relation to hockey grew extensively with him and with Conservative electoral strategizing. The Tim Hortons voter was the “ordinary Canadian” effectively synonymous with being white, male, hockey-loving, and going to Tim Hortons for coffee (Scherer & McDermott, 2011). That might leave the rest (such as females, racialized minorities, and those that prefer baseball) to go along for the ride or to perhaps assume the implicit contrasting identity of a “Starbucks voter.” The dichotomous construction in the thinking of Conservative strategists was
meant to be there – after all for Harper himself what was at stake in his victory was nothing short of the kind of massive change associated with the kinds of dramatic changes and foothold granted other conservative leaders back in the 1980s – specifically Britain under Margaret Thatcher and the United States under Ronald Reagan (Cody, 2009, p. 60). Such big societal shifts called for clear lines of belonging. In light of this, it is not surprising that Stephen Harper used the 2009 occasion of Tim Hortons return from a US to a Canadian publicly traded company to reflect emotionally and philosophically, as well as to channel the late Canadiana author Pierre Berton in the process of contemplating the holding power of the little baked donut hole known as the “Timbit.” As Delacourt (2013) sums and quotes from Harper’s words on that occasion: “Millions more Canadian hockey parents like me know well that when it is 20-below and everyone is up for a 6 a.m. practice, nothing motivates the team more than a box of Timbits and nothing warms the parents in the stands better than a hot double-double,” he said. “Perhaps no one said it better about Tim Hortons than the great Canadian author Pierre Berton. Let me quote: ‘In so many ways, the story of Tim Hortons is the essential Canadian story. It is the story of success and tragedy, of big dreams in small towns, of old-fashioned values and tough-fisted business, of hard work and of hockey.’” It would also be worth recounting that while in office, Stephen Harper actually published a book on hockey entitled A Great Game: The Forgotten Leafs and the Rise of Professional Hockey (Harper, 2013). Even a reviewer who observed it was “enjoyable to catch traces of a more boyish, playful Stephen Harper in his book,” also had to acknowledge that the title was what “you’d expect from a leader who’s trying to pander to his hockey-loving base” (Allemang, 2013). There was a concerted effort at branding by the Conservative party (Marland & Flanagan, 2013), and in many ways as described above the marketing blurred the lines between Canada, Tim Hortons, and now the Conservative party. In all this, Tim Hortons representation of Canada, and its nostalgic and conservative underpinning, were easy pickings for the Harper Conservatives’ election marketing. After all Tim Hortons also blended rather seamlessly in the Harper Conservatives’ projection of Canada when in office. Specifically, the Conservative government’s understanding of Canada was one that played on themes of patriotism, militarism, and a kind of nostalgia for the days of yore when Britain reigned supreme in the world and angloconformity characterized relations between groups in Canada (that is, that minority groups were to assimilate into the dominant group). These emphases were evident in public symbols, public documents, and public institutions and worked in tandem with neoliberal governance (Abu-Laban, 2013). However, the social consequences of neoliberal governance and a series of policy decisions made by the Harper Conservatives over a number of years were less rosy, as there is considerable evidence to support the view that in
their years in elected office there was a growing feminization as well as racialization of poverty and inequality in Canada (Abu-Laban, 2013). Cutting back or withdrawing support to social programs and social groups (especially those critical of government policy) as well as turning to the use of temporary migrant workers were key features which characterized the Harper period of governance and created new forms of inequality amongst citizens, between citizens and non-citizens, and between different categories of non-citizens (AbuLaban, 2013). Some businesses may have benefitted – in fact Tim Hortons has used temporary foreign workers, particularly in provinces like B.C. and Alberta (Huffington Post, 2014). But businesses are not people. On the whole the Harper Conservatives reflect a period in which governance was deeply disconnected from an agenda of reducing income and other inequalities, irrespective of the efforts to connect with Tim Hortons coffee-swigging ordinary Canadians. The inherent traditionalism and militarism in the vision of the Harper Conservatives when it came to high-profile representations of Canada in public institutions, documents, and symbols can be seen to have been out of tune with Canada’s diversity as a settler colony which experiences ongoing immigration (Abu-Laban, 2013). The deeply regressive character of these representations is amplified when combined with a less generous social policy, as well as a less generous immigration policy, especially in relation to refugees. Adding a further layer, when the government approved having a Tim Hortons outlet on the Canadian base in Kandahar, the media hype not only solidified the support of the so-called “Tim Hortons voter,” but it also explicitly linked the government to business interests (Kozolanka, 2015, p. 42). This was because the government was party to an arrangement that explicitly worked to advance the profits of Tim Hortons (Kozolanka, 2015, p. 42). Given all this it is perhaps not surprising that by the time of the 2015 federal election Canadian Muslims and Canadian Arabs felt that they were being targeted, Syrian refugees were being denied entry into Canada, and there was precious little talk of anti-racism or social policy by the Harper Conservatives (Abu-Laban, 2017). Harper’s muse and therefore the heart and soul of Harper-style conservatism was Tim Hortons – and this may be why Tim Hortons is not a point of reference in the new Liberal government of Justin Trudeau, whose rhetoric and style is distinct. The fact that Tim Hortons could work (and did work) so well for the Harper Conservatives is significant because it says a lot about the content, as well as strategic silences, inherent in Tim Hortons representations of (and as) Canada. To sum, the deep connection between Harper’s government and Tim Hortons is a testimony to the fact that the Donut Nation of Tim Hortons allows for only a consumptive participation in a very superficial rendition of Canadian national culture. This superficial national culture features profound silences concerning Canada’s settler colonial history and present and does little to foster a clear understanding of Canadians in all their diversity. At best it lends support to individuals to lay a claim, through their choices as consumers, in a form of local or English Canadian national identity – but there is no place for the kinds of
collectivities who continually make demands for fairness and equity in Canada. And taken to its logical conclusion, Donut Nationalism proved to be very malleable and work well with the neoliberal governance and patriotic and militarized nationalism expressed by the Conservatives of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Conclusion In Canada today, there is a familiar script concerning Tim Hortons. It has become familiar not only because of decades of advertising by Tim Hortons in the years since it opened shop in 1964, but also because the Harper Conservatives were deeply intertwined with the images and even business opportunities of Tim Hortons. To accept the familiar script at face value ignores the deeply historically rooted complexities of national identity and belonging in a settler colony like Canada and their interface with popular culture. In fact, if anything, the appearance of Tim Hortons on a reserve or in the Middle East should be a reminder that we need to address how Canadian identity is represented, where there are silences, and how these may relate to power and politics. This chapter examined Tim Hortons in relation to nationalism and popular culture to better understand the representation of Canada. Tim Hortons is a successful business. Tim Hortons engages in careful marketing and can be found in many locales. Tim Hortons is also accessible, and in a certain way, a Donut Nation can be all things to all people. The way that Tim Hortons represents “Canada” – whether in ads, or in popular imagery, or reference – plays into a national myth of a common destiny. This myth is one in which we all become united by coffee and donuts. But it is a myth that is silent about Canada’s settler-colonial foundation and social relations of inequality, as well as its place in North America and the international political economy. Moreover, it is clearly subject to political manipulation by conservative Canadian elites. Irrespective of whether its national expressions are more regressive than progressive, Tim Hortons is an important subject for understanding contemporary Canada as well as the power of popular culture and iconography. Canadians are said to eat more donuts than citizens anywhere else in the world, and the country is dotted with more donut shops per capita than any other country in the world, largely because of Tim Hortons (CBC Digital Archives, 1994). The presence of a Tim Hortons restaurant has even been likened to a welcoming unofficial border and flag, particularly for many Canadians returning from the United States, as well as for immigrants integrating into a new land (Penfold, 2008, pp. 168–9). But what may matter most is the fact that in many communities today, and for many Canadians, including senior citizens, Tim Hortons is a place where people connect over coffee with one another, sometimes every day (Fahmy, 2016). It is this reality that makes Tim Hortons an indisputable characteristic of contemporary Canadian popular culture. Time will tell whether Donut Nationalism can be filled with more progressive content than existed in recent years. In the meantime, the case of Tim Hortons is important for alerting us that everyday nationalism, and its expression through popular culture, needs to
be attuned to the history and complexity of both majority and minority nations and population diversity.
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Li, P. (1998) The Chinese in Canada, 2nd edn, Toronto: Oxford University Press. Léger, J.-M., Nantel, J., & Duhamel, P. (2016) Cracking the Quebec Code: The 7 Keys to Understanding Quebecers, Montreal: Juniper Publishing. Marland, A. & Flanagan, T. (2013) “Brand New Party: Political Branding and the Conservative Party of Canada,” Canadian Journal of Political Science, 46(4): 951–72. Nairn, T. (2003) The Break-up of Great Britain: Crisis and Neo-nationalism, 3rd exp. edn, Altona: Common Ground. Palmer, T.S. (2000) “Melting Pot and Mosaic: Images and Realities,” in D.M. Thomas (ed) Canada and the United States: Differences That Count, 2nd edn, Peterborough: Broadview Press. Penfold, S. (2008) The Donut: A Canadian Story, Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Prideaux, J. (2009) “Consuming Icons: Nationalism and Advertising in Australia,” Nations and Nationalism, 15(4): 616–35. Richler, N. (2012) What We Talk About When We Talk About War, Fredericton: Goose Lane. Scherer, J. & McDermott, L. (2011) “Playing Promotional Politics: Mythologizing Hockey and Manufacturing ‘Ordinary Canadians’,” International Journal of Canadian Studies, 43: 107–34. Schwartz, M. (1998) “NAFTA and the Fragmentation of Canada,” American Review of Canadian Studies, 28(Spring/Summer): 11–28. Shaw, H. (2018) “Tim Hortons Franchisee Feud Escalates,” The Financial Post, 19 April: FP1, FP8. Skey, M. (2009) “The National in Everyday Life: A Critical Engagement with Michael Billig’s Thesis of Banal Nationalism,” The Sociological Review, 57(2): 331–46. Smith, A. (2008) “The Limits of Everyday Nationhood,” Ethnicities, 8(4): 563–73. Stasiulis, D. & Yuval-Davis, N. (1995) “Introduction: Beyond Dichotomies – Gender, Race, Ethnicity and Class in Settler Societies,” in D. Stasiulis and N. Yuval-Davis (eds) Unsettling Settler Societies: Articulations of Gender, Race, Ethnicity and Class, London: Sage Publications. Strauss, M. (2005) “The Secret to Gaining Success in Quebec,” The Globe and Mail, 27 September. Available . Tim Hortons (2016a) “Fresh Facts.” Available (accessed 21 November 2016). ——— (2016b) “Tim Horton Interview (1968).” Available (accessed 21 November 2016). ——— (2016c) “Histoire de Tim Hortons/Café.” Available (accessed 21 November 2016). ——— (2016d) “A Hot Place With a Warm Cup of Home.” Available (accessed 21 November 2016). Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015) “Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.” Available (accessed 1 November 2016). Volcic, Z. & Andrejevic, M. (2011) “Nation Branding in the Era of Commercial Nationalism,” International Journal of Communication, 5: 598–618.
Völkisch vibes Neofolk, place, politics, and pan-European nationalism Robert A. Saunders
While a number of scholars of nationalism have undertaken analyses of the role of music in the production, maintenance, and manipulation of national identity (see, for instance, Vianna, 1999; Morra, 2013; Leerssen, 2014) and popular music as a force in world politics (Franklin 2005; Street, 2013; Davies & Franklin, 2015; Kirby 2019), more work remains to be done. In particular, there are lacunae associated with how music, as a distinct form of popular culture with acute powers of affect (Huron, 2015), informs nationalism and structures geopolitical codes and visions differently from visually- or textually-oriented artefacts (e.g. novels, films, TV series, comic books, etc.). While anthems, pop songs, traditional ballads, and heavy metal tracks all have the potential to engage in representations of the self and the Other, it is important to also account for nonrepresentational aspects of music as well, given the inherent capacity of music to trigger emotions, often uncontrollable and violent ones. While there is a great deal of scholarship that addresses the ‘scopic regimes’ (Jay, 1988) produced through images, there is an absence of analysis on what might be deemed sonic regimes, scaffolded by popular music, movie soundtracks, acoustic accompaniments to advertisements, sports, national ceremonies, etc. When linked to nationalism, such regimes of sound possess the potential to produce deep and lasting impacts on political culture within and across borders. Tapping this vein, geographers and spatial scholars have conducted a number of studies that can possibly assist the field of nationalism studies. The geographic study of music has undergone a fairly rapid evolution in the past two decades, and one which can be seen as analogous with the larger (popular) cultural and aesthetic turns in the field, as well as in social sciences more generally speaking (see, for instance, Bleiker, 2001; Grayson, Davies, & Philpott, 2009; Shepherd, 2013). The notion of ‘cultural hearths’ of music and their impact on the evolution of distinct ‘soundscapes’ is an increasingly researched topic in the discipline owing to the ground-breaking work of music geographers George O. Carney (2003) and Susan J. Smith (1994), respectively. Increasingly scholarship has focused on the role played by identity in the geographies of music as well as the geopolitical content of the art form as whole. As geopolitics scholar Stéphane François writes: Music is a vector for identity. Indeed, music is something entirely social, maintaining complex relationships with the social world. It holds a position
that has become central amongst the elements that form our perception of the world, the sense of hearing rivalling more than ever what we see and what we read. The social element is at the heart of the processes of the production and reception of the musical. It determines its developments, functions, and meanings to a great extent. (2007, p. 35) This assertion reinforces the inherent importance of geography in music and buttresses Smith’s argument that music can ‘reproduce ideas about nationhood and nation character’ as much as any other form of artistic representation (1994, p. 234). The linking of place, folkways, and music has a long history, as evidenced by the growing importance of the academic discipline of ethnomusicology, which has contributed to the linking of nationalism and ‘national musics’ (see McLeay, 1997; Bohlman, 2004; Schultz, 2013). Certainly, there has been ample scholarship on textual content of patriotic music, from national anthems to war songs contributing to what Billig (1995) famously labelled ‘banal nationalism’; however, in this study, I want to go further, focusing on the wide variety of elements that compose the overall performance (as well as reception) of popular music, therein expanding on recent trends in scholarship that move beyond a simple examination of sung words (cf. McDonald, 2013; Paasi, 2016; Hummel, 2017). This essay is a tentative mapping of Neofolk – and its closely-related peer, Folk Metal – as a (trans)national phenomenon, and one with important ramifications for the study of contemporary trends in anti-modernist pan-European nationalist sentiment and its increasingly borderless nature. Reflecting the ever-growing speed and intensity of mass-mediated flows of ‘culture’ across Eurocentric, populist polities from the US to France to Russia, I attempt to provide a holistic analysis of multiple elements involved in band formation, crafting the product/sound, consumption of acoustic and visual output, and what such music means in a larger cultural context, particularly given the reality that Neofolk/Folk Metal ‘comprises a transnational music scene’ (Granholm, 2011, p. 516). My analytical framework is informed by recent work in popular geopolitics, particularly feminist and bodycentric studies of individual engagements with artefacts (cf. Åhäll, 2012; Fierke, 2013; Funnell and Dodds, 2015). This chapter provides an original contribution to the literature of nationalism through its focus on a comparatively new musical genre (i.e. Neofolk) and its accompanying scene to complicate the notion that contemporary nationalism is necessarily ‘national’ in form. I do this by interrogating the ethnic, cultural, and (geo)political linkages between soundscapes, religiophilosophical orientation, thematic/lyrical content, bands’ country-of-origin, (geo)graphical representations in videos and cover art, concert tour locations, and other factors. Consequently, this chapter is intended to elucidate the ways in which affective engagement with politically-inflected music is imbricated in emergent forms of national belonging and political mobilisation that are delinked from the state and statist projects (see Hage, 1998; Gardell, 2003; Guibernau, 2013; Virchow, 2015). While somewhat paradoxical given the geographicallyrooted content of Neofolk, I contend that it is a form of transnationalist
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popular culture, reflecting a denationalisation of ‘European’ identity across the continent, a phenomenon made possible by the common market, deterritorialised mass media, and high levels of personal and professional mobility across increasingly permeable borders.
Neofolk: an introduction to the genre So what is Neofolk? Neofolk and its closely related subgenres are evidence of ideologically-rooted efforts on the part of musicians and producers to produce a form of art/entertainment that is ‘typically European’ (François, 2007, p. 36). The authoritative online music catalogue website Last.fm describes Neofolk as such: Neofolk is a form of folk music-inspired experimental music that emerged from post-industrial music circles. Neofolk can either be solely acoustic folk music or a blend of acoustic folk instrumentation aided by varieties of accompanying sounds such as pianos, strings and elements of industrial music and experimental music. The genre encompasses a wide assortment of themes including traditional music, heathenry, romanticism and occultism. Neofolk musicians often have ties to other genres such as neoclassical and martial industrial. (Last.fm, 2015) While the aforementioned definition is a useful one, determining the stylistic boundaries of Neofolk is far more complicated, as alluded to by alternative religions scholar Kennet Granholm when he argues that ‘a partial convergence’ exists between Black Metal and Neofolk, although he affirms that the latter is ‘partial to traditional acoustic instruments and natural sounds’ (2011, p. 525). While certain bands satisfy all the elements of any rubric designed to ‘test’ if something is Neofolk – e.g. the Iceland-based trio Samaris, which combines dreamy synthpop and clarinet with lyrics taken from nineteenth-century Icelandic poems, or the Swedish band Garmana, which reproduces medieval Scandinavian ballads using contemporary guitar-rock and trip-hop sensibilities – such bands tend to be labelled as ‘folk rock’ or ‘folk pop’ rather than Neofolk. This is due to the fact that they do not meet certain geo-political/geo-social/religio-philosophical markers that otherwise define the genre, what we might call the völkisch essence. The scholar of contemporary fascism Anton Shekhovtsov uses a litmus test for determining what is ‘in’ and what is ‘out’ based on the ‘apoliteic’ requirement, i.e. such music must be characterised by ‘highly elitist stances’ and disdain for ‘banal petty materialism’ (2009, p. 439). To this shibboleth, cultural studies scholar Oded Heilbronner suggests that to be considered as a genuine example of Neofolk, the music must be replete with pronouncements against the ‘rationalist, production-driven, homogenizing aspects or modern society . . . coupled with a nostalgia for the past and fascination with ethnic whiteness, dark visions, and death’ (2015, p. 276). Frequently, this affinity for some imagined past results in
the embrace of European forms of paganism and/or vehement rejection of Christianity, as well as overt references to, or at least an interest in, the ethno-cultural ‘uniqueness’ of ‘Europeans’ (Granholm, 2011, p. 521). Such (geo)politicallytinged fascinations with the past can manifest both collectively (qua a ‘dead Europe’) or through an attachment to individual proto-nations evincing the Romantic ideal of the Volksgeist made famous by the philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803). As Shekhovtsov points out, Neofolk – with its national, ethnic, religious, and geographic foci – is a distinct genre that is ideologically and stylistically connected to the ‘roots revival’ that exploded across Europe (and farther afield) in the wake of World War II, reaching its zenith in the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, as this essay argues, the ‘national’ focus of this revival is steadily being transformed into a variegated cultural system that traverses national boundaries. Moreover, this ‘system’ incorporates a wide variety of linked source material and ideological orientations which are increasingly tethered to the veneration of a ‘dead Europe’, i.e. an imaginary of a Europe free of Judeo-Christian-Islamic/American-globalist influences. While the musical trend known as the ‘roots revival’ may have reached its apogee nearly fifty years ago, Neofolk as a musical genre is much younger, starting in earnest with the rise of certain bands during the 1980s. These trendsetters were initially labelled as ‘apocalyptic folk’; the most cited examples include the British bands Death in June and Current 93, as well as Allerseelen in central Europe. Despite connections to the folk music phenomenon of the mid-twentieth century (which produced a very different form of national belonging), contemporary Neofolk is closely related to and effectively grew out of the larger Goth genre (hence its occasional description as ‘folk noir’), and bands which are often seen as influencing the movement including The Velvet Underground, Leonard Cohen, Throbbing Gristle, and Joy Division. In my own mapping of Neofolk and its closely-related cousin Folk Metal, I situate these twinned genres at the nexus between classical, folk, goth, and death metal (see Figure 3.1). Several scholars have posited that Neofolk parallels the rise of ‘national traditional’ songs and related cultural performance in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in Germany and Austria (see, for instance, Diesel & Gerten, 2005; Shekhovtsov, 2009; Spracklen, 2013). However, rather than focusing on the pre-industrial early eighteenth century, there is in much of Neofolk a ‘yearning for an age even further removed in time’ (van Elferen, 2012, p. 154), thus negating the frequent critiques of Third Positionism as undisguised neo-fascism. As an ideology, fascism’s glorification of and dependence on modernity is quite distant from the lyrical content of Neofolk and Folk Metal music (and, to that point, is distinct from most forms of Third Position/Radical Traditionalist thought). Instead, Neofolk and the folkstyle musics that preceded it hark back to an ancient past that is antithetical to the machinic urban techno-realms of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries (see Amin and Thrift, 2016). Indeed, much of the thematic focus of such acoustic artefacts are ‘imagery drawn from mystic-religious Germanic and Scandinavian fire/light cults . . . as a preferred alternative to Christianity’ (Sweers, 2004, p. 72), as well as geography-centric
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Figure 3.1 A mapping of Neofolk and Folk Metal
forays into the constructed past known as ‘dead Europe’. While neo-Teutonism maintains a dominant position in such streams of thought, one should not overlook the powerful allure of other European Ur-belief systems, especially the Celtic and Balto-Slavic pantheons and mythological traditions. Closely related to Neofolk in many ways is the genre of Folk Metal, which unlike ‘folk rock’, meets the apoliteic requirement via its anti-modernity and throaty criticisms of ‘individualist and standardising western thought . . . , Americanisation of customs, and the ideology of progress’ (François, 2007, p. 44). While the lead singer of the Irish band Primordial, Alan Averill, eschews the label ‘Folk Metal’ (opting instead for his band being situated in the ‘second wave of Black Metal’), Primordial’s use of traditional instruments, more associated with Celtic acts like Clannad than with Metallica, results in their frequent inclusion in the genre. On the potential alignment of Folk Metal with cultural nationalism and political speech, Averill notes: Of course, some of those bands do have some cultural awareness but very few if any are political or nationalistic, this is often something people outside level at it in attempt to align it with the right or cast the scene and bands in a negative light. Anyone who has been to a Korpiklaani show will tell you politics is about as far from the table as possible despite those guys being genuine men from the mountains with some pagan/shamanistic ideals. Then on the other hand you have the older bands who came from the second wave of
Black metal in the late 80s and early 90s, darker, harder and infinitely more serious bands to which Primordial for example belongs. This is sometimes where you are more likely to find some bands who might have some politics or more serious spiritual idealism or a cultural base that isn’t folkloric or fantastical but there aren’t hard and fast rules to any of it. These days anything cultural . . . is deemed political by the new left, so even adopting pre-Christian pagan imagery is enough to be called political. (Averill, 2016) As Spracklen, Lucas, and Deeds have argued (2014), ‘new metal’ (Viking, Black, Folk, etc.), with its frequent focus on ‘heritage’, speaks to a variety of questions in adjusting to the vagaries of the contemporary world, providing a sonic vehicle for engaging with what Zygmunt Bauman has labelled ‘liquid modernity’ (2000). Borrowing from Davies (2017), this sort of allochronic engagement relies heavily on soundscapes that sonically spirit the listener out of the disenchanted realm of everyday (post)modernity to an mythical imaginary where primordial nations (or more accurately, ethnoses) existed in harmony with the ‘Land’ and their respective place-based ‘gods’. Tangentially related are the styles of music currently labelled ‘national rock’ and ‘ethnopunk’, which like Neofolk employ traditional instruments, are often accompanied by folk dancing, and engage in revivalist folklore, neo-shamanism, ‘peasantism’, and anti-Westernism (Kürti, 2015). Another ‘fellow traveller’ genre is neo-medieval/neoclassical music like that of Dead Can Dance, Les Joyaux de la Princesse, Corvus Corax, and Arcana. However, like folk rock, such bands tend to eschew political messaging despite their medieval spectacle and soundscapes, thus failing to meet the apoliteic threshold. In terms of delimitating my own rubric for how to map the frontier between Neofolk, Medieval Folk, Dark Folk, Pagan Folk, Apocalyptic Folk, and Folk Metal and other related genres (e.g. Black Metal, Neo-medieval, and Neoclassical), I fall back on Granholm’s litmus of traditional acoustic instrumentation combined with a ‘complex cultural system’ married to Shekhovtsov’s shibboleth of the apoliteic. To this, I propose to add the cultural studies notion of ‘routes’ and ‘roots’, which I will return to in the conclusion.
The poetics, pathways, and politics of neofolkish nationalism Following the rise of trailblazers like Death in June and Allerseelen in the late 1980s, Neofolk and Folk Metal exploded in the 1990s with new bands forming throughout the 2000s. In terms of national origin, the countries of northern Europe dominate as sites of band formation (see Table 3.1). Incontestably, Finland lays claim to the largest number of such bands per capita, which is not surprising since the Nordic country is also home to the largest number of heavy metal acts per person with 53.5 bands per 100,000 people (Grandoni, 2012). Major acts include Korpiklaani (formerly known as Shaman), Tenhi, and Turisas. Norway and Ireland also punch above their (demographic) weight,
Table 3.1 Prominent Neofolk and Folk Metal bands Country of Origin
Allerseelen The Moon Lay Hidden beneath a Cloud Der Blutharsch Dornenreich Waldschrat Sig:Ar:Tyr Night Profound Souverain Slavogorje :Of the Wand & the Moon: Dune Messiah Metsatöll Amorphis Korpiklaani (Shaman) Moonsorrow Ensiferum Tenhi Finntroll Turisas Nest October Falls Fenrir Subway to Sally Empyrium In Extremo Von Thronstahl Forseti Halgadom Nordglanz Sonne Hagal Neue Welten Finsterforst Darkwood Virrasztók Dalriada Sacra Arcana The Moon and the Nightspirit Cruachan Geasa Primordial Spiritual Front Skyforger Kūlgrinda Romowe Rikoito Žalvarinis Rome
1987 1993 1996 1996 2009 2003 2007 2011 2005 1999 2014 1999 1990 1993 1995 1995 1996 1997 1997 1999 2001 2007 1990 1994 1995 1995 1997 1999 1999 2000 2001 2004 2005 1998 1998 2001 2003 1992 1994 1995 1999 1995 1990 1995 2001 2005
Croatia Denmark Estonia Finland
Italy Latvia Lithuania
Country of Origin
Omnia Heidevolk H.E.R.R. Lumsk Vàli Wardruna Havnatt Moon Far Away Kauan Ancestral Volkhves Trobar de Morte Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio Vintersorg Eluveitie Chur Death in June Current 93 Sol Invictus Fire + Ice Waylander Ostara Blood Axis Markus Wolff/Waldteufel Dormant Cult of Youth Blood and Sun
1996 2002 2002 1999 2003 2003 2006 1995 2005 2001 1999 1993 1994 2002 2005 1981 1982 1987 1991 1993 1999 1989 1995 2006 2007 2011
Russia Slovakia Spain Sweden Switzerland Ukraine United Kingdom
Sources: Encyclopaedia Metallum, Last.fm, CVLT Nation, Wikipedia, and Bandcamp.
with a handful of bands each, including Lumsk and Primordial, two important bands in the larger scene. Nearly every country in northern Europe has at least one prominent Neofolk or Folk Metal act, including even the smallest countries such as Luxembourg (Rome) and Estonia (Metsatöll). Germany has more than a dozen such bands; however, somewhat surprisingly, none have achieved breakout success along the lines of Austria’s Der Blutharsch or Switzerland’s Eluveitie. Across the Atlantic, popular North American bands include U.S.-based Blood Axis and Canada’s Sig:Ar:Tyr. In reviewing the song titles and lyrical content of Neofolk and Folk Metal bands, a strong geographic and historical thread is visible. For instance, when one interrogates the thematic content of these bands’ musical output, there are curious commonalities. For example, consider Eluveitie’s ‘Your Gaulish War’ (Spirit, 2006) and the concept album Helvetios (2012), which focused on the Gallic Wars from the perspective of the ancient Helvetians. Similarly, Heidevolk’s album Batavi (2012) presents a thematic treatment of that ancient
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Germanic tribe’s turbulent relations with Rome. These projects sonically and textually rework a 2,000-year old past, alternatively lamenting the puissance of Rome as a sort of civilizational juggernaut (paralleling contemporary neoliberal American-dominated globalisation) crushing quiddity in its path, while also recognizing the greatness of the Roman Empire and its martial motto Senātus Populusque Rōmānus (SPQR), a lyric found quite frequently in the genre’s lyrical content, including that of the Irish band Primordial. SPQR is even used as the name of a music label specializing in martial industrial and Neofolk, with artists like Death in Rome. Returning to Primordial, one of the more prominent bands in the scene, the textual content of certain of their songs provides examples of a sort of transnational embrace of ‘dead Europeanism’, a sort of ideology-in-waiting. A particularly evocative example of this is the track ‘Heathen Tribes’ from the 2007 album To the Nameless Dead. The song, which makes the European continent into a metaphorical ‘church’ (though one without walls), invokes a common heritage for all the continent’s peoples: ‘We are born/From the same womb/Hewn from the same stone’. ‘Heathen Tribes’ then goes on to make explicit reference to ten ‘ancient’ sites across Europe, most of which lay to the north of the Alps. These include the Teutoburg Forest, site of Arminius’ defeat of the Romans, as well the Baltic Sea, Hordaland, Prague, and Arnhem. At the end of the track, lead singer Alan Averill (a.k.a. A. A. ‘Nemtheanga’) intones: Yet when to Ireland we return I know that I am home at last And every sun that sets Takes me closer to her Earth In keeping with the flows of identitarian thought, the themes of pan-Europeanism stripped of its Christian overlay allied with a personal attachment to the land of one’s birth (and/or ancestors) strongly manifests, making emplacement a sort of vessel for identity. Analogous to these themes from western Europe, one finds in the lyrical content of north-eastern European Neofolk a powerful vein of anti-Crusaderism, manifesting in scathing attacks on the German knights who sought dominion over the Baltic Rim. Latvian Neofolk rockers Skyforger’s ‘The Battle of Saule’ (Kauja Pie Saules, 1998) recounts the defeat of the Christian Livonian Brothers of the Sword by the pagan Samogitians, calling out to the thunder-god Perkon and revelling in the site of Christian bones on the battleground. Other than the chorus, written by guitarist and singer Pēteris Kvetkovskis, the lyrics are adapted from the eponymous poem by folklorist Vilis Plūdons (published in 1928), reflecting the peak of Latvian nationalism during the interwar period of independence. Other Neofolk bands are lyrically obsessed with primeval/mediaeval European primitivism and the assumed ‘purity’ of nature, reflecting the apoliteic ethos mentioned earlier. The Finnish band Tenhi, the most popular non-Anglophone Neofolk band according to Last.fm, is a paradigm of this trend with song titles such as ‘Grain’ (Viljia), ‘Vernal’ (Keväin), and ‘Nights’ (Suortuva) on their 2002
Figure 3.2 Album artwork for Skyforger’s album Kauja Pie Saules (1998)
album Väre, which also includes a track named ‘Kuolleesi River’. Similarly, the Archangelsk, Russia-based Neofolk band Moon Far Away’s favourite subject is the ‘annual harvest cycle’, frequently invoked in the band’s ‘visual arts through representations of scythes and crops . . . which aims to evoke the ritual side of the folklore’ (Adic, 2015). As Magnus Westergaard (2016), the founder of the Danish Neofolk act Dune Messiah states, Neofolk is defined by its attachment to ‘strong imagery’ and obsession with ‘rooting’ in place and space (he named his band after the 1969 Frank Herbert novel which focused on ‘vastness, emptiness of space, and time . . . something eternal’) and there is clearly a focus on ‘old [E]uropean traditional music’, which manifests in new ways through the use of ‘organic’ and ‘non-static instruments’. However, he is quick to dismiss the notion that Neofolk as a genre is overtly political, despite the fact that it often attracts ‘right-wing, neo-nationalistic oriented people’. He argues that ‘there is room for everything . . . transgender, queer, and extreme macho liberal types’ alike.
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Neofolk and Folk Metal’s use of ‘indigenous’ instruments is one of the defining qualities of the genre. Reflecting a desire to link the soundscapes created to the imagined past as well as specific places and spaces associated with Europe, and particularly a mediaeval and even earlier idyll of Europe, artists tend to feature the fiddle, harp, tin whistles, hurdy-gurdy, cittern, bodhrán, hammered dulcimer, and bagpipe. Pushing Tomlinson’s (2016) concept of ‘musicking’ into the realm of the political, these instruments function as affect-laden signifiers of national identity, imbricating the listener (and performer) in allochronic relationship with an imagined primeval/mediaeval Europe. In terms of musicality and tonal structure, van Elferen points out that Neofolk tends to be defined by ‘minor and modal keys, open fifths, beat punctuated rhythms and strong echoes that create a cathedral-like acoustic experience’ (2012, p. 159). As Davies (2017) points out, there is an immanent politics of soundscapes, with ‘indexical signs’ transporting the consumer to imaginary places and spaces that they may not be able to reach through words alone. Some bands, particularly eastern European ones, also favour reviving ancient stylistic elements in vocals that evoke the primeval past and pay tribute to ancestral voices, while other bands – especially those in western Europe – favour lyrics sung in dead languages including Old Norse, Old High German, and Anglo-Saxon. Interestingly, one should note that much of what constitutes an ‘authentic’ link with the past, particularly in regards to instrumentation, is a fallacy, or at the very least, apocryphal. Many of the instruments that lend authenticity to Neofolk compositions were unknown until after the Middle Ages. However, I contend that this does not undermine the centrality of geographic/ethno-nationalistic identity to the genre; conversely, it strengthens it, given that such ‘traditional’ tools for musicmaking are seen as bound to certain places and associated ethnies, and historical veracity is of no concern when it comes to affect. Perhaps the most emblematic of the importance of the past in Neofolk is the Swiss band Eluveitie’s use of the dead Celtic language Gaulish in their songs (the band, like many continental Neofolk acts, also sings in English). Indeed, the act’s name is Helvetic Gaulish for ‘I am Helvetian’, i.e. a member of the Celtic Helvetii tribe from what is now Switzerland. Purportedly, the band took the name from Etruscan graffiti found on a vessel in Mantua in northern Italy. Other bands similarly reflect their attachment to local space and place in their nomenclature, such as the Lithuanian act Kūlgrinda. As Buckley and Moynihan point out in the review of the band’s collected works, ‘kūlgrinda are the hidden stone pathways that extend through the marshes, swamps, and waterways of Lithuania, connecting villages and farms’ (2014, p. 303). These secret roads served as escape routes for the (pagan) peasantry from the all-too-frequent (Christian) invaders who sought to conquer the Baltic lands. Founded in 1990, the heathen ritual music of Kūlgrinda ‘evokes an archaic and enduring landscape’ (Buckley & Moynihan, 2014). Pagan studies scholar Michael Strmiska, who has studied the work of Kūlgrinda and other Neofolk and Folk Metal acts from north-eastern Europe, avers that the ‘Baltic cultural landscape’ with its ‘intense pride in ethnic traditions, including pre-Christian Pagan religion, and common experience of painful
resistance to foreign domination’ represents a natural font of inspiration for such bands (2012, p. 368). The utilisation of geographic space as a stand-in for the primordial ‘nation’ is a common trait across the genre, and one which reflects popular culture’s ‘everyday’ framing of what it means to be part of the community, however this is defined (Edensor, 2002). The Estonian Folk Metal band Metsatöll, whose music videos frequently focus on pagan beliefs and the glories of Estonian nature, makes the link to geography in their genesis, stating in the biography section of their official website: ‘On 24 February 1999, three men held a meeting at the borders of the Pääsküla bog . . . one of whom could play a little bit of guitar, another who knew how to play a little bit of drums, and a third who had come up with a sufficiently ancient-sounding name that would be just right for a heavy metal band – ‘Metsatöll’ (the band’s name is an ancient Estonian euphemism for wolf)’ (Metsatöll, 2015). In one of their earlier tracks, ‘My Sacred Grove’ from the 2004 album Hiiekoda, the band makes its allegiance to ‘Taara’, i.e. Estonia, clear with lyrics that include: Into the farmsteads of Taara’s people Into the forests of mother earth. I would rather fall for my fatherland Then hang in a stranger’s leash. Moving beyond lyrical content and band nomenclature, the spatial dynamics or ‘routes’ of Neofolk easily lend themselves to analysis. As detailed in the overview of major Neofolk/pagan folk acts shown in the earlier table, the countries of
Figure 3.3 Promotional photo of Estonian band Metsatöll
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northern Europe are overrepresented in terms of country of origin. When one factors in the comparatively small populations of Nordic countries like Finland and Norway, the geographic connection becomes even more obvious. The touring schedules of major Neofolk/Folk Metal bands also evince a peculiarly geographic flavour as evidenced by Primordial’s 2016 tour schedule which wound its way from Dublin to Helsinki before doubling back through northern Europe to conclude in Copenhagen, rarely dipping below the Alps. Brescia, as a major centre of northern Italian separatism and a stronghold of the Lega Nord per l’Indipendenza della Padania, reflects the sort of environment where such bands find an avid fan base in Mediterranean Europe. Even more conspicuous are the festivals which attract Neofolk bands and their fan base. Granholm (2011) points to Lithuania’s Menuo Juodaragais Neofolk festival as the paragon; however, there are other events that bring together such acts including the Hexentanz Festival (Germany), which celebrates Walpurgisnacht (‘Witches’ Night’), and the Dokk’em Open Air Festival (Netherlands), which takes place not far from the site of Anglo-Saxon missionary Boniface’s murder by pagans resisting Christianisation in 754 A.D., and the annual Cernunnos Pagan Fest in Paris. Thus, through a sort or performance of spatiality, Neofolk and Folk Metal artists further reaffirm their bonds to (political) geography by situating their performances in ‘pagan places’ (see Saunders, 2013). The pagan themes and overt neopaganism of many Neofolk groups are perhaps the most striking elements in the centrality of geographic attachment within the genre. In fact, Webb asserts that ‘some sense of identifiable paganism’ is the foundational bond that all Neofolk music shares, with the Germanic brand of neopaganism, often called Heathenry, being the most common path explored among artists. As François points out, ‘Paganism is understood as an ethnic religion, meaning that it is rooted in a geographic area – Europe – and is specific to the direct descendants of the Indo-Europeans’ (2007, p. 51). As I have discussed elsewhere, there is a dearth of scholarship on the question of how (neo)pagans are represented in popular culture and ‘how such representations impact quotidian understandings of geopolitical space’ (Saunders, 2013, p. 803), this despite the fact that (neo)paganism is frequently represented on screen and in other media, and such representations are increasingly positive (Saunders, 2014). What makes Neofolk interesting is that it is a ‘transnational scene’, yet it is able to maintain links to geographic space through various fundamental aspects, the first and foremost being religion (Granholm, 2011, p. 516), which it accesses both through representational (textual/visual) and non- or more-thanrepresentational (sonic/affectual) ways. While some Neofolk artists, and especially the much-analysed band Death in June, do linger at the right-wing fringe, at least from the vantage of imagery and use of martial elements drawn from the Nazi period (see Webb, 2007; Heilbronner, 2015), most bands engage in what Granholm refers to as a ‘positive othering’ of spaces, places, and peoples associated with Europe’s pre-Christian past (2011, p. 519). Importantly, the embrace of pagan elements differs greatly from flirtations with fascism, with the latter tending to be a manifestation of and ‘emptying of meaning rather than the exploitation of
historical memory’ (Ward, 1996, p. 160), whereas the former represents genuine attempts at tapping ‘a usable past [as] a means to possible futures’ (Chase, 2006, p. 150). In fact, the excavation of bucolic pagan pasts can be seen as a ‘reframing’ of nationalism outside of the techno-industrial lethality that characterised (ethnostatist) political mobilisation during the long twentieth century (Brubaker, 1996). As Chase (2006) points out, roots – whether genuine or invented – are key to the ethos that girds Neofolk and Folk Metal, as well as its complementary subgenres. Neofolk’s deployment of ‘cultural capital’ through performance, sound, and visual imagery is inherently geographic in nature. One of the first scholars to examine the phenomenon of Neofolk actually linked its rise to a particular place in Germanic Neopaganism’s geographical imagination, the Kultstätte (‘place of worship’) of Wewelsburg, a Renaissance castle located in North Rhine-Westphalia (see Heilbronner, 2015). Other researchers have made the ideological notion of the ‘retreat into the forest’ (Waldgang) essential to understanding Neofolk and the social and artistic motivations behind the scene (see Diesel & Gerten, 2007). Moreover, we can isolate the specific importance of a single space as the wellspring of Neofolk, that is, a dead Europe. As Shekhovtsov states: ‘The vision of a dead Europe is articulated not only in lyrics, song titles, and artists’ interviews, but also graphically expressed in album covers and artwork’ (Shekhovtsov, 2009, p. 447). Hence, Neofolk and Folk Metal have both informed and been influenced by contemporary political movements which privilege place and space, as well as people and ideologies (especially paganism) associated with idealised geographies.
The place of neofolk and folk metal in the pan-European nationalist matrix In contemporary Europe, there has been a marked shift away from the left-versusright politics that characterised the 1968 generation. Post-Cold War European integration, growing economic interdependence via the common market and the Eurozone, increased mobility through the Schengen Accord, and adapting to challenges of extra-European migration (particularly from the Middle East and North Africa) have all left indelible marks on contemporary European society. This trend has only increased in recent years with the 2015 peak of the refugee ‘crisis’ resulting from the Syrian Civil War and other factors. One of the reactions to meta-trends in politics and societal change has come from what is often described as the ‘radical right’, though such a qualification is fraught with complications particularly given the explicit (and sometimes wellreasoned) rejection of the left-right dichotomy by those who embrace such ideologies. Identitarianism is probably the most well-known of these ‘new’ ideologies, despite its fairly recent emergence on the political scene. Employing the lambda symbol, identitarianism has gained increasing purchase amongst youth across western Europe, and France in particular, growing out of the (European) New Right (Nouvelle Droite), which dates to the 1970s and GRECE (Research and Study Group on European Civilization). Certainly, the figure most associated
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with the New Right is the French intellectual Alain de Benoist, an outspoken critic of egalitarianism, neoliberalism, and the social doctrines of JudeoChristianity. Born in 1943, de Benoist, despite his foundational role in the European New Right (ENR), represents, at least on a generational scale, the paradigmatic ‘enemy’ of contemporary Identitarianism (qua Génération Identitaire) as advocated by its main spokesperson, the Austrian political science student Markus Willinger. In his manifesto Generation Identity: A Declaration of War Against the ‘68ers (2013), Willinger puts forth an extensive political platform for the ‘abandoned, isolated, atomised, [and] uprooted’ youth (2013, p. 7) of Europe to reject the legacy of National Socialism and its unintended offspring, the ‘fanatical’ left-wing, multiculturalist baby-boomer ideologues of Europe (2013, p. 66). While many critics paint the Identitarians as straight-forward racists, Willinger extols the virtues of diversity, stating that ‘large-scale diversity requires small-scale homogeneity’ (Willinger, 2013, p. 43), defending his ‘affirmation of European identity, culture, and tradition’ as the only bulwark against crushing hybridisation, homogenisation, and neoliberalism (Willinger, 2013, p. 58). While Willinger’s writings are clearly Nietzschean in form (often affirming the value of or an absence of the ‘will to power’), vestiges of (primitivist) Christianity flow through the narrative, often putting him at odds with his intellectual antecedent de Benoist.
Figure 3.4 ‘Build Fortress Europa’. Political promotional sticker by Generation Identitær in Aarhus, Denmark (2018)
Tapping most (though not all) of Identitarianism’s major policy planks, the recently formed Le Parti des Européens articulates a ‘third’ path forward for Europe, and one which maintains the EU as the ideal structure for venerating the past and navigating the future. The platform avers the following: The Party of Europeans (‘Le Parti des Européens’) . . . was born from the idea that the European Union should be more than a large market with minor democratic institutions being the result of successive treaties between sovereign states; instead, it should become the spearhead of the emergence of a large European nation, which today includes 800 million people who are all united by a common origin and culture. . . . The Europe we want is European first and foremost, from Iceland to Russia, but not Turkey; it is based on the triple European spiritual heritage (Gentile, Judeo-Christian, and humanist) and the triple European cultural heritage (Indo-European, Greco-Roman, and ‘barbarian’). We want the most democratic and transparent system possible, based on consistent research and popular support via the referendum and various European elections. . . . We therefore support the creation of a European citizenry based on the democratic right of blood as part of a European Republic based on its hundred regions. The party’s leader, Thomas Ferrier, is quick to distance his party from Europe’s traditional ‘radical right’, stating: ‘We defend an “identitarian Europeism” [sic], . . . defending European natives as normal citizens of Europe (Athenian model), but the core of our program is the “European State”’ (Ferrier, 2016). Consequently, such Identitarians have little in common with those parties seeking to abolish the European Union and reverse decades of continent-wide integration despite often being lumped together in the media and generic political analyses. Radical Traditionalism (RT), a ‘third position’ belief system most fully articulated in the quasi-scholarly journal TYR: Myth-Culture-Tradition, makes explicit the connection between Neofolk and ideology, given that the second volume of the journal was accompanied by a CD sampler with tracks by such artists as Allerseelen, Coil, and Fire + Ice, as well as the journal co-editor Michael Moynihan’s band Blood Axis. Rooted in the thought of the Italian occultist Julius Evola and energised by the works of de Benoist, RT advocates the following principles: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Resacralization of the world versus materialism; Folk/traditional culture versus mass culture; Natural social hierarchy . . . versus an artificial hierarchy based on wealth; The tribal community versus the nation-state; Stewardship of the earth versus ‘maximisation of resources’; A harmonious relationship between men and women versus the ‘war between the sexes’; Handicrafts and artisanship versus industrial mass-production. (Buckley & Moynihan, 2004, 9)
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Focused on producing what they call an ‘integral culture’, Radical Traditionalists seek to reclaim the (idealised) cohesion of modern tribal societies, but to do so among contemporary Europeans, North Americans, and Antipodeans. For supporters of RT, the creation and maintenance of a ‘heathen counter-culture’ is absolutely vital to this process, and RT advocates are perhaps the most outspoken in their desire to return to an idyllic pagan past, one which is realised in the ‘themes of rebellion, isolation, sacrifice, tyranny or sorrow’ so common in Neofolk and Folk Metal (Averill, 2016). While these three streams of thought diverge in key areas, they do form a sort of ideological patchwork that speaks to an understanding of Europe and Europeans that is far afield of one based on globalism, neoliberalism, and a hybridised ‘world culture’. Rejection or diminution of the norms associated with JudeoChristian values, American hegemony, and borderless laissez-faire economics and industrial production are integral to identity and political culture. Yet, it would be ludicrous to label these streams of thought as ‘nationalist’, given that in each and every epistle, post, or propaganda statement, a call is made to a transnational audience. Enter Neofolk and Folk Metal. These decidedly transnational musical genres act as popular culture adjuncts to such ideologies, providing sonic/affective complements to the textual/intellectual outputs of the ENR, Identitarian, and RT theorists, thus presenting a pop-culture referent for various forms of pan-European nationalism (or what Anton Speekenbrink refers to as ‘Demoicracy’, i.e. ‘the mutual recognition of all the [European] members’ identities and of their shared values’ [2014: 258]). Critics of Neofolk are quick to link the entirety of the genre to ‘creeping sub-cultural fascism’, though pointing out that bands are careful to maintain a level of ‘plausible deniability’ due to tendencies towards ‘incredibly subtle references’ when it comes to neo-Nazism and other extreme political ideologies. Yet, even those who condemn Neofolk for its fascistic allure recognise that it also attracts those of an ‘anti-racist’ orientation (Antifascistfront, 2016). What we see here is the ready tendency to situate the genre in a setting where it smacks of fascist associations. As music critic Oliver Sheppard pointed out in the introduction to his interview of the lead singer of :Of The Wand & The Moon:, even Neofolk’s most outspokenly anti-fascist band Die Weisse Rose (named after Sophie Scholl’s anti-Nazi organization) is berated for ‘imagery and visual motifs’ that some consider reminiscent of the Axis aesthetic gestalt, whether these be the ‘problematic’ employment of runes, armbands, or black leather trench coats (Sheppard, 2012). While the vast majority of Neofolk and Folk Metal artists reject the notion that they are political, nearly every interview of any band’s front person eventually turns to the topic of pan-European nationalism and ideology. This is especially interesting when one counterpoises such music against the revival of paganism within the music culture from the 1970s, epitomised by bands such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath (Lechter, 2013), or against the fascist imagery of Pink Floyd’s rock opera The Wall (1982) or right-wing political ‘mutterings’ or Naziesque affectations of Davie Bowie (Ward, 1996). In none of these cases were
such visual/sonic regimes linked to a wellspring of politics; instead, they were seen in a larger flow of cultural expression, a sort of blip on the screen of artistic expression gone astray. Moreover, reviews of albums tend to revel in the role of paganism, cosmology, geo-territorial mythos/history, and civilizational orientations alongside any analysis of tonal qualities and the artistic merits of the music itself. As a one reviewer of the German band Darkwood’s 2006 album Notwendfeuer states: To understand fully German Neofolk it’s good to understand the German soul and what has built up over the years, of which in its seriousness has two important sources in its origins and evolutions, of which dark German [Romanticism] is a part, but also a lighter and happy ‘Heimat’ association, which is a connection with a comfortable home in a family and with community unity. (Van Waes, 2013) While this review links Neofolk to a particular national tradition, there is a strong tendency to associate Neofolk with a wider pan-European ideal, given the transnational nature of the genre. Whether one speaks of the Ukrainian band Chur or the Dutch act Heidevolk, Folk Metal and Neofolk artists both seek and attract international fan bases. By design, the sonic regimes created through the work of such bands ignore borders while at the same time establishing spaces of emotion and manipulating structures of feeling that draw the listener’s attention back to a primordial Europe, a mythical Heimat of pagan gods, primitive communities, and forgotten or abandoned praxes – an imaginarium that is antithetical to today’s realities. Consequently, Neofolk and Folk Metal present gateways to ideological Hobbit holes where RT and identitarianism can flourish. Certainly, there are a number of bands that revel in controversy, readily tapping into ideology rather than demurring when it comes to questions of politics. As Webb points out, acts like Death in June are often ‘deliberately ambiguous about any political meaning they might be conveying’ (2007, p. 76), thus fuelling speculation about their embrace of extreme right-wing ideologies. In reference to a question about the burgeoning Neofolk scene in North America, S. P. Haché, the leader of the Canadian band Night Profound states: I think that as far as neofolk is concerned, North America has begun to reinterpret and redefine what the genre is, both spiritually and stylistically. No longer can we just mimic the sound of our forefathers. . . . America has long been seen as the mother of Western materialism and nauseating decadence. As we plunge full-force into Kali Yuga, materialistic perceptions of the world are being cremated. Tied to this cremation and destruction is a rebirth or resurgence of the power that lies just beyond, a force that is virtually unknown to those of the base, material mind-set. . . . Folk music is that of the people, and we are a people striving to make sense of this decaying corpse that we live on. (Weatherford, 2015)
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Such explicit references to the ‘age of vice’ associated with the globalised, postmodern era are at the extreme edge of what one finds within the Neofolk community; however, at the same time, such sentiments underscore certain ideological orientations of not only the fans but the creators of such popular culture. Clearly, Neofolk and Folk Metal present a challenge to the status quo in ways that other forms of popular music do not.
Conclusion: singing ‘dead Europe’ into being While most musicians in the Neofolk and Folk Metal scenes actively (or passively) reject the politicisation of their oeuvre, listening to these twinned subgenres is increasingly contextualised as aural adjuncts to a growing transnational form of pan-European cultural nationalism. This is not to say that listening to Blood Axis, going to a Primordial concert, or wearing a Death in June pin represents a political act; however, it is increasingly clear that the sonic regimes created by such music have an influence on how many contemporary Europeans (as well as Continentally-inclined North Americans and Antipodeans) conceive of the world in which they live. Adapting Fox and Miller-Idriss’ claim that nationalism is a ‘meaningful idiom in everyday life’ because ‘people talk about it’ (2008, p. 538), this chapter makes the claim that pan-European transnational identity is becoming a similarly trenchant space of belonging because people sing and make music about it. Yet, it is also possible to move beyond the text (i.e. lyrics). As I have discussed previously, soundscapes created by ‘traditional’ instruments are sonically populated with signs of primordial authenticity, producing affective allochronic engagements that are often politically profound. By creating thresholds of emotion through which fans may pass, a ‘dead Europe’ is aurally accessed while also conjuring up the possibility of ‘another Europe’ that may one day be achieved. Employing the affective resonance of traditional instruments, tapping into hoary mythos of the ‘ancestors’, playing concerts in ‘pagan’ places and spaces, and offering up visual complements (music videos, album covers, etc.) that add to such sonic-textual world-building, these bands – whether intentionally or not – are influencing political culture. As Europe and its increasingly diverse, yet increasingly interlinked populace strain to adjust to their place in the twenty-first century, questions of culture, nation, and place will continue to bedevil the continent and reverberate farther afield, as the 2016 Brexit vote has demonstrated. However, despite initial reactions to the UK’s rejection of and departure from the European project, the deeply held notions of Europeanism advocated by the (slim) minority reflect the emergence of a powerful form of transnationalism that is rooted in the commonality of the peoples of Europe. Two forces are at work in Europe: a return to the nation and a veneration of the transnational. Almost impossibly, Neofolk and Folk Metal speak to both of these ideological flows by establishing a sonic regime that affirms the idea that Europe is a patchwork of cultures, all of which are worth defending, and each of which has something to offer to all the others.
Roots and routes define what it is to be European, and the musical genres discussed in this essay invest themselves in these sometimes contradictory but often complementary flows. Any form of transnationalism is dependent on the raw materials produced through antecedent forms of nationalism (Hitchcock, 2003); as a commoditised form of culture, Neofolk and Folk Metal present enduringly polyvalent and polysemous forms of culture that serve the interests of politically-inclined elites from a variety of ideological orientations (RT, Identitarian, etc.) while also proving attractive to a depoliticised and politicallydisinterested fan base who long for worlds more informed by Tolkien’s Middle-earth, Dungeons & Dragons, and the dead gods of their forebears. By warping and wefting elements of a lost past rooted in the ‘Land’ and routed via the ‘folk/Volk’ (local, national, European, or otherwise), Neofolk and Folk Metal musicians have inadvertently situated themselves at the threshold of a new European project, one where culture is the coin of the realm.
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Contemporary Israeli television challenges national traumas Adia Mendelson-Maoz and Liat Steir-Livny1
In constructing a national identity, memorial days are important “sites of memory.” Two of the most important memorial days in Israel commemorate dramatic events in the Jewish and Israeli history: Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day and Memorial Day for Israel’s Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism. These two days are core constituents of the Israeli consensus. These state ceremonies are held throughout the country, and a siren is sounded at a set time, during which Jewish-Israelis are expected to stand at attention and in silence to respect the dead. Nonetheless, in the last few decades two different stances toward these two memorial days have emerged, hinting at a more general schism in the national consensus. The first tends simply to criticize the banality and sense of acclimation associated with the ceremonial structure of these memorial days (to use Billig’s terminology, 1995) whereas the second aims to actively deconstruct it. This is expressed mainly by minority groups. In this chapter we discuss two successful TV shows that have challenged the corny reproduction of nationalism on these days. Arab Labor (Channel 2, Keshet, 2007, 2010, 2012) is a satirical sitcom written by an Israeli Arab writer, Sayed Kashua, which focuses on the split identity of Arab citizens of Israel.2 Zaguri Empire (Hot Cable TV, 2014, 2015) is a comic drama written by Maor Zaguri, a third generation Mizrahi Jew, that tells the story of a family of Moroccan descent living far from the bustling hubs of Israel. This chapter examines how the creators of these series work from within mainstream popular culture to criticize the Israeli consensus by confronting sacred Israeli myths and revealing the banality of the reproduction of nationality.
Introduction: producing nationalism in canonic ceremonies and memorial days in Israel Nationalism creates a sense of “we” or “us” by the use of the popular and the mundane (Billig, 1995; Edensor, 2002). The concept of “banal nationalism,” as formulated by Billig, suggests that nationalism is formed through people’s habitus, and mainly through the practices and routines of social life (1995, p. 42) by
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everyday representations of the nation, and the constant presence of familiar national symbols that underscore the nation’s “togetherness” and the difference between “us” and “them.” Billing discusses the practice of contemporary reproduction of nationalism while taking a state-centric view of nationhood. He examines the power of the state and its institutions in creating the symbols and the sights of nationalism within people’s routines. Skey (2009) criticized this approach and argued instead that the notion of a homogenous audience is unrealistic, since nationalism is reproduced, mobilized, and consumed differently by different people. Similarly, Fox and Miller-Idriss (2008) and Marco Antonsich (2016) portray people as active and self-conscious producers of national meaning. Israeli nationalism was forged by the state and its institutions to shape nationhood according to a hegemonic stance. However, the contemporary struggles for recognition and acknowledgment of diverse groups in Israel make it clear that nationalism needs to be formulated within a dialectical structure between a top-down perspective which perceives the state and its institutions as the main agency for reproducing nationalism and a bottom-up process which emphasizes the role of people and groups as agents who formulate national stances, but can also aim to deconstruct nationalism and suggest alternatives in its place. Memorial days are part of nation-building because they articulate “memory and forgetting” (Anderson, 1983). Memorial days are made up of a set of ceremonies and rituals that bond the nation together and form a united history. Two of the most important memorial days in Israel are Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day and Memorial Day for Israel’s Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism. These two days commemorate dramatic events in the Jewish and Israeli history and trace a linear narrative from victimhood in the pre-state period to the Jewish fight for national acknowledgment and independence. The vast public consensus as to the importance of these days has turned them into sacred events that symbolize Jewish-Israeli loyalty to the nation and the state. Holocaust Remembrance Day is commemorated on 27 Nissan according to the Jewish calendar (usually in April). On this day, a two-minute siren is sounded throughout Israel, at which time Jewish-Israelis, children and the elderly alike, stand at attention. Drivers stop driving and stand at attention beside their cars. Official ceremonies take place on the eve before this day as well as on the following morning and evening in numerous institutions and sites throughout Israel (Jewish holidays and memorial days are evening to evening). Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers takes place on 4 Iyar according to the Jewish calendar, a week after the Holocaust Remembrance Day. A siren is heard on the eve of this day and a second siren is heard the next morning; Jewish-Israelis stand at attention on both occasions. Numerous ceremonies take place all over Israel in cemeteries, high schools, and cities. By law, all places of entertainment are closed on the eve of the two memorial days. These memorial days clearly draw on the power of ceremonies and their repetitive narrative as tools for structuring a national worldview. For this purpose, these memorial days propose an interpretation of history, emphasizing certain
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content and themes while sidelining others in line with society’s ideology and the guiding paradigms with which it seeks to shape and define itself (Young, 1993). Thus, these memorial days create a canonic memory that reflects the main sociopolitical-ideological groups in Israel (Azaryahu, 1995; Ohana & Wistrich, 1996). The regularity of these days, the repetitive structure of the ceremonies, and the media coverage all turn them into what Billig termed “banal Nationalism” (1995). The memorial ceremonies, media coverage, and sirens function as representations of Israeli nationalism that are perceived as both trivial and inherited in the Jewish-Israeli DNA, just like the flag and the pledge of allegiance in American schools (Billig, 1995, p. 50). However, because the history of the State of Israel and its distinctive nature have engendered a highly heterogeneous social and cultural fabric, the construction of Israeli nationhood has created a hierarchy of belonging which is mirrored in the cultural position of these two revered memorial days as well: the nationalist tension between the Arab minority (20% of Israel’s population) and the Jewish majority and the ethnic tension between groups of immigrants. The Memorial Day for Israel’s Fallen Soldiers, for instance, commemorates soldiers and civilians who were killed in wars against Arab countries and by acts of terrorism by Palestinians. Israeli Arabs do not serve in the Israeli army and cannot identify with this memorial day. The Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorates the event that almost annihilated European Jewry. Although the Jews in North Africa suffered from the Nazi persecution, some were imprisoned, sent to forced labor camps and some were sent to camps in Europe, for many years this suffering was not commemorated. Despite their identification with Jewish suffering, some Mizrahi Jews experience complex feelings of being excluded from this sacred Israeli narrative because they are not of European descent and have begun to point out the marginalization of the persecution of Jews in North Africa (Yablonka, 2008; Kozlovsky Golan, 2017). During the last few decades the homogeneity of Israeli’s canonic nationhood has begun to fracture, and alternative narratives and cultures have surfaced that criticize the national hegemony and demand social and cultural recognition (Brubaker, 1996; Margalit & Halbertal, 1998; Yona, 2005; Yona & Shenhav, 2005; Mendelson-Maoz, 2014). The sacred days of commemoration were the last to be targeted but eventually they were castigated as well. Alternative ceremonies have been held alongside canonic ceremonies (for example, Steir-Livny, 2016), and a critical view from the perspective of different marginalized groups has begun to develop.
Popular culture and Israeli media – representing minority groups on television Forms and practices of popular culture make nationhood an integral part of people’s everyday lives (Edensor, 2002). Local television, alongside other forms of mass media, plays a major role in the reproduction of nationhood. According to Edensor, television produces a common space and creates a shared sense of
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nationhood. Bourdieu argued that the culture is a battlefield for recognition, legitimacy, dominance, and prestige. Since television is owned and managed by power groups in society, it reinforces their hegemony and immobilizes the margins (Bourdieu, 1983, 1984). Other scholars have pointed to the important role of television in shaping the identity of individuals and groups during times of identity struggle (Lewis, Inthorn, & Wahl-Jorgensen, 2005). This holds true in the Israeli context as well, where television (and particularly the main state-owned channels) attempts to preserve a sort of “tribal campfire” which sustains a sense of national pride and endorses Jewish and Zionist values. This is particularly noticeable in televised broadcasts at times of crisis and Jewish and national holidays, and certainly on memorial days (Yuran, 2001; Meyers, Neiger, & Zandberg, 2014). However, it would be a mistake to consider local television solely as a powerdriven, hegemonic entity that seeks to construct nationalism. Fiske (1987), for instance, claimed it would be erroneous to assume that local television only acts to preserve the status quo. In his opinion, popular televised texts are not flat and one-dimensional. In most cases, they are open and have multiple meanings, enabling the dominant hegemonic stance to be decoded diversely in an oppositional reading that subverts the hegemonic codes, or through a polysemic reading which combines hegemonic and subversive positions. Thus, while televised content may be professedly consensual, in many cases it also features underlying new or double codings which subvert hegemonic stances. The duality of local television as both a guardian of the hegemony and a presenter of subversive content transpires in a complex manner in sitcoms or comedies. These genres are generally perceived as a way of representing superficial stereotypes (Brook, 2001). Repeating the predictable traits of the protagonists perpetuates gendered, ethnic, and class-based social profiles and strengthens hegemonic groups’ control over minority groups (Bhabha, 1994; Perkins, 1979). At the same time, the comic dimension can provide an outlet for criticism which enables a temporary release from inflexible hierarchies (Bakhtin, 1993). This can be done by creating silliness, by building antithetical contextual frameworks between the possible and the unfeasible (Palmer, 1988), generating conflicting meanings (Shifman, 2008), or by the exaggeration and vulgarization of stereotypes to the point where they are diminished or shattered (Lubin, 2006). The TV series discussed in this chapter deal with two groups that were, and are, marginalized by the Israeli hegemony: Israeli Arabs and Mizrahi Jews. In Israeli television, Israeli Arabs were, until recently, one of the most highly discriminated against groups. A research report issued in 2006 by the Second Authority for Television and Radio indicated that Israeli Arabs are the most underrepresented group in Israeli television. Amal Jamal (2006) argued that Israeli Arabs suffer from both exclusion and a visibility that is twinned with negative stereotypes. They are almost totally absent from talk shows and entertainment programs and have only a minimal presence in news and current events programs, usually in a negative context (Laor, 2006). Prior to Kashua’s Arab Labor, only a few television programs, mostly comedies, featured Arab Israelis.
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In these programs, the Arab characters were usually “good Arabs:” computer science students, young couples, or waiters. None of these characters challenged the Jewish hegemony or planned to undermine it, but simply aspired to live a peaceful life and climb the social ladder (Shifman, 2008). The series Our Boys (Hagai Levi, Joseph Cedar, Tawfik Abu Wael, HBO, 2019), which was created by Israelis, and aired on HBO and on Israeli TV, was the first to represent the murder of an innocent Arab-Israeli by Jewish Israelis and create an in depth image of his family’s suffering. The series and these representations created a turmoil in Israel and Our Boys was titled by some right wing leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as “antisemitic” (Netanyahu, 2019). The representation of Mizrahim in Israeli culture over the years has also been problematic. Most of the Jews from Asia and North Africa came to Israel in the late 1940s and 1950s, after the founding of the State. There is a broad consensus that the Israeli establishment’s attitude towards these immigrants was discriminatory and that their integration into Israeli life was affected by a patronizing approach (Rozin, 2002). During the first decades of the State of Israel, Mizrahim were underrepresented or associated with negative stereotypes in several fields of Israeli culture. During the 1960s and 1970s, the derisively termed ‘boureka films’ associated Mizrahim with backwardness, crime, unemployment, and illiteracy. Many productions, until the last few decades, used Ashkenazi Jewish actors to play Mizrahi characters who were generally typecast as superstitious, lazy and poor (Shohat, 1991; Yosef, 2004). However, in the 2000s the representations have changed. Scholars assert that nowadays the Mizrahim are the dominant protagonists on Israeli TV, their image is complex and multifaceted, and they represent Israelism (Lavi Dinur and Karniel 2016). Since the 1980s, the growing awareness of various ethnic and national groups in Israel has prompted artists from different minority groups to write and discuss their identity and their complex relationship with the Israeli hegemony. Both Mizrahim and Israeli Arabs, as well as other groups whose cultures have been unacknowledged and positioned on the fringes of society, have gained clout by their efforts to restore their collective identities, discuss the nature of oppression, challenge the standard historiography and demand cultural recognition. Both Arab Labor and Zaguri Empire were written in this cultural context. They deal with the complex relationships with the hegemony and criticize certain aspects of Israeli nationalism while revealing their mechanisms. Our analysis of certain key episodes will show how the creators use mainstream media to deconstruct banal nationalism from the inside and pose an alternative to hegemonic perceptions of sacred national values. In a way, this is a battle over national exclusion and inclusion, fought from the inside by Kashua and Zaguri.
The Nakba in Arab Labor The satiric TV series Arab Labor was written by Sayed Kashua, an Israeli Arab novelist and journalist who was born in the Arab village of Tira and was
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accepted at the age of 15 to the Arts and Sciences high school in Jerusalem, where he was the only Arab student in his class for the most part. Arab Labor draws on elements from Kashua’s biography. The protagonist of the series is Amjad, a 35-year-old Israeli Arab journalist who wants to be part of the Jewish-Israeli elite and is torn between the ArabIsraeli and Jewish-Israeli worlds. He downplays his Arab identity and does everything he can to associate with the left-wing Ashkenazi elite that he admires. To achieve his aim, he is ready to lie, ingratiate himself, and efface his Arab identity entirely. His exaggerated, ridiculous behaviour lands him in far-fetched situations. Amjad is married to Bushra, who is proud of her Arab identity and content with her world. Amjad’s parents, who are also at peace with their identity – the village, local customs and educational methods – are embarrassed by Amjad’s “Jewish” behaviour. Arab Labor heralded a change in the place of Israeli Arabs in Israeli television. The series is written and acted by members of the Israeli Arab minority, it focuses on their lives, and Arabic is its dominant language (80% of the dialogues are in Arabic), yet it targets a wide audience including the Jewish-Israeli majority. Kashua claims that “padding the screen” was necessary to make the series more accessible to most Israeli viewers (Zoabi, 2007). In the Israel Arab/Palestinian community, Kashua’s writings on Israeli Arabs who try to “become” part of the Jewish-Israeli mainstream have been criticized, since they were perceived as implying disloyalty to the group’s basic values (Hlehel, 2008; Kershner, 2008; Kupfer, 2008). However, as Feldhay-Brenner (2001) suggested, the only way for an Israeli Arab screenwriter to show Jewish-Israeli viewers scenes from his life and liberate his characters from perceptions forced on them by the hegemony is by donning a “white mask” (Fanon, 1952; Mendelson-Maoz & Steir-Livny, 2011a, 2011b). Arab Labor was aired on prime time and was extremely popular. It received very high ratings with an average of 19.1% per episode and 24.9% for the final episode of the first season, which are highly impressive statistics for a sitcom and especially a non-Hebrew-speaking one. The program also received extremely good reviews from Jewish TV critics (Marmari, 2013). After the great success of the first season, in the second season, Kashua allowed himself to be more critical and targeted the issue of the Nakba. While the 1948 war is considered by Israeli-Jews to be a point of salvation, for the Arabs the 1948 war is the Nakba, a disaster for their nation. Many of the Arabs who remained in Israel after 1948 consider the Nakba to be the starting point of their inner struggle for identity. Arab Labor, in general, and the episodes which address the Nakba in particular, can be read as a part of what Brubaker (1996) called “minority nationalism”: a group’s demand that the state it lives in recognize its distinctive “ethnocultural nationality,” and acknowledge its cultural and political rights. Several episodes in the series engage with the Nakba. The final episode of the first season takes place on Independence Day, the eighth episode of the second series deals with the 1948 war and the Nakba, and the final episode of the third
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season creates a situation of war that embodies other wars and sharpens the national conflict between Jews and Arabs in Israel. In the final episode of the first season, Bushra is about to give birth, exactly on Israel’s Independence Day. Amjad’s father wants the boy to be named Ismail (from the biblical story of Ishmael, Isaac’s brother) but the parents want to call the boy Adam – a name that is neutral in nationalist terms and its interpretation is “a human being,” a name which transcends nationalism. Matters become complicated when it turns out that a donor has announced that he will give a million NIS (New Israeli Shekel) to the parents of the first baby born in Israel on Independence Day. Amjad and Bushra officially win the prize, but the alarmed donor, who had not envisaged awarding the money to an Arab baby, hurriedly adds an extra condition – the baby must be called “Israel,” assuming that the Arab family will refuse to name their baby “Israel.” The episode ends with a comic resolution – the prize is divided between Amjad’s family, who officially were the first to give birth, and a Jewish family whose baby was born almost simultaneously. The Jews call their son “Israel,” Amjad and Bushra name their son “Ismail,” and the equal distribution of the donation represents a utopian equality. There is a catch, however, since it is the Jewish family who appears in the media as a shining example of Israeli Jewish society; although they received half of the donation, the Israeli Arab family remains symbolically behind the hospital bed’s curtain. This is how Kashua uses a symbolic event to vent his sarcastic opinion of the place of Israeli Arabs in Israeli society, which claims to grant them equal rights. Episode eight in the second season is much more dramatic and subversive. Kashua describes the vortex of identities to which the three characters – Amjad, his wife Bushra, and their daughter Maya – are subjected. The episode opens with Maya doing her homework, in which she must list “the reasons for the outbreak of the War of Independence.”3 Bushra is appalled by the very question, but Amjad dictates the Zionist narrative to his daughter. This triggers a quarrel which drives the whole episode. Bushra wants her daughter “to study in a school where she won’t forget who she is, and where she comes from,” while Amjad replies that “tomorrow every lousy cop in the Border Police will remind her who she is and where she comes from.” Bushra wants Maya to be proud of her Arab identity, but Maya answers the question “What happened in 1948?” by writing “the Jewish state was founded in the Land of Israel, and it was named the State of Israel”; i.e. she attempts to internalize her father’s and the Zionist point of view and hence to eliminate her identity. Maya wants to be accepted and thus adopts the “present absentee” (Grossman, 1993) role by annulling Israeli Arab history and apparently also endorsing the educational stance of the hegemony, but the argument about Maya’s identity is further complicated by the upcoming Memorial Day ceremony for the fallen. Maya sings in the school choir, but the teacher in charge of the choir believes it is inappropriate for her to participate in the ceremony. Maya is hurt: “Am I not like everyone else?” she asks. Amjad allows his daughter to take part in the school’s Memorial Day ceremony, but the fact must be kept secret from Bushra, and so Maya is taken to her grandmother’s house to spend the night
Adia Mendelson-Maoz and Liat Steir-Livny
before the ceremony. That evening Maya discovers the family history. She asks her grandmother “What was the Nakba?” and the grandmother opens an old album and sits beside her, telling her the historical chronicles. The grandmother’s stories are the basis for the restoration of a lost national identity. As Amal Amireh pointed out, after the trauma of 1948, Palestinian nationalism “consolidated itself in defeat” (2003, p. 751); the “Palestinians have had to resort to different venues of identity reconstruction” (Sa’di, 2002, p. 176). Since they lack national institutions, most of their archives and documentation have been lost and their story silenced. Israeli Arabs can only restore their identity by focusing on individual subjectivity and by constructing a national identity through personal oral narratives. Here the use of the grandmother’s character derives from the realization that the Israeli Arab story must be told (Said, 2000). The episode ends with a chilling climax. Maya sings “Ha-Reut” (The Song of Friendship) which was written a year after the outbreak of the Israeli War of Independence by Haim Gouri, a well-known Jewish-Israeli poet, and composed by Sasha Argov. It articulates loss, friendship, comradeship and the national sacrifice and has become one of the main songs in the Jewish-Israeli cultural canon and a major text on memorial days.4 In the last scene, Maya sings “So many are no longer among us,” and “love sanctified with blood,” which all refer in the poem to Jewish comradeship and the sorrow for the friends who fought together and were killed by Arabs. But here, alongside the Hebrew words appears the Israeli Arab story: the camera makes cross-cuts between Maya singing in the school ceremony and her grandmother sitting with the album. The parallel editing creates a comparison between the Zionist narrative and the Arab narrative of the Nakba. Maya sings about the heroism of the Jewish fighters in the 1948 war, while the pages of the photo album look back at the tragedy of the Nakba and the Arabs who died during it, as though the song refers to them as well. This link thus imbues the powerful text with sensitivity, understanding, and identification that undermine the one-dimensional Zionist context and creates a new dimension of criticism and memory. In this episode, Kashua managed to present his primarily Jewish-Israeli audience with the Arab narrative through the Zionist canonic text. Interestingly, the character of Maya, who appears to become aware of her hyphenated identity, evolves throughout the series. Unlike her father, but like the other female protagonists in the series, as she grows up she gradually adopts critical stances, refuses to eliminate her Arabness, and chooses to identify herself with the Palestinian struggle for independence. She starts associating with rioting Arab teenagers who protest the Occupation by spraying graffiti at night on walls in Jerusalem. When she is chosen to represent Israel in an international judo competition, she hesitates, but later agrees. On the podium, after winning a gold medal, she stands proudly when the Israeli anthem is heard, but then, raising her hand up high, reveals a bracelet with the colours of the PLO flag. This scene is a direct extension of the “Memorial Day” episode. Kashua does not eliminate the Israeli identity, but rather acknowledges it and simultaneously subverts it
Israeli TV challenges national traumas
with the albums and the personal narrative of the grandmother and with the bracelet that symbolizes the Palestinian identity. The subversive charge of the question of identity and nationalism continued in the next two seasons in multifaceted ways. In the tenth and final episode of the third season, Kashua creates a situation of war that forces Jewish and Arab neighbours into the communal shelter. This tense situation stimulates different traumas of war from both sides: the Holocaust, the Nakba, other Israeli wars against the Arab world. In this episode, the characters vacillate between the desire to understand each other’s sorrow and traumas and to forgive, and mutual fear that creates hate and distance. At a certain point the neighbours try to leave the shelter, and discover that they are locked in. They are imprisoned with each other in the shelter just as they are in the world outside, in a conflict they cannot escape. As in the Nakba episode in the second season, the children, the younger generation, are the ones who can break the spell. In the second season it was Maya, Amjad’s daughter who created the link between the traumatic pain on both sides. In this episode it is Nadav, a Jewish boy, who watches the grownups bicker, refuses to take part in their arguing, and easily opens the shelter door and leaves.
The memory of the Holocaust in Zaguri Empire Zaguri Empire revolves around the life of a Mizrahi family of Jewish-Moroccan descent living in Beersheba. Albert, “Beber,” the father, is a grouchy man trying to earn a living. Vivienne, his wife, strives to keep the family intact, since their eight children (Aviel, Avishag, Eviatar, Miri, Avi, Avishay, Abir and Avigail) are constantly getting into trouble. The family members depicted by the screenwriter and director Maor Zaguri often swear, shout, fight, and behave in a vulgar manner, but also love each other dearly and try to keep the family together. The series prompted debates as to whether Zaguri, who himself is part of this ethnic group, was perpetuating negative stereotypes associated with the Mizrahim and even reinforcing them, or whether he was dismantling these stereotypes while presenting a more complex and broader image of the Moroccan family (see for example, Abazon, 2014; Alush Levron, 2015). The series quickly became a hit in Israel when it aired in early April 2014. On April 29, 2014, after only nine episodes the show already had 3 million viewers on HOT’s VOD system and was crowned the most successful launch in the history of HOT cable. The series had outstanding coverage in social media networks, with tens of thousands of followers on Facebook and Instagram (Averbach, 2014). One of the major conflicts represented in the series is between Beber and his older son Aviel. As a child, Aviel Zaguri was sent from his Beersheba home to a boarding school. He struggled to put his Moroccan heritage behind him and tried to adopt the norms of his Ashkenazi friends. He also changed his last name to a more Ashkenazi sounding one, Gur, and pursued a promising career as an officer in the IDF Artillery Corps. During the first season, Aviel has an Ashkenazi
Adia Mendelson-Maoz and Liat Steir-Livny
girlfriend named Shahar, a soldier who symbolizes the world to which he aspires to belong. He is once again torn from his environment when he is summoned to return home, where he has not visited since he joined the army, to see his grandfather Pinto on his deathbed. The conflict between Aviel and his family is apparent throughout the episodes. He looks at his family from the standpoint of an outsider. They see him similarly and cannot come to terms with his “Ashkenazi” way of life. For example, they hate his girlfriend, make her feel unwelcome, call her “mayonnaise” (because of her light skin which symbolizes her Ashkenazi origins, as opposed to their darker skin), and constantly remind Aviel that she is not “one of us.” Aviel is in constant conflict with his father about every possible issue. He does not believe in the deliberate marginalization of Mizrahim or the continued existence of racism. While he is unable to cut himself off from his roots, he does not accept the codes dictated by his father. Their conflict reflects a much deeper debate over the Ashkenazi–Mizrahi conflict. Even though there is a consensus among scholars that the encounter between the Mizrahim and veteran Israelis (mostly Ashkenazim) in the first decades after the founding of Israel was prompted by paternalism and negative stereotypes, there are two general perspectives on this historical encounter. The first stresses the fact that the historical circumstances prevailing at the time; namely, the severe financial straits facing Israel, the belief that only a common cultural core could create solidarity in the nascent state and that all immigrant Jews (both Ashkenazim and Mizrahim) needed to discard their culture of origin, and a lack of experience in coping with huge numbers of immigrants all led to problematic policies towards the Mizrahim, with no malice aforethought. While admitting that gaps between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim in Israel have yet to disappear, this school of thought points out that the Mizrahim’s status in Israeli society has greatly improved (Tsur, 2000; Smooha, 2007; Eliav & Alfi, 2006). The second view, which is associated with radical Mizrahi discourse, perceives the integration process as deliberate ethnic oppression instituted by Ashkenazim who were intent on shaping Israel as a Western state, and thus showed no tolerance for Mizrahi culture. From this standpoint, the encounter between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim consisted of a form of colonial oppression; hence, almost 70 years after the great waves of immigration, Israel is still a “white” society that marginalizes the Mizrahim (Svirsky, 1981; Shalom Chetrit, 2004; Hever, 2002; Shohat, 1991). Aviel is a reflection of the first, more forgiving school, whereas Beber represents the second school that fervently holds onto the accusations of the past and feels discrimination and racism. Like Kasua in Arab Labor, after Zaguri captivated the Israeli audience by describing the daily struggles of the family in a comic but compassionate fashion in the first season, he began the second season of the series by slaughtering one of the most sacred cows in Israel – the siren on Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day. In this episode, Beber refuses to stand at attention when the siren is heard, thus violating the requisite acknowledgment of the atrocities of the Holocaust and the six million Jews who were murdered. When
Israeli TV challenges national traumas
the siren is sounded, grandmother Alegria asks: “What’s that, Qassams again?” referring to the possibility that it could be an air raid siren warning people to rush to the shelters to protect themselves from missiles from Gaza. Even when she understands it is the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day siren, she does not stand at attention, claiming her feet hurt. Miri, her granddaughter, is slouched on the sofa indifferently. While sitting in his armchair, Beber explains that he has nothing to do with this Ashkenazi tragedy – “It’s not my family that perished. [. . .] It is not my people” – and focuses on the hardships of integration that the Mizrahim had suffered because of the Ashkenazim: My people came to this land from wealth, palaces and splendour and they [the Ashkenazim] destroyed our lives. I truly apologize for them [the Nazis] not killing us too. [. . .] When we came to Israel, they [the Ashkenazim] took out all their aggression from what the Germans did to them on us, those wuswusim.5 Beber also criticizes the lack of commemoration of the Mizrahi suffering: “We were living in the mud. Mud. But is there a ma’abarot [absorption camp6] Remembrance Day?” Beber answers his own rhetorical question: “No. Just the Holocaust.” Beber then goes on to claim that Israel was and is a racist country. Aviel, on the other hand, tries to defend the concept of a shared Jewish destiny by saying “It’s your people. Stand up!” and argues that no one can compare the Mizrahim’s suffering to the Holocaust. He mocks Beber’s wallowing and feelings of deprivation and argues that Beber’s behaviour is only perpetuating discrimination. Harlap (2017) claimed that Zaguri Empire is a representation of what he referred to as the “Israeli post-television” period, in terms of chronology, modes of reception, forms of consumption (VOD services and social media coverage), and ideology as it has partially adopted post-Zionist and post-colonialist views. This episode reflects Harlap’s view: it succeeded in attracting public attention, prompting cultural debates and encouraging mass online activity. Though the issue of the Mizrahim’s detachment from the Holocaust had already been explored in Israeli media before this episode both in comedies and dramatic texts (Steir-Livny, 2014), Beber’s statements in the episode caused turmoil in Israeli public discourse (Alpher, 2015; Shushan, 2015). While Beber’s refusal to commemorate the Holocaust is deliberate, each of his children reacts differently. As the siren sounds, the camera moves between the family members in the house and outside. In the living room the camera pans across Beber, sitting in his armchair, Miri, his daughter, and the grandmother Alegria who continues to nibble on potato chips. Then the camera turns to other rooms to show Aviel’s brothers and sister and reveals Eviatar combing his hair in the bathroom and displaying a complete lack of interest, and Abir sitting on the toilet with an emotionless facial expression. Afterwards, the camera goes outside showing Avi, Avishay, and Avishag standing at attention
Adia Mendelson-Maoz and Liat Steir-Livny
in various locations outside the house until the siren ends, looking bored and impatient. The case is different for Avigail, Beber’s youngest daughter. Like Aviel, she thinks it is obvious that people should stand at attention and pay their respects to the victims of the Holocaust, and she tearfully runs out of the house when other members of the family do not comply with this norm. However, in the following scene Avigail, who has a strong emotional reaction to the siren, shows very little understanding of the Holocaust as a historic event. Avigail sits down next to Mr. Levy, a Holocaust survivor. From the dialogue between them, the audience grasps her ignorance and lack of knowledge of the Holocaust. She asks Mr. Levy if he is from “Ashkenaziland,” and whether he has been “around the area of the Holocaust.” “Around?” Mr. Levy laughs kindly, “Yes, you might say I was around.” He explains to her that instead of saying “Ashkenaziland” she can say “Europe,” and shows her the number tattooed on his forearm, which indicates he was a prisoner in Auschwitz-Birkenau. When she tells him in tears that her family refuses to stand at attention, he is not shocked and claims that everyone should do as they please in their own house: “Those who do not feel sad do not need to pretend to be sad.” “I could kill them, I mean not really kill them,” Avigail is startled by her own words, “it’s a figure of speech” Mr. Levy starts laughing and Avigail joins in. Whereas Beber compares the Ashkenazim’s treatment of the Mizrahim as similar to the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews, thus expressing his hatred of Ashkenazim and detachment from their world, Avigail symbolizes emotional empathy and a desire to honour and commemorate, regardless of the ethnic rift. However, her statements actually reinforce the notion of Mizrahi detachment from Holocaust awareness. It is also of significance that neither Beber nor Avigail are aware or refer to the fact that Jews living under colonial rule in North Africa were also persecuted (for example, see Yablonka, 2008; Staloff, 2006). In the final scene of this episode, Beber and his wife Vivienne are watching a film about the Holocaust. “Poor things, dying for nothing, just like that” sighs Vivienne, while wailing violin music is playing on the TV. Beber, suddenly sad and full of empathy, says the Jews in the Holocaust cannot be judged for not having fought, and then exclaims: “fine, at least we got this state.” “Next year we’ll all stand up for the siren. All of us, including the children,” concludes Vivienne. Television critic Rogel Alpher (2015) suggested that the last five minutes of this episode undermine its subversive message. However, this final scene in fact only strengthens the complexity of the subject; if Maor Zaguri had simply wanted to be provocative, he would not have written Aviel’s character into these scenes and would not have given Avigail the screen time to meet Mr. Levy. The series’ depiction of the complexity of Mizrahi identity exceeds the context of Holocaust awareness and centre-periphery relations. In recent decades some Mizrahi activists (Maor Zaguri included) have rejected the label of Mizrahim, claiming it is an Ashkenazi generalization, and declared they see themselves as “Arab-Jew” hybrids instead. Zaguri, in his provocative way, chooses to
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confront Beber’s family with this cultural alternative when he portrays the relationships between Miri, Beber’s daughter, and Hamud, who is a Bedouin.7 The romantic relationship between them, which evolves in the first and the second season, is a form of defiance to mainstream beliefs in Israel, which do not look favourably on romantic interracial relationships (the same is true from the other side, as Bedouin do not look favourably on romantic relationship with Jews). Miri’s family does not accept that relationship, of course. Beber bursts into her room to violently and aggressively demand that she end the relationship: “for generations my family lived with Arabs and never assimilated.” Miri refuses to accept, and answers while pointing at her face and hair: “if they didn’t assimilate, how come we look like Arabs?” In fact, in many scenes between Miri and Hamud they seem to have much in common culturally. When Miri says she wants a wedding with a henna ceremony,8 Hamud reminds her that “the Arabs invented that.” In episode 24 of the first season, Miri and Hamud meet at a military monument that commemorates fallen IDF soldiers. On this site, which is considered sacred in Israeli terms, she explains to Hamud they cannot continue dating. The setting constitutes her declaration as not only personal, but also collective and national. Zaguri ends this episode by breaking another taboo: Miri and Hamud make love on the military monument that commemorates the fallen IDF soldiers, an act that no Israeli sitcom or drama has ever dared to present. As one might expect, this episode elicited public outrage (Ifargan, 2015; Stern, 2015). Moreover, the fact that Hamud’s family lost their son while serving in the Israeli army makes the subversion even more complex, as national bereavement is part of both Miri and Hamud’s identity. In the second season Miri and Hamud continue to date while Miri is still dreaming about her wedding. Knowing she will not be able to marry Hamud, Miri starts dating Elbaz, although she does not love him. However, she is not sure she is doing the right thing and just before her marriage to Elbaz, she decides to go and see Hamud, the one she truly loves. In this last encounter between them, he asks her again to marry him, promises to convert to Judaism if necessary, but she decides to tell him the truth about herself – that she is barren. In the next scene we see her going to her henna, as she understands that while the religious gap and the national gap can be bridged, the fact that she cannot bring children into the world is unacceptable to Hamud. The relationship between Miri and Hamud shows that while the Zaguri family negates Ashkenazi culture, they are also eager to differentiate themselves from the Arabs. Thus, their hybrid identity is defined between and against these different poles. The end of season two presents a kind of consolation to this cultural struggle. In the last episode of the second season, Avishag, another sibling, goes to Tel-Aviv, a city which is considered the heart of the Ashkenazi hegemony. There, she is filmed in Habima Square, one of the main symbols of hegemonic culture, dancing in a headphone party where people sway to their own rhythm. First, she listens to a song by Dudu Tassa, an Israeli artist identified with the
Adia Mendelson-Maoz and Liat Steir-Livny
notion of multiculturalism, who combines Western and Iraqi musical styles; at a certain point, however, this song is replaced by “Habibi Diali,” one of the most popular and beloved songs in Moroccan culture, both Jewish and Muslim. At first the song is played quietly, as though only Avishag can hear it, but gradually it grows louder, dominating the soundtrack, and continues to play over the closing titles. This scene, with its combination of setting and soundtrack, offers a third, optimistic alternative to the opposing identity models put forward by Beber and Aviel at the beginning of the second season: it suggests a hybrid identity which mixes East and West and a possibility of a multicultural life in Israel (Harlap, 2017).
Conclusion: on the power of popular genres This chapter examined the ways in which Kashua and Zaguri emphasize identity politics and the perspectives of marginal and marginalized groups in an attempt to oppose banal nationalism which implies togetherness and erases diversity. Both Kashua and Zaguri use the seemingly light genre of humoristic television, replete with stereotypes, to criticize Israeli myths and slaughter sacred cows. Kashua describes his tactics as follows: Slowly, using a lot of humor and stereotypes to assure and convince the viewer that I’m with him, that I’m talking to him face-to-face. Everything I did was thought-out, and in full awareness of prime time. I had to develop characters that the average Jewish viewers would see and love. (in Zoabi, 2007) And: I use a lot of humor, and I follow the saying that if you want to tell people the truth, you better make them laugh first. [. . .] So, I can tell you a joke and maybe you will laugh at the beginning. But it’s not about telling jokes. I tell you a joke to have you listen to me, and then maybe I will tell you another joke that we can laugh together and feel equal. And then I will tell you a story hopefully that will make you cry. (in Mcevers, 2016) Beneath the attractive, ostensibly light-hearted and inviting cover that Kashua creates lies strident criticism of Israeli society which, as Alaa Hlehel (2008) suggested, has developed gradually throughout Kashua’s work. His tactic has proved itself to be an effective choice, since no other Israeli Arab screenwriter has been able to raise the issue of the Nakba and deal with the forbidden theme of the 1948 war from the Arab perspective on prime time. Maor Zaguri apparently chose a similar tactic. Like Kashua, he waited until the Israeli audience was enamoured of the show and its characters, and then increased his criticism. In the second season, he dared to touch on one of the
Israeli TV challenges national traumas
most sensitive issues in Israel –Holocaust commemoration – in a subversive and challenging manner, to make the Israeli audience listen, or, in Kashua’s words, to tell them a story that would hopefully make them cry. Kashua and Zaguri’s works echo the acknowledgment that the nation is not an immutable embodiment, but rather a “category of practice,” and that nationhood is the product of cultural and political practices (Brubaker, 1996). Thus, fighting banal nationalism can result in a change of what seemed to be everlasting. Both writers use Israeli television, a tool for reproducing nationalism, to undermine it. Thus, the episodes discussed here are examples of bottom-up voices (Antonsich, 2016) within today’s increasingly ethno-culturally diverse Israeli society, which represent different perceptions of nationhood and challenge the one homogenous “we.”
Notes 1 The authors’ names are listed alphabetically. Both authors contributed equally to this work. 2 Israelis tend to use the term Israeli Arabs when referring to Palestinians who were in Israel when the State of Israel was founded and thus became citizens of Israel. The term Israeli Arabs expresses the culture and the language of this minority, but blurs its national identity. Nowadays, some prefer the terms Palestinian Arabs, Palestinian Israelis or Palestinians. Since Kashua’s satirical sitcom uses the term “Arab” (and not Palestinian), we chose to use the term Israeli Arabs when discussing this series. When discussing the Nakba and the issue of national identity, we use the term Palestinian. 3 This was later described in Kashua’s newspaper column, in which he wrote about his daughter who memorized the Zionist point of view on the Nakba in school (Goren, 2014) 4 The poem was published in Hebrew in his collection Fire Flowers. Several English translations are available on the web: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hareut. 5 A derogatory name for Ashkenazim. 6 The ma’abarot were built in the late 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s as temporary housing for new immigrants from Europe, North Africa, and Asia. Conditions in the camps were terrible, crowded, and dirty. 7 The Bedouins are semi-nomadic Arabs, who live in northern and southern Israel. Many of them live in unrecognized villages, some of which do not have electricity or water. Some men are drafted into the IDF. 8 This ceremony takes place a few days before a wedding, when the bride and groom and their guests have henna applied to their palms as a traditional part of fertility rituals.
References Abazon, L. (2014) “‘Zaguri Empire: Primitive But Optimistic” [Hebrew], Mako, 8 April. Available (accessed 11 April 2016). Alpher, R. (2015) “Beber’s Holocaust: ‘Zaguri Empire’ Nearly Became the Most Subversive Drama on Television” [Hebrew], Ha-aretz, 4 February. Available (accessed 11 April 2016). Alush Levron, M. (2015) “Zaguri Unravels the Hegemon’s Robe” [Hebrew], Ha-aretz, 6 February. Available .
Adia Mendelson-Maoz and Liat Steir-Livny
Amireh, A. (2003) “Between Complicity and Subversion: Body Politics in Palestinian National Narrative,” The South Atlantic Quarterly, 102(4): 747–72. Anderson, B. (1983) Imagined Communities, London and New York: Verso. Antonsich, M. (2016) “The ‘Everyday’ of Banal Nationalism – Ordinary People’s Views on Italy and Italian,” Political Geography, 54(September): 32–42. Averbach, L. (2014) “The Drama Series ‘Zaguri Empire’ – The Strongest Launch in the History of HOT” [Hebrew], Globes, 29 April. Available (accessed 11 April 2016). Azaryahu, M. (1995) State Rituals [Hebrew], Beer Sheva: Bialik Institute. Bakhtin, M.M. (1993) Rabelais and His World, trans. Hélène Iswolsky, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Bhabha, H.K. (1994) “The Other Question: Stereotype, Discrimination, and the Discourse of Colonialism,” in The Location of Culture, London and New York: Routledge. Billig, M. (1995) Banal Nationalism, London: SAGE Publications. Bourdieu, P. (1983) “The Field of Cultural Production, Or: The Economic World Reversed,” Poetics, 12: 311–56. Bourdieu, P. (1984) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, London: Routledge. Brook, V. (2001) “Virtual Ethnicity: Incorporation, Diversity, and the Contemporary ‘Jewish’ Sitcom,” Emergences, 11(2): 269–85. Brubaker, R. (1996) Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Edensor, T. (2002) National Identity, Popular Culture and Everyday Life, Oxford: Berg. Eliav, L. & Alfi, Y. (2006) From Both Sides of the Ma-abara [Hebrew], Tel-Aviv: Maariv. Fanon, F. (1952) Black Skin, White Masks, New York: Grove Press. Feldhay-Brenner, R. (2001) “The Search for Identity in Israeli Arab Fiction: Attalla Mansour, Emile Habiby, and Anton Shammas,” Israeli Studies, 6(3): 91–112. Fiske, J. (1987) Television Culture, London and New York: Routledge. Fox, J. & Miller-Idriss, C. (2008) “Everyday Nationhood,” Ethnicities, 8: 536–63. Goren, S. (2014) “Humor, Violence and Creative Resistance in ‘Arab Labor’” [Hebrew], Eiunim be-tkumat Israel, 4: 73–93. Grossman, D. (1993) “Nokhekhim nifqadim (Present Absentees),” in Sleeping on a Wire: Conversations With Palestinians in Israel, trans. H. Watzman, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Gouri, H. (1961) Fire Flowers [Hebrew], Jerusalem: Hotsa-at sifre Tarshish. Harlap, I. (2017) Television Drama in Israel: Identities in Post-TV Culture, New York: Bloomsbury. Hever, H., et al. (eds) (2002) Mizrahim in Israel: A Renewed Debate [Hebrew], Jerusalem: Van-Lir Institute and Ha-kibbuts ha-meuhad. Hlehel, A. (2008) “Ma’adlat arav” [Arabic], Alaa Hlehel’s blog, 15 February. Available (accessed 11 April 2016). Ifargan, S. (2015) “Sex Scene on a Memorial Monument Causes Rage” [Hebrew], MAKO, 8 June. Available (accessed 11 April 2016). Jamal, A. (2006) “The Syndrome of Apparent Equality and Fake Cultural Inclusion – Arabs in Israeli Reality Shows” [Hebrew], in N. Laor, The Absent and Present in Prime Time [Hebrew]. Available Kershner, I. (2008) “Straddling Cultures, Irreverently, in Life and Art,” New York Times, 7 January. Available (accessed 11 April 2016).
Israeli TV challenges national traumas
Kozlovsky Golan, Y. (2017) Forgotten From the Frame: The Absence of the Holocaust Experience of Mizrahim From the Visual Arts and Media in Israel [Hebrew], TelAviv: Resling. Kupfer, R. (2008) “A Traitor, and a Bad Writer Too” [Hebrew], Ha-aretz, 11 February. Available (accessed 11 April 2016). Laor, N., et al. (2006) The Absent and the Present in Prime-Time: Multicultural Diversity in TV Commercial Broadcasting in Israel [Hebrew], Jerusalem: The Second Authority for Television and Local Radio. Lavi Dinur, A. & Karniel, Y. (2016) “The New Israelism is Mizrahi” [Hebrew], Panim, 68–69. Available Lewis, J., Inthorn S., & Wahl-Jorgensen, K. (2005) Citizens or Consumers? Berkshire: Open University Press. Lubin, O. (2006) Women Reading Women [Hebrew], Haifa and Or Yehuda: Haifa University and Zmora Bitan. Marmari, H. (2013) “Draw a Sheep for Me, and Let It Be Inclusive” [Hebrew], Ha-ayin ha-shvi’it, 30 July. Available (accessed 11 April 2016). Margalit, A. & Halbertal, M. (1998) Liberalism and the Right to Culture: Multiculturalism in a Democratic and Jewish State [Hebrew], Tel Aviv: Ramot. Mcevers, K. (2016) “‘It’s A Surviving Tool’: ‘Native’ Tells Satirical Stories of Life in Israel,” NPR, 12 February. Available (accessed 11 April 2016). Mendelson-Maoz, A. (2014) Multiculturalism in Israel – Literary Perspectives, West Lafayette: Purdue University Press. Mendelson-Maoz, A. & Steir-Livny, L. (2011a) “Hybridity in Israeli Television – The First Israeli-Arab Sitcom” [Hebrew], Misgarot Media, 6: 31–59. ——— (2011b) “The Jewish Works of Sayed Kashua,” Israel Studies Review, 26(1): 107–29. Meyers, O., Neiger, M., & Zandberg, E. (2014) Communicating Awe: Media Memory and Holocaust Commemoration, New York: Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies. Netanyahu, B. (2019) “Post on Facebook,” August 30. Available Ohana, D. & Wistrich, R. (eds) (1996) Myth and Remembrance [Hebrew], Jerusalem: Van Leer. Palmer, J. (1988, 2003) The Logic of the Absurd: On Television Comedy, London: BFI. Perkins, T.E. (1979) “Rethinking Stereotypes,” in M. Barrett et al. (eds) Ideology and Cultural Production, New York: St. Martin’s Press. Rozin, O. (2002) “Terms of Aversion – Hygiene and Parenthood of Immigrants From Islamic Nations in the Eyes of Veteran Israelis in the 1950’s)” [Hebrew], Iyuinum be-tkumat israel, 12: 195–238. Sa’di, A.H. (2002) “Catastrophe, Memory and Identity: Al-Nakba as a Component of Palestinian Identity,” Israel Studies, 7(2): 175–98. Said, E. (2000) “Permission to Narrate,” in M. Bayoumi and A. Rubin (eds) The Edward Said Reader, New York: Vintage Books. Shalom Chetrit, S. (2004) The Mizrahi Struggle in Israel: Between Oppression and Liberation, Identification and Alternative, 1948–2003 [Hebrew], Tel-Aviv: Am-Oved/ Ofakim Series. Shifman, L. (2008) Televised Humor and Social Cleavages in Israel, 1968–2000 [Hebrew], Jerusalem: Hebrew University and Magnes Press. Shohat, E. (1991/2005) Israeli Cinema: East/West and the Politics of Representation [Hebrew], Ra’anana: The Open University of Israel.
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Shushan, A. (2015) “‘Zaguri Empire’ Is Causing Damage to the Mizrahim” [Hebrew], YNET, 1 February. Available (accessed 11 April 2016). Skey, M. (2009) “The National in Everyday Life: A Critical Engagement With Michael Billig’s Thesis of Banal Nationalism,” The Sociological Review, 57(2): 331–46. Smooha, S. (2007) “Multi-Culturalism in Israeli Society” [Hebrew], in I. Yovel (ed) New Israeli Time, vol. 4, Jerusalem: Keter. Staloff, R. (2006) Among the Righteous: Lost Stories From the Holocaust’s Long Reach Into Arab Lands, New York: PublicAffairs. Steir-Livny, L. (2014) Let the Memorial Hill Remember: Holocaust Representations in Israeli Popular Culture [Hebrew], Tel-Aviv: Resling. ——— (2016) “Alternative Memory: Alternative Ceremonies on Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day” [Hebrew], Dapim Leheker Hasoah, 28: 131–50. Stern, I. (2015) “A Sex Scene in Zaguri Empire Irritated the Commander” [Hebrew], Haaretz, 8 June. Available . Svirsky, S. (1981) Not Backwards But Subordinated [Hebrew], Haifa: Machbarot lemechkar. Tsur, Y. (2000) “The Fright From the Carnaval: The Moroccans and the Ethnic Problem in Young Israel” [Hebrew], Alpaim, 19: 57–82. Yablonka, H. (2008) Off the Beaten Track: The Mizrahim and the Holocaust [Hebrew], Tel Aviv: Miskal-Yedioth Aharonot Books. Yona, Y. (2005) In Virtue of Difference: The Multicultural Project in Israel [Hebrew], Jerusalem: Van Leer and Ha-kibbuts ha-meuhad. Yona, Y. & Shenhav, Y. (2005) What Is Multiculturalism? On the Politics of Difference in Israel [Hebrew], Tel Aviv: Babel. Yosef, R. (2004) “Ethnicity and Sexual Politics: The Invention of Mizrahi Masculinity in Israeli Cinema” [Hebrew], Theory and Criticism, 25(Fall): 31–62. Young, E. (1993) The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Yuran, N. (2001) Channel 2 – The New Statism [Hebrew], Tel Aviv: Resling. Zoabi, R. (2007) “The Arabs Versus ‘Arab Labor’” [Hebrew], City Mouse, 2 November. Available (accessed 11 April 2016).
The burka and beyond Burka Avenger, Muslim women, and Pakistani national identity Lena Saleh
In 2013, Pakistan was introduced to its very own, homegrown superhero (Unicorn Black, 2013a). This “silent ninja” – as the hero is known – seeks to combat the forces of “tyranny and ignorance” that threaten to undermine the values of “justice, peace, and education for all” (Unicorn Black, 2013b). And indeed, in this regard, this Pakistani superhero does not differ much from the American superheroes – Batman, Superman, or Spiderman – that many of us have come to know. So, we ask: what makes this Pakistani superhero so special? While concealing their identities behind masks, helmets, or capes is almost standard practice for crime-fighters, this hero chooses to cloak herself behind one of the world’s most controversial articles of clothing: a burka. Burka Avenger, as this heroine is known, only reveals her eyes and fingers. Though her burka does have a sleek, ninja-like design (unlike the bulky robes of an actual burka). The novelty of a burka-clad heroine has not been lost on the international community. Associated Press (2013), for example, praised the program for emphasizing the value of education and teaching children important values, such as environmental conservation, anti-discrimination, and children’s rights. Yet, not all the attention the program has received has been positive. Time Magazine expressed concern over the program’s message to young girls, arguing that Burka Avenger appears to “glorify” the burka by suggesting that “yards of black cloth” are required to make their presence in society acceptable, safe, and halal (permitted in Islam; Mahr, 2013). Through an examination of episodes from Burka Avenger’s first season, this chapter argues that the program can be read as critical commentary on the sociopolitical realities of Pakistan, and in particular, Pakistani women and their place within the Pakistani national imaginary. After offering a brief overview of the literature exploring gender and nationalism in the “everyday,” this chapter turns its attentions to state-manufactured definitions of womanhood and femininity. The third section of this chapter focuses on Burka Avenger itself, describing the program’s origins and the international media coverage it has received. Finally, this chapter analyzes episodes from the program’s first season, arguing that the program offers a “bottom-up” articulation of Pakistani national identity that challenges the rigid public/private divide that has traditionally reinforced the exclusion of women from (theoretical and state-centric) conceptions and productions
of “the nation.” I argue that this is done in two ways: first, Burka Avenger actively invokes imagery of women as the “mothers of the nation,” whose fates and successes are intimately connected to their ability to nurture future generations; second, the program actively renegotiates state-centric imaginings of the nation on political grounds, articulating a national identity where citizenship is a right granted equally to both men and women.
Nationalism in the everyday In the opening lines of his now influential work exploring the connection between national identity and everyday life, Tim Edensor (2002, p. 1) begins with a sweeping assessment of the dominant theoretical literature on nationalism and national identity, arguing that it has focused overwhelmingly on the “historical origins of the nation and its various political lineaments.” Ernest Gellner’s (1983) work, for example, characterizes the recent emergence of the nation as a consequence of modernity. Through extensive state bureaucratization, mass education systems disseminate “official” knowledge (what he terms “garden cultures” (1983, p. 7) to citizens – history, knowledge, values, norms, etc. – that effectively creates a “national culture.” Eric Hobsbawm (1990, p. 14), too, characterizes the nation as a modern construct, referring to it as “novelty,” noting that the “basic characteristic” of the nation is its “modernity.” Characterized by their modernity, nations exist as functions of a particular (and recent) stage of technological and economic development (1990, p. 10). Standardized national languages (whether written or spoken) could not have emerged, for example, without the printing press, mass literacy, and, therefore, a state-driven mass-education project (p. 10). Thus, Hobsbawm argues that nations are “constructed essentially from above” (p. 10). Similarly, Benedict Anderson (2006, p. 6) famously characterized the nation as an “imagined, limited, and sovereign political community.” It is imagined because even though most members of the nation will never meet one another, the image of their communion lives in their minds (2006, p. 6). It is limited because even the largest nation does not imagine itself as being coterminous with all of humankind. The nation is sovereign because all nations dream of being free and the contemporary “measure” of freedom is the establishment of a sovereign state (2006, p. 7). Like Gellner and Hobsbawm, Anderson, too, characterizes the nation as a modern phenomenon – resulting (primarily) from the technological advancements associated with the invention of the printing press and the rise of print media. This scholarly (over)attention to the historical origins of nations and nationalism from above has been critiqued by a number of scholars who argue that attention must also be given to the everyday ways nationalism and the nation are produced, reproduced, understood, and internalized by ordinary people. In his seminal work, Banal Nationalism Michael Billig (1995), critiqued existing scholarship for conceiving of nationalism as “passionate and exotic” exemplars (wars, mass demonstrations in foreign countries, independence fireworks and parades, etc.), overlooking the mundane and routine mechanisms through which it is reproduced (p. 13). To demonstrate this point, Billig uses the metaphor of the
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unwaved flag as an enduring symbol of the nation – such as the flags affixed to buildings, erected on street corners, or sewn onto government uniforms. These flags do not demand salutes, do not demand to be waved, and do not even demand to be noticed. They blend into the everyday environment. In being unwaved, these flags are banal reminders of nationhood: flagging our nation unflaggingly (p.41). But it is not simply the unwaved flags that remind us of our national identity. For Billig, it is also assumptions about belonging used in and by the media. References to our government, or our country, or the collective “we” as Canadians, Americans, Chinese, Lebanese, etc. signify “us,” the consumers of these media, as members of the nation. When a national newscaster refers to a recent action taken by the government, they are speaking about our government. Thus, for Billig, even the way we come to talk comes to form a part of the way in which the nation is naturalized and becomes part of how the world is (1995, p. 87). While Billig’s arguments regarding the banality of nationalism in our contemporary world are important ones, critics argue that his theorizing – much like earlier work – remains attached to a state-centric conception of nationhood. To this end, even the title of Billig’s work, Banal Nationalism, is telling. Citing Hannah Arendt’s caution against equating banality with harmlessness, Billig theorizes nations and nationalism as being responsible for reproducing state institutions which possess vast armaments (1995, p. 12). For this reason, they “can hardly be innocent.” Yet, as a consequence of focusing on the top-down mechanisms through which individuals are flagged, the myriad of ways in which individuals actively choose to produce and reproduce nations are largely ignored (Antonsich, 2016). In their attempt to account for this oversight, Fox and Miller-Idriss (2008) articulate what they call “everyday nationhood.” Billig’s nationalism happens at the unselfconscious level, but Fox and Miller-Idriss seek to draw attention to the ways in “which nationhood can also be creatively and self-consciously deployed and manipulated by ordinary people” (2008, p. 539). Nationhood, they argue, is not simply “lurking in the crevices of the unconscious, furtively informing talk without becoming the subject of talk; it is simultaneously the practical accomplishment of ordinary people giving concrete expression to their understandings of the nation. Nationhood does not only define their talk; it is defined by their talk” (p. 539). The nation, they continue, can come to serve as a schema that can be discursively deployed to make sense of other issues, explain problems, and create social order (Gamson, 1992; cited in Fox & Miller-Idriss, 2008, p. 540). Thus, when social actors make reference to national frames, they themselves become national actors, capable of transforming seemingly disparate issues into national phenomena or concerns (p. 540).
Nationalism and gender But it is not only that leading theories of nationalism have forgotten the place of the everyday. They have also forgotten the place of gender. Feminist scholars have long lambasted leading theorists and theories of nationalism for failing to
consider the intimate connection between gender and nationalism. Cynthia Enloe (1989, p. 44) has observed: Nationalist movements have rarely taken women’s experiences as the starting point for an understanding of how a people becomes colonized or how it throws off the shackles of that material and psychological domination. Rather, nationalism has sprung from masculinized memory, masculinized humiliation and masculinized hope. Anger at being emasculated [. . .] has been presumed to be the natural fuel for igniting a nationalist movement. Complementing the earlier work of Enloe and others, Nira Yuval-Davis (1997) has sought to directly critique the works of leading theorists of nationalism – Gellner, Hobsbawm, and Anderson – for failing to consider the relationships amongst “nations,” “nationalism,” and “gender.” Contrary to much of the classic theoretical literature on nationalism, which stresses the material or bureaucratic origins of nationalism, Yuval-Davis (1997, p. 2) argues it is “women [. . .] who reproduce nations, biologically, culturally, and symbolically.” The significance of this omission becomes apparent when we consider that myths of “common origin” are often integral to imaginings of the nation. One is permitted entrance into the limited collectivity, usually by being born into it (1996, p. 17). This omission, she continues, can be partly explained by the public/private divide. Classic understandings of nationalism appear to implicitly assume that civil society is divided into the private and public spheres. Women and families exist in the private domain and are not often seen as politically relevant. Thus, as the business of nations and nationalisms has tended to be discussed as being part of the public political sphere, women have been excluded in theory as well (1997, p. 2). Anne McClintock also takes issue with Anderson’s articulation of nations and nationalism, critiquing the connotations that come hand-in-hand with Anderson’s use of the term “imagined” to characterize the nation. “Imagined,” she argues, suggests that nationalism is “simply a phantasmagoria of mind” (1991, p. 104). Nationalism serves to both invent and perform social difference, enacting it ritualistically through Olympic games celebrations and flag waving ceremonies, allowing it to become a constitutive element of people’s identities – and their very lives. Thus, while the nation may be imagined, there is nothing fictive about its power to “conjure up the loyalties of life and death, or to provoke the state’s machinery of wrath” (1991, p. 104). For McClintock, nationalism’s power – over life and death – also has very real gendered implications. “In the chronicles of male nationalism, women [. . .] are all too often figured as mere scenic backdrops to the big-brass business of masculine armies and uprisings” (1991, p. 105). Like Yuval-Davis, she too notes that the theorists of nationalism, most often being men, have “seldom felt moved” to examine the myriad of ways in which nationalism is implicated in gender power. This is a particularly troubling oversight considering that “no nationalism in the world has granted women and men the same privileged access to the resources of the nation-state” (1991, p. 105).
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Thus, by depriving women of political agency in theoretical accounts of nationalism, it seems that the nation itself is male. McClintock (1993, p. 62) evidences this observation with a quote from Spanish philosopher George Santayana: “Our nationalism is like our relationship to women: too implicated in our moral nature to be changed honorably, and too accidental to be worth changing.” Santayana’s sentence, she maintains, could never be said by a woman because the “our” involved in the nationalist struggle is straightforwardly male. Full membership in the nation – the ability to participate in struggle – is reserved for men. “The needs of the nation are identified with the needs, frustrations, and aspirations of men” (McClintock, 1991, p. 105). Political agency, in other words, is granted exclusively to the male citizen of the nation. Women are used as the “boundary” of the nation and its symbolic limit, but lack a nationality of their own. They are reduced to the objects though which national differences between groups of men are represented (McClintock, 1991, p. 105). This also holds true for (post-)colonial contexts. In writing of the relationship between colonizer and colonized, Frantz Fanon (2004, p. 5) observed, “The gaze that the colonized subject casts at the colonist’s sector is a look of [. . .] envy. Dreams of [. . .] sitting at the colonist’s table and sleeping in his bed, preferably with his wife. The colonized man is an envious man.” For Fanon, both the colonizer and colonized were imagined as men engaged in a struggle fought on/ through women and spaces traditionally demarcated as feminine (the home). That women are reduced to “objects” in this example, too, is exemplified by the fact that “the wife” is listed amongst the property owned by the colonizer, like a table or a bed. This idea – women as symbols of the differences between men – also underpins the European colonial narrative explaining the supposed inferiority, irrationality, and backwardness of Islamic societies (Abu-Lughod, 2013; Said, 1979). While the logic of colonialism maintained that all colonized peoples were inferior, it was the “innate and immutable oppression of women” at the hands of Muslim men that came to render the colonial project in the Muslim world morally justifiable (Ahmed, 1992, p. 151). This narrative went hand-in-hand with images of Muslim women wearing the veil. As Leila Ahmed (1992, p. 152) writes: “Veiling – to Western eyes, the most visible marker of the differentness and inferiority of Islamic societies – became [. . .] the open target of colonial attack and the spearhead of the assault on Muslim societies.” Indeed, such was the observation made by Fanon (1965) himself in Algeria Unveiled. Fanon argued that the French colonial government in Algeria recognized that women were the “bearers of the nation.” They were the markers that demarcated the difference between the French colonizers and the Algerian men they wished to conquer. “Converting the woman, winning her over to the foreign values, wrenching her free from her status,” he observed, “was at the same time achieving a real power over the man.” (1965, p. 39). The need to “wrench” Muslim women free from the oppression doled out to them by Muslim men did not disappear with decolonization. Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and the beginning of the subsequent “War on
Terror,” new life was breathed into the discourse concerning Islam’s supposed oppression of women. The status of women in an array of Muslim countries evidenced claims of a “Clash of Civilizations” (see Huntington, 1993) between the rational, secular West and the irrational, primitive, and violent Muslim world. Put differently, the status and treatment of women in Islamic countries became one measure by which the West could (continue to) differentiate itself from its Islamic Other. Thus, it was the American soldier who came to replace the European colonialist as the “savior of Muslim women.” To this end, a quote from former American First Lady Laura Bush (2001) on the status of Afghan women is telling: [T]he people of Afghanistan – especially women – are rejoicing. Afghan women know [. . .] what the rest of the world is discovering: the brutal oppression of women is a central goal of the terrorists. [. . .] Because of our recent military gains [. . .], women are no longer imprisoned in their homes. [. . .]. The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women. Bush’s statement is noteworthy for a number of reasons. First, it not only presupposes the existence of a universal category of “women,” but also serves to construct “oppressed” women of the so-called “Third World” in direct opposition to modern and secular Western women (see Mohanty, 1984). Second, in this binary between “Western women” and “Third World” women, the voices of nonWestern women themselves are rendered silent. Spivak (1994, p. 93) has gone so far as to say that the conscious exclusion of non-Western voices has amounted to “epistemic violence.” We must, as Said (1994) and Spivak (1994) both remind us, question these Western-centric discourses, particularly those in which “white men seek to save brown women from brown men.” Thus, as exemplified by the quotation from Laura Bush, analyses of the relationship between Islam and gender must move beyond lingering colonial stereotypes and their modernized (re)articulation within the “War on Terror.” These narratives minimally recognize (if not completely ignore) the various ways in which Muslims themselves articulate the relationship between gender, Islam, and politics.
Women and gender in Pakistan In order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the position of women and gender in Pakistani society, one must first examine the history of the South Asian country and, further, how the state has actively formulated and promoted specific definitions of femininity and womanhood. Discussions of the current situation of women and gender in Pakistan often begin with General Zia ul-Haq, who in 1977 led a military coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Zulifiqar Ali Bhutto. Immediately following the coup, Zia searched for a means to legitimize his military rule. Islam became the perfect tool to achieve this end and he launched a nationalistic
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campaign to re-Islamize Pakistani society (Jafar, 2005, p. 39; Toor, 2007, p. 258). Allying himself with the conservative and religious political factions in Pakistan, namely the right-wing fundamentalist group Jamaat-e-Islami, Zia championed a “hegemonic nationalist project using “Islam” as the articulating principle” (Toor, 2007, p. 258). Zia’s government sought to equate constructions of “good Muslims” with “good Pakistanis” and religiosity became a government hallmark. State “orthopraxy” was broad and included mandatory recitations from the Quran at every public function, airports, etc., prayer breaks, and dedicated prayer spaces in public spaces. Islamic studies were made compulsory curriculum in all schools. New textbooks were created that refashioned history as an “Islamic” narrative, censoring much of Pakistan’s pre-Zia, secular history (Shaheed, 2010, p. 858). In addition to these reforms, the “most visible and drastic” proof of Zia’s Islamization efforts were the measures specifically targeting women. Women’s work outside the home – their presence in the public sphere – was framed as antiIslamic and Western. This damage, moreover, could only be undone by limiting their presence in public spaces (Burki, 2013, p. 45; Grunenfelder, 2013, p. 72; Jafar, 2005, pp. 39–40; Toor, 2007, p. 258). The government launched campaigns to control women’s dress, requiring all government employees and, eventually, all college-going women to wear the chador (Mumtaz & Shaheed, 1987, pp. 77–80). In the early 1980s, too, the government launched a campaign against “obscenity.” This campaign included an overall reduction in females in television and print advertisements and in newspaper photographs. Television programs also painted women as the source of corruption; it was women who pushed men towards immorality to satiate their feminine desires for clothing and jewelry (Mumtaz & Shaheed, 1987, p. 82). Women were “vilified” and made to be synonymous with obscenity and immorality. Mumtaz and Shaheed (1987, p. 83) write: “[I]t appeared that the only manner in which the rapid deterioration of society could be checked was by eradicating the presence of women altogether, by locking them up in the strict confines of heavily guarded homes from which they could only venture forth in emergency situations, and then only as unrecognizable masses of dark cloth.” In addition to these largely social measures, Zia’s government passed what were known as the Hudood Ordinances in 1979. These ordinances were a series of reforms to the criminal code that covered theft, drunkenness, adultery, rape, and bearing false witness (Jafar, 2005, p. 44; Mumtaz & Shaheed, 1987, p. 100; Toor, 2014, p. 131). But it was the Zina Ordinance, a subset of the Hudood laws dealing with “legitimate” sexual activities, that revealed how central controlling women was to the Zia regime. Zina is the Arabic word for “illegitimate sex” – namely pre/extra-marital sex, rape, and prostitution – and the Zina Ordinance made each a crime against the state. The Zina laws were problematic for women for a number of reasons. The laws did not include provisions for rape within marriage and the law required the testimony of four adult Muslim male men who has witnessed the sex act in order to support a charge of zina. The effect of this evidentiary requirement was to make it
nearly impossible to convict a rapist, while making it possible to charge a rape victim with zina because she had, technically, admitted to having sex outside the confines of marriage (Toor, 2014, p. 131). Two basic points emerge from the brief overview of gender in Pakistan under Zia’s regime: women were made to be subordinate to men, and a man’s honor was understood to reside in the actions of the women in his family (Weiss, 2011, p. 243). Women were used by Zia’s government to mark the boundaries between Islamic Pakistan and the un-Islamic West. Men were privileged as the ideal members of the Pakistani nation-state, through the legal disempowerment of women and by limiting their presence in the public sphere. Thus, no matter what happened in the public sphere, men could take comfort in knowing that the private sphere (i.e. women) were untouched, covered, and unspoiled by Westernization (Jafar, 2005, p. 40). General Zia passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in 1988 and Pakistan returned to (a form of) democratic governance. These occurrences, however, did not necessarily improve the lives of women in Pakistan. Indeed, Saadia Toor (2014, p. 133) argues that the post-Zia period has been important for “consolidating many of the rightward shifts that began under Zia.” Pakistan is home to an entire generation who had witnessed a comprehensive sociolegal and statesanctioned propaganda campaign that argued a woman’s place was in the home, that their role was limited to reproduction and motherhood, and their status and rights subservient to men. Thus, while it took 27 years for the Zina laws to finally be repealed in 2006, scholars argue that the societal shifts will take much longer to undo because religious orthopraxy has taken on a life of its own in Pakistan. Shaheed (2010, p. 860) writes: “Many of the practices introduced under Zia became unquestioned norms.” While post-Zia governments in Pakistan have sought (in varying degrees) to improve the status and lives of women, women in Pakistan still currently experience “multi-level inequality” (Hamid & Ahmed, 2011, p. 176). This inequality begins from the birth of a female baby, where it is “common” for her birth to be “mourned” by family members who would have preferred a son (Shah & Baporikar, 2013, p. 88). This gender-based discrimination also manifests in education. Many women and girls are not permitted to pursue education beyond village-level schooling (Shah & Baporikar, 2013, p. 90). Indeed, according to UNICEF (2019) and UNESCO (2019) statistics, female primary education enrollment in some regions of Pakistan is as low as 22 percent and female literacy rate (ages 15–24) in Pakistan hovers around 65 percent. Islamic militant groups, further, have not only attempted to assassinate pro-female education activists, but have also launched hundreds of attacks on schools in recent years – most notably the 2014 attack on the Peshawar school (BBC, 2013; Bogani, 2014; Human Rights Watch, 2016). It is also important to note that Pakistani women themselves have sought to challenge these inequalities. Indeed, women’s activism has been an integral component of the sociopolitical fabric of Pakistan since independence (Mumtaz & Shaheed, 1987, ch.4; see also Anantharam, 2009). Recently, Charania (2014)
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has also examined the political processes leading up to the repeal of the Zina laws. She has shown how Pakistani women’s rights organizations and individual feminists were important actors, pressuring the state to repeal the legislations through protests, media attention, etc. Yet, demonstrating the lasting impact of the social transformations under General Zia, feminist protesters and human rights activists in Pakistan at this time were also stigmatized as being “unIslamic,” pushing “a Western agenda against Islam,” and were accused of having “a blind acceptance of Western values” (Charania, 2014, p. 326). Thus, in the Pakistani context – where women do not enjoy equal rights to men in any sociopolitical context (a fact true of much, if not all, of the world) – we can begin to appreciate the significance of a program like Burka Avenger, whose leading character is not only a Muslim woman, but one who actively champions the rights of women and children.
Burka Avenger: about the show Burka Avenger is the brainchild of Pakistani pop music star Aaron Haroon Rashid. Upon its release in July 2013, the program was aired in Urdu on the Pakistani television channel Geo TV (Associated Press, 2013; Mahr, 2013). Since 2015, the show has aired exclusively on Nickelodeon Pakistan, and has four seasons (Unicorn Black, 2016). In the time since its release in 2013, the program collected several prestigious international accolades, including the “Rising Star Award” at the 2014 Canadian International Film Festival, the “International Gender Equity Prize” at the 2014 Prix Jeunesse International Festival, and the University of Georgia’s “Peabody Award” in 2013. Burka Avenger is produced by Unicorn Black Productions in Islamabad (Unicorn Black, 2016). The show is credited as being the first animated series ever produced in Pakistan. Rashid, who funded much of the program’s start-up costs himself, also sought to incorporate his musical background into the show. Each episode includes songs written and performed by Rashid and other Pakistani musicians, such as Ali Azmat and Ali Zafar (Associated Press, 2013). Burka Avenger also has official iPhone/iPad games and a fully interactive website, burkaavenger.com. According to the program’s website, the series is set in the fictional village of Halwapur in Northern Pakistan. The show follows the daily adventures of several of the town’s residents. The show’s main character, Jiya, is a mild-mannered schoolteacher at the town’s girl’s school. Orphaned in infancy, Jiya was adopted by Kabbadi Jan and his wife. Kabbadi Jan taught Jiya the art of “Takht Kabaddi,” a form of karate described as “a secret ancient mystic martial art where books and pens are primarily used as weapons in conjunction with a variety of advanced acrobatic moves” on the program’s website. Jiya uses these acrobatic skills when she transforms into her alter ego, Burka Avenger. It is also worth noting that when she is not garbed as Burka Avenger, the Jiya character does not wear the hijab or cover her hair in any way.
The show has two central antagonists: Vadero Pajero and Baba Bandook. Vadero Pajero is the mayor of Halwapur. His biography on the program’s official website describes him as “the typical corrupt politician seeking to gain power and money for himself.” His love of money and corruption is physically displayed in the giant gold dollar that hangs from his neck. Vadero Pajero often hatches his evil schemes in cooperation with Baba Bandook. Described as a “Jaali Jadoogar,” or “fake magician,” Baba Bandook “thirsts for power and wealth and is always planning new ways to spread terror and take over control of Halwapur city.” Baba Bandook wears dark robes and a red turban. He also sports a menacing grin that matches his equally menacing eyebrows, sharp teeth, and thick moustache. The physical appearance of this character is reminiscent of Jafar from Disney’s Aladdin. Commentators have also noted that the Baba Bandook character serves to represent the Taliban’s religious fundamentalism in Pakistan (Mehta, 2015). Caught in the struggle between Burka Avenger, Vader Pajero, and Baba Bandook are the show’s child characters. Ashu is an intelligent and confident little girl who idolizes Jiya and dreams of becoming a teacher or a doctor when she grows up. Immu is Ashu’s fraternal twin brother. Though he acts fearless and somewhat aloof, he will go to great lengths to protect his sister and friends. Mooli is Ashu and Immu’s cute and goofy best friend with a knack for getting into trouble. Mooli’s favorite pastime is eating radishes with his pet goat, Golu. While the program’s description on the official website notes that the series is intended to “make people laugh, to entertain, and to send our positive social messages to youth,” the show’s political messages are difficult to miss. A number of commentators, for example, have sought to draw parallels between the show’s main character, Burka Avenger, and the real-life experiences of Malala Yousafzai, who, in a failed assassination attempt, was shot by a member of the Pakistani Taliban in October 2012 (Associated Press, 2013; DeHart, 2013; Mahr, 2013; Puschak, 2013). In an interview with New Delhi Television, however, Rashid stated that production of the show began prior to the assassination attempt of Yousafzai and the decision to have Burka Avenger stand up for women’s right to education in the show’s first episode had nothing to do with Yousafzai (Mahr, 2013). Adi Abdurab, the show’s scriptwriter, also reaffirmed Rashid’s comments: There seems to be this presumption in the public eye that we have taken inspiration from the Malala incident, whereas truth is that we had this idea back in April of 2012, long before Malala was shot by the Taliban. Our script was ready in May 2012 [. . .], so to say this has been inspired by Malala is wildly inaccurate. (Quoted in Rao, 2013) Yet, it is my contention in this chapter that discussions of the show’s inspiration – whether taken from Malala or not – miss the program’s broader political commentary on the sociopolitical realities of Pakistan and Pakistani women.
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Women and the future of the Pakistani nation Education, and female education in particular, is a theme central to the show. That the program’s protagonist is a teacher at the all-girls school who literally pelts Baba Bandook and Vadero Pajero with books and pens further communicates this to the audience. Indeed, in a number of episodes during the first season, Vadero Pajero and Baba Bandook attempt to attack the girls’ school, close it, or deprive it of resources (season 1, episode 01; episode 02; episode 08). This focus on schools, especially the girls’ school is significant. As previously noted, school enrollment rates in Pakistan for girls are low, resulting in lower literacy rates. This partly stems from cultural beliefs that women do not need education, because their place is in the home, acting as mothers, wives, and dutiful daughters. Vadero Pajero makes this point in the show’s very first episode when he explains to Baba Bandook why he refuses to “waste” money funding the school for those “worthless” girls, noting that “whether they study or not, [girls] are going to end up making rotis in the kitchen.” Baba Bandook proceeds to nod in agreement and responds with a rhetorical question, “What business do women have with education? They should stay at home. Washing, scrubbing and cleaning. Toiling in the kitchen” (Season 1, episode 01). To this end, Burka Avenger is representing the views of both the Pakistani government (symbolized by Vadero Pajero) and religious fundamentalists/the Taliban (symbolized by Baba Bandook). The contempt for female education displayed by both Baba Bandook and Vadero Pajero compelled them to hatch numerous schemes to force women and girls out of the public space of the school and back into the private space of their homes – where they should supposedly “stay.” In the first episode, for example, Baba Bandook, at the request of Vadero Pajero, places a giant padlock on the school. In episode two, Baba Bandook attaches himself to a hot air balloon and attempts to burn down the girls’ school with a flamethrower. In episode eight, Baba Bandook steals the town’s books – including the textbooks from the girls’ school – and organizes a mass book burning. It is worth mentioning that each attempt to destroy education appears to specifically target females. No attacks against the boys’ school ever take place and we are never shown whether or how the loss of textbooks impacts their education. In fact, the show displays a noticeable absence of references to male education. Each of these attempts on the collective parts of Baba Bandook and Vadero Pajero is met with a response from the town’s female residents. When Baba Bandook closes the school in episode one, for example, Ashu rushes to the front of the crowd and makes an impassioned speech: We need education. It is our right. You cannot take this right from us. We are the future of this country. The girls of today are the mothers of tomorrow. Let us shape our own future. What will you get out of ruining our lives? If mothers are not educated, then the future generation will also remain
illiterate. Don’t push us into the darkness of illiteracy. Without education, we are all doomed. (Season 1, episode 01) Another example is illustrative. In episode 8, after Baba Bandook has stolen every book in Halwapur, leaving only his “centuries old book of magic” (we can infer that this is a reference to the Quran), it is the town’s female news anchor who communicates the gravity of the situation to the townspeople and asks, “Why is our education being targeted?” After the children find Baba Bandook in the woods with the stolen books, it is again Ashu who makes another compelling speech: Stop! Don’t set those books on fire! Books are the best path to knowledge. Through them we learn about the whole world and seek knowledge. Without books we will neither be able to recall our history nor prepare for the future and our present will certainly be destroyed. (Season 1, episode 08) These examples of resistance to the actions of Baba Bandook and Vader Pajero are significant not only because they demonstrate that Pakistani women and girls possess the necessary agency to resist injustice within their own community, but also because they make direct and indirect reference to gendered imaginings of the nation. “The girls of today are the mothers of tomorrow.” In this articulation, it is the mother who passes knowledge to her children. If Pakistan’s female youth cannot read, Pakistan’s future mothers will be unable to read, and therefore will be unable to educate their children. This inability to pass on knowledge is what “dooms” the entire nation to stay forever in the “darkness of illiteracy.” Arguably, the concern for female education is a municipal concern for the town of Halwapur and its residents to solve on their own. Yet, Ashu does not frame the problem in this way. She actively chooses to frame the problem in national terms. That is, a “Halwapur problem” is discursively transformed into a “Pakistan problem” through the use of national frames of reference: the country and entire generations of future children. In this way, national concerns and imagery of what the nation should look like (i.e. a place where women can go to school) are not imposed from the top-down onto the population. Rather, the population themselves are engaging in nation-making, demonstrating not only individual agency, but female agency. While neither Ashu nor the reporter ever explicitly articulate an “us-vs-them” national identity, they do so indirectly. Guibernau (2007, p. 25) notes that national identities can be consolidated by rallying against a common enemy or external threat, be it imminent, potential, or even invented. To this end, I argue that Ashu and the reporter seek to produce a national identity that stands in opposition to the forces of “darkness” and “backwardness,” symbolized by Baba Bandook and Vadero Pajero: light versus darkness; Pakistan versus the Taliban.
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Ashu and the reporter’s responses to the book burning are also significant. Both Ashu and the reporter make appeals to a collective “we” and an “our”: “our education,” “we will be unable to recall our history.” While Billig (1995) notes that such references are common, subtle ways the nation is reproduced, I argue that Ashu and the reporter’s use of the terms is deliberately female. First, throughout the entire first season, it appears that Baba Bandook and Vadero Pajero are uninterested in closing the boys’ school, and thus, no efforts are made to destroy it or prohibit boys from attending. Second, we are shown explicitly that missing textbooks directly impact the operation of the girls’ class, but we are never shown or told that missing books have impacted the boys’ school in any way. Thus, when the reporter asks “why our education is being targeted,” it appears that she is specifically referring to female education because we are never shown that male education has been directly targeted in any way. Further, by referring to the history and the future of “our” nation, Ashu once again connects women to processes of knowledge transmission. Women are the ones who serve as the link between Pakistan’s “history” and Pakistan’s “future,” thereby once again transforming a local concern into a national one.
Equal citizens of the Pakistani nation While the program recognizes the important symbolic (and biological) role of women as reproducers of the nation and responsible for the transmission of knowledge to future generations, it is also made clear that is not all women are. Burka Avenger also reframes Pakistani women as citizens, entitled to “rights.” In the quote from episode 1 discussed at length previously, Ashu not only argues for women’s education because they will subsequently educate their children, but also notes that women have “rights” that “cannot be taken away” (season 1, episode 01). Women, she continues, should be allowed to “shape their own future.” This is significant for a number of reasons. First, in arguing for women’s capacity to “shape their own futures,” the program directly challenges the gender power at work in constructions of national citizenship. Rather than reducing women to passive objects in which Pakistani male honor is bound, women are presented as active subjects capable of “shaping their own future.” Women are, in other words, no longer viewed as objects to be counted amongst a table or bed belonging to men, as noted previously in the quote from Frantz Fanon. Second, in framing women this way, the show also presents a discourse of equality and anti-discrimination. Women are entitled to the same rights and privileges as men. “If boys are permitted to go to school, girls should be given that same right.” “If men are capable of exercising the agency necessary to make decisions for themselves, so are women.” This idea of equality and anti-discrimination is expanded upon in other episodes. In episode ten, for example, Jiya tells her students that “discrimination is society’s worst problem.” After being asked what discrimination means,
Jiya explains that it is “when one person thinks another person is below him.” She continues: “When people start concentrating on differences, they forget that all human beings are equal.” Jiya also explains, “Our religion [i.e. Islam] also teaches us that no one is inferior to anyone else.” Towards the end of the episode, Burka Avenger once again summarizes the episode’s central theme: “All human beings are born equal. Never think someone is inferior because of their color, race, nationality, or religion. The people who live together in peace and harmony progress the most.” The anti-discrimination episode is interesting for several reasons. First, the initial definition of discrimination offered by Jiya to her female students itself is gendered. Discrimination is when someone thinks another human being is below him. This suggests that the very act of discrimination is something men do and women experience. Second, Jiya makes a point of detaching Islam from the conversation about discrimination. In doing so, she simultaneously removes one of the central justifications for gender discrimination in Pakistan and challenges the long-standing colonial trope that Islam, as a religion, is unique in its capacity for gender discrimination. It was under the guise of Islam and the reIslamization of society that the Pakistani state and religious conservatives sought to remove women from the public sphere and seclude them in the home. Colonial governments, too, have condemned Islam for its supposed unique capacity to oppress women. Yet, in noting that Islam preaches a discourse of equality – “no one is inferior to anyone else” – Burka Avenger can be understood as directly challenging these views. Women belong in the public sphere because “all human beings are equal,” and Islam further justifies this equality. Finally, Burka Avenger’s ending summary of the episode’s central theme also serves to connect “equality” to the future of the Pakistani nation. She notes that “the people who live together in peace and harmony progress the most.” It is, therefore, “equality” that will allow the nation of Pakistan to move towards “progress.” This tying together of the nation’s future (its progress) and “equality” is also reminiscent of Ashu’s speech from episode one (discussed previously) where she connected equal access to education for girls to the future of the nation – it would save the nation from its “doom.” In sum, I maintain that Burka Avenger reframes women in Pakistan in a way that presents them not only as “mothers of the nation” but as active participants in paving the nation’s path towards progress. Women are framed as active subjects capable of making decisions for themselves. But beyond granting women agency, the program also recognizes that women should be (and are) full citizens of the Pakistani nation and, on that basis, are entitled to the same rights and privileges enjoyed by men and that these rights cannot be taken away from them, namely access to education. This discourse of equality, moreover, is also present in other episodes of the program, where discrimination is framed as the activity of men, to the detriment of women. By presenting discrimination in this way, the program also disconnects gender discrimination from Islam, thereby challenging both dominant discourses in Pakistan and long-standing colonial narratives. Lastly, I maintain that the program endeavours to connect
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notions of national progress to notions of complete equality between all members.
Conclusion Launched in the summer of 2013, Burka Avenger has been met with both praise and criticism. The debates surrounding the program combined with its immense popularity compel social scientific analysis. Through an analysis of episodes from Burka Avenger’s first season, this chapter has sought to argue that the program can be understood as offering critical commentary on the current sociopolitical realities of Pakistan, and Pakistani women in particular. I argue that the program challenges the strict public/private divide that has traditionally led to the exclusion of women from conceptions of “the nation.” I have argued that this was done in two ways: first, Pakistani women and girls are recognized as the biological reproducers of the nation. It is the women who are destined to nurture future generations. In making this argument, the program deliberately uses national frames to discuss a local concern, thereby directly engaging in nation-making; second, the program reframes women as active subjects deserving of the same rights and privileges granted to men. In making this argument, too, the show takes care to note that discrimination in Pakistan does not stem from Islam. All of this notwithstanding, Burka Avenger’s popularity and international acclaim has gotten people around the world to talk seriously about the rights and status of women in Pakistan. And that, certainly, is some really impressive karate action.
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Rao, T. (2013) “Burka Avenger: ‘Malala Is Not the Inspiration’,” The Laaltain, 1 August. Available (accessed 11 July 2016). Rashid, A.H. (2013) Burka Avenger [television broadcast], writ. A. Abdurab, A. Naseer, and G. Ejaz, Islamabad: Unicorn Black Productions. Said, E. (1994) Culture and Imperialism, New York: Vintage. ——— (1979) Orientalism, New York: Vintage. Shah, I. & Baporikar, N. (2013) “Gender Discrimination: Who Is Responsible? Evidence From Pakistan,” Women’s Studies, 42(1): 78–95. Shaheed, F. (2010) “Contested Identities: Gendered Politics, Gendered Religion in Pakistan,” Third World Quarterly, 31(6): 851–67. Spivak, G. (1994) “Can the Subaltern Speak?” in P. Williams and L. Chrisman (eds) Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader, New York: Columbia University Press. Toor, S. (2007) “Moral Regulation in a Postcolonial Nation-State: Gender and the Politics of Islamization in Pakistan,” Interventions, 9(2): 255–75. ——— (2014) “The Political Economy of Moral Regulation in Pakistan: Religion, Gender, and Class in a Postcolonial Context,” in L. Fernandes (ed) Routledge of Handbook of Gender in South Asia, New York: Routledge. UNESCO (2019) “Pakistan: Education and Literacy: Literacy Rate,” UNESCO. Available (accessed 10 May 2019). UNICEF (2019) “Pakistan: Education,” UNICEF. Available (accessed 10 May 2019). Unicorn Black (2013a) “Lady in Black” [video], YouTube. Available (accessed 11 July 2016). ——— (2013b) “Burka Avenger Episode 01” [video], YouTube. Available (accessed 11 July 2016). ——— (2016) “About the Show,” Unicorn Black Productions. Available (accessed 11 July 2016). Weiss (2011) “Population Growth, Urbanization, and Female Literacy,” in S. Cohen (ed) The Future of Pakistan, Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press. Yuval-Davis, N. (1996) “Women and the Biological Reproduction of ‘the nation’,” Women’s Studies International Forum, 19(1/2): 17–24. ——— (1997) Gender and Nation, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Triple j’s Hottest 100 Australia’s largest music democracy? Jennifer Phillips
On January 26, every year since 1901, Australians have marked their national day, Australia Day, on the anniversary of the arrival of the first fleet of British settlers. As with any settler nation, this date is a fraught one for many – no more so than for Australia’s Indigenous population, who see it as the marking of the beginning of their dispossession from their ancestral lands. On January 26, every year since 1993, Australians have marked another tradition: the Hottest 100 countdown of the most popular songs of the year as voted by the Australian people. Broadcast by government-funded national broadcaster triple j,1 organisers claim that the poll is the “largest musical democracy” in the world, routinely receiving over 2 million votes (triple j, 2016). For those (mostly younger, politically progressive) Australians uncomfortable with the problematic elements of their national day, this poll takes pride of place as the soundtrack to many Australia Day parties, with music, rather than nationalism, being the source for celebration. In many ways, holding this countdown on Australia’s national day has had the power of equating popular music with national identity in Australia, particularly among triple j’s core demographic of 18–34 year olds.2 Thus, for this group, listening to triple j’s hottest 100 is an enactment of Michael Billig’s banal nationalism (1995). Unlike visible markers of nationalism such as the displaying (or wearing) of flags in public spaces (ably analysed in depth in Allmark (2007), the banal nationalism of the Hottest 100 is more intangible but nevertheless powerful, amplified by the media discourses surrounding the event. This is particularly evident in the station’s own highlighting not only of the link between the music and Australia’s national celebrations, but of the Australian artists who are featured in the poll (Byrne, 2018). These artists are lauded for their achievement in being included amongst the world’s best musicians of the year, an achievement that overlooks that the voting population is predominantly Australian. Thus, the poll is, as Brubaker and Cooper would put it (2000) both a public performance or practice of nationalism, but an example of nation-talk – or nation-branding as Volcic and Andrejevic call it (2011) – the encoding of national identity in media discourses and language. Much has been written about the link between music and national identity. In addition to scores of scholarly articles, there have been dozens of full-length
Triple j’s Hottest 100
treatments of the topic. Writing about America, Paul McCann (2008) analysed the interplay between race, music, and national identity – albeit through the lens of its manifestation in fiction – and Nadine Hubbs (2004) has considered the previously overlooked role of queer composers in the formation of an American national identity. Uroš Čvoro (2014) has likewise performed a thorough analysis the role of the “turbo folk” sub-genre of music and its role in preserving national culture in the former Yugoslavia. Other scholars have looked at the music of Germany (Applegate & Potter, 2002) and Spain (Washabaugh, 2012), as well as a recent collection which analyses the interconnectedness of music in the twenty-first century, reflecting the futility of considering cultural output such as music in terms of nationality when global cultures are far more prevalent due to international music platforms like Apple Music and Spotify (Biddle & Knights, 2016). Relevant to my current study is Patricia Shaw’s 1988 thesis, The Development of a National Identity in Australian Contemporary Music. While the text is almost three decades old now, its timing was apt, coming in the midst of Australia’s bicentennial celebrations that year, a time when the national media was saturated with content reflecting back on Australia’s then 200-year-old history dating back to its origins as a British colony. Shaw’s work has been complemented more recently by the analysis of Fiona Richards, a collection which reflects the diversity of Australian culture through its musical output with chapters on music produced by Indigenous groups as well as diverse music forms including film scores, acoustic art, and Arnhem Land Christian music (2007). In this chapter, I will contribute to these ongoing debates about the intersections between music and national identity. In so doing, I will utilise the empirical data of the triple j’s Hottest 100 for the last 22 years to form a picture of Australia’s national identity, particularly youth identity. I will also consider the trend towards a greater percentage of Australian rather than international artists in recent years to see if this is a manifestation of a growing nationalistic movement, a result of the nationalist discourses evident in the station’s promotion of the event, or a reflection of the current quality of the Australian music industry. The poll has not been without its controversies. In particular, I will consider if the vote truly is a “musical democracy” in the light of a twitter movement (#Tay4Hottest100) which sought to have Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” ranked in the top 15 songs of the year even through the song itself wasn’t listed on the official ballot. For a poll which prides itself as a democratic representation of mass music taste, what does it say that organisers ultimately chose to ignore any votes for Taylor Swift in the 2014 poll and refused to play her song on the day of the countdown? What implications does this interference from the organisers have on our ability to see the music included in the Hottest 100 is an accurate reflection of Australian national identity? Or was the exclusion of Taylor Swift an act of national protectionism on the part of the station’s management, a replication of what Sutherland (2005) would describe as nationalism’s project in the ongoing production of hegemonic power structures?
Moreover, there have been recent observations of the implicit privileging of music produced by white, male Australians to the exclusion of music produced by women, as well as Indigenous peoples and members of Australia’s ethnic minorities. I will consider if these claims of exclusion are accurate. In so doing I will outline the elements at work not only in Australian music but in Australian culture more generally which have contributed to this effect. Ultimately, I will consider if the triple j Hottest 100 is an alternative to the contrasting and confounding meanings of Australia’s national day, or if it is yet another manifestation of these issues in Australian culture. Just like television has been analysed as a force for propagating systems of “symbolic engineering” (Dayan & Katz, 1992), I will interrogate the complex feedback loops in which the Hottest 100 is both constructed by and participating in the construction of Australian national identity.
Is there an Australian national identity? Since Australia officially became a nation on January 1, 1901, it may be surprising how much change has taken place not only in the way Australians view themselves and their nation, but in the cultural, ethnic, and religious makeup of the Australian people. In 1901, Australia had a population of around 3.8 million people, the overwhelming majority of whom were of British descent. Additionally, at the time of federation there was a sizable ethnic-Asian population (estimated at 47,000), the majority of whom arrived as migrant workers during the gold rush of the 1850s. After immigration, these numbers soon began to decline due to the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 (Australian Government, 2016a), the foundation of the so-called “White Australia Policy” which limited immigration to Australia to British and European peoples. This policy was in effect until the 1907s. Just as egregious as the introduction of the White Australia policy in 1901 was the fact that Australia’s original inhabitants weren’t even included in the census of the Australian population not only at the point of federation in 1901, but remained excluded until a 1967 referendum saw Indigenous peoples finally counted. As such, although we are certain that the figure of 3.8 million Australians in 1901 did not include Indigenous people, we cannot be sure of how many such peoples there were at the time to exclude from the count. Before the “discovery” of Australia by Captain Cook in 1770, it has been estimated that there were between 315,000 and 750,000 Indigenous peoples in Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008a).3 By federation, this number had fallen considerably over the whole country, but most notably in Tasmania where, by 1861, the aboriginal population on the island had fallen from 4500 to only 18 (Aboriginal Population Statistics, 2016). In the almost 120 years since Australia became a nation more has changed than mere population growth (although Australia does have around 20 million more people than it did when it first became a nation), but those changes are not easy to quantify and exemplify, particularly when it comes to painting a
Triple j’s Hottest 100
picture of Australian identity. Since Hall and du Gay’s work on Questions of Cultural Identity, scholarship has long left behind essentialist views of identity, instead embracing the idea that identities are “increasingly fragmented and fractured; never singular but multiply constructed across different, often intersecting and antagonistic discourses, practices and positions” (1996, p. 4). Nationhood and national identity are nebulous concepts, notoriously hard to quantify. How can the diversity of individual experiences be effectively encapsulated in an image representative of the “average citizen”? Moreover, in a country like Australia, with an increasingly multicultural population base, any attempts to draw such an image will undoubtedly skew towards the white ethnic majority to the exclusion of all who do not fit that particular mould. Thus, when in 1958 Russell Ward attempted to outline the key features of Australian identity as well as chart their origins, his result was the picture of a “practical man, rough and ready in his manners.” Additionally, according to Ward, the Australian man, “swears hard and consistently, gambles heavily and often, and drinks deeply on occasion” (pp. 1–2). This man (as apparently in Ward’s conception Australian women had had no impact on their national identity) carried with him the legacy of Australia’s past as a penal colony, as well as the harsh realities of the Australian outback environment, an antipodean version of the US frontiersman, Ward himself drawing on the work of Frederick Jackson Turner for his inspiration. While there is truth in Ward’s work, it also overlooks the roles of women, Indigenous peoples, and ethnic minorities in order to paint a particular form of rugged, masculine Australian heroism. The Cold-War context for Ward’s writing can explain this image somewhat, but still it fails to highlight all aspects of the Australian experience. While Ward’s text was given some much needed feminist criticism almost 20 years later through Miriam Dixon’s text The Real Matilda (1976), the image of masculine Australian identity as formed by Ward is still pervasive as evidenced by a much more recent document, the Australian Government’s own information page about “Australian Identity.” This website provides a list of elements which the Government believes are essential features of the national cultural image (Australian Government, 2016b). The information on the list is predominantly white-Australian; there is no specific mention of Indigenous cultures, practices, and beliefs, and only one mention of ethnic diversity through a link to information about “Chinatowns across Australia.” Also excluded are Australian women – the list is particularly male in scope and tone. ANZAC Day, a commemoration of a failed battle during WWI, tops the list, with other features including the Holden car (a predominately male fixation), one page about “mateship, diggers and wartime” (a particularly homosocial practice) and “sacred places” listed not as those sights consecrated through 40,000 years of aboriginal ceremonial usage but, instead, sights of “Australian battlefield pilgrimages.” Thus, inherent in the tension in forming a conception of an Australian national identity is the persistent myth that the “ideal” Australian is overwhelmingly white and male, but even within that, represents a rugged hyper-masculinity that doesn’t encapsulate all forms of masculine performance, but only the hegemonic form
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represented by Australia’s most well-known cultural exports: Steve Irwin, Crocodile Dundee, and (more recently) Hugh Jackman. Mythical Australian heroes also fit this white, male role, as Lohrey has observed, the ANZAC soldier was only an updated version of the Bushman myth (1982, p. 29), both of whom share characteristics of masculine, rugged and battle-worn as well as implicit heroics on behalf of the passive, weak, and often feminised others left behind on the home front. While these constructions of Australian masculinity as national identity have permeated the national consciousness, the reality of the lived experience of the vast majority of Australians does not reflect this form. Yet, as we will see, it may persist even within the acceptance of certain kinds of popular culture – such as the triple j Hottest 100, where, as we will see, the predominance of music performed by white, male performers implies that musical heroes, too, reflect the dominant Australian imaginary, as well as revealing, as the focus on white masculinity in Australian identity does, the identity of those who form such images. The Hottest 100 also occupies a position on the precipice of debates about Australian national identity – taking place on January 26 every year – Australia’s national day. Bound up with the difficult debates about Australian identity is a difficulty in conceptualising Australia’s national day, Australia Day. While intended to be a day on which all Australians can celebrate, there are historic, current, and, I predict, future issues in Australian identity which complicate these celebrations for many groups in Australian society. According to the official website for Australia Day, this national holiday is a chance to “come together as a nation to celebrate what’s great about Australia and being Australian” (Australian Government, 2016c). While this is an admirable aim, the issue with celebrating on January 26 overlooks the psychic damage that the very date holds for Australia’s Indigenous peoples. The trauma of seeing the nation have a party on a day of great pain was best summarised by Chris Graham who posed the following hypothetical question: “If your ancestors were dispossessed, slaughtered and had their land and their children stolen, would you celebrate the date on which that all began?” (2016). For members of Australia’s Indigenous communities, Australia Day is a day of sorrow, not celebration. In addition to mourning the deaths of Indigenous people caused by British settlement, many raise issues with the very fact that choosing this day as Australia’s national holiday links the birth of the nation to not only the wholescale dispossession of the Indigenous peoples, but a dispossession which has, since an Australian High Court ruling in 1992, been deemed an illegal act. The case of Mabo and others v Queensland (No 2) (1992), known as Mabo, found that terra nullius or the British claim that Australia was a land without peoples before European settlement began was a legal fiction. Another problem with the image of Australia presented by celebrating January 26 is that this is a date which marks nationhood as a British Colonial event not only to the exclusion of Australia’s Indigenous population, but also the large number of Australians with origins outside of the British Commonwealth. Tying Australia’s national celebrations to an act of British colonialism is becoming more and more out of synch with the reality of modern multicultural Australia.
Triple j’s Hottest 100
Over recent years there have been attempts to make Australia Day a more inclusive celebration for Australians of non-European backgrounds. Much attention is given in the media each year to citizenship ceremonies held on the day, with images of the diverse backgrounds of those people who have chosen to make Australia their homeland. And while this is a step in a positive direction, there are other voices in the media who say that Australia Day should remain a celebration of the First Fleet’s arrival as well as an acknowledgment that Australia began as a British colony and as such retains its Judeo-Christian heritage, and it is these things which Australia Day celebrates rather than Australia’s diverse multiculturalism. As we have seen, Australian national identity is not cohesive, but rather, complex and full of tensions. Thus, when Australia’s national day is held, there is ambivalence. Some solutions have been offered for these issues. One such proposal is to change the date on which Australians celebrate their national day. When faced by these historical and contemporary issues with Australia’s national identity and the celebration of Australia’s national day, it is no wonder that there are groups within Australian society who seek another option for celebration on January 26. It is no wonder that, for some, Australia Day has become less about the national holiday and more about Australian cultural output, particularly in the form of music. The annual Hottest 100 music countdown, run by national broadcaster triple j on January 26 every year, is a symbol of this, creating an alternative “collective memory” (Dayan & Katz, 1992) that is removed from the fraught history that many young Australians are uncomfortable celebrating. Yet, as we will see, in its claims to represent democracy and alternative conceptions of Australian national identity, there is much the poll does in inadvertently replicating the focus on white, male privilege prevalent in Australian culture and identity.
The Hottest 100: an alternate(ive) celebration The Hottest 100 is broadcast nationally on the radio station now known Australiawide as triple j, which was launched as 2JJ in January 1975. More than just a pioneer for music, triple j paved the way for women in broadcasting. In 1975, Gayle Austin was the first woman radio presenter in Australia (Austin 2005). There is a distinct divide between triple j and other, commercial radio stations in Australia with cultural values being placed on the “alternative” nature of the station which has resulted from the lack of economic pressure for profits to please owners or board members. As one commentator wryly observes: If you want to be played on triple j and poll well in the hottest 100, your song should be catchy but not too catchy (no pop mega stars, thank you very much) and alternative but not too alternative (no Frank Zappas, thank you very much). (Pollard, 2015) From its inception, then, the identity of triple j as a radio station, and the identity of its listeners, has been one which straddles the divide between popular and pop, between alternative and mainstream – with differing degrees of success.
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Analysing this poll in the context of national identity, we can see an enactment of what Fox and Miller-Idriss (2008) have argued was previously missing in analysis of nationalism – the engagement with the “ordinary” people consuming and creating national identity rather than treating nationalism as a top-down phenomenon created only by the elite few. But more than simply participating in the construction of national identity, the relationship between triple j, the Hottest 100, and Australian identity is a more complex and interrelated web. By situating the broadcast on Australia’s national day, triple j is both constructing Australian identity and trading on the brand identity of Australia itself. The transferability of the signs of the “national brand” (that Volcic and Andrejevic observe, 2011) are thus enacted in a feedback loop wherein triple j is both constructing and constructed by the Australian national identity. This interrelationship becomes even more complicated when we consider that triple j is a taxpayer-funded radio station, albeit one over which the government has historically exerted little to no editorial control. The first Hottest 100 countdown was held in 1989, although for the first two years, listeners could vote for songs from any year – leading to The Cure’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” winning two years in a row. 1993 was the first year the countdown was held in its current form as a popular vote of songs released in the previous year. What began as a postal vote went digital in the late 1990s, with now approximately 2 million votes cast in the poll every year (triple j, 2016). While trends have been observed, there are very few similarities between the lists from year-to-year. A reading of the winning songs from each year demonstrates this (see Table 6.1). These songs range from novelty/humour (Dennis Leary’s “Asshole” and Offspring’s “Pretty Fly for a White Guy”) to anthemic (Alex Lloyd’s “Amazing” and Powderfinger’s “These Days” and “My Happiness”). There are odes to forgotten George Harrison albums (Oasis’s “Wonderwall”), dark thoughts in lonely long-distance relationships (The Whitlams’ “No Aphrodisiac”), songs about physical relationships (Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire”), lost relationships (Gotye’s “Somebody I Used to Know”) and future relationships (JET’s “Are you Gonna be my Girl?”). Some are highly literal while others more figurative – the first Australian song ever to win the countdown, Spiderbait’s “Buy me a Pony,” doesn’t even feature that phrase in its lyrics at all. What this chart does show is the predominance of Australian music in the poll, particularly taking out the top song. In many ways, it is fitting that for an Australian countdown on Australia’s national day run by Australia’s national youth broadcaster there is a large proportion of Australian music. Yet, conversely, when the numbers of Australian acts in the countdown are so much higher than the reality of their record sales, the question must be raised about the representative nature of the poll, particularly for one which promotes itself as a “musical democracy.” The reason for this disparity is due to the station’s positive discrimination in favouring a large amount of Australian content. Issues with the democratic and representative nature of the poll extend well beyond this.
Triple j’s Hottest 100
Table 6.1 Hottest 100 top songs with country of origin and ARIA rank Year Artist 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Dennis Leary The Cranberries Oasis Spiderbait The Whitlams The Offspring Powderfinger Powderfinger Alex Lloyd Queens of the Stone Age JET Franz Ferdinand Bernard Fanning Augie March MUSE Kings of Leon Mumford and Sons Angus and Julia Stone Gotye
Asshole Zombie Wonderwall Buy Me a Pony No Aphrodisiac Pretty Fly for a White Guy These Days My Happiness Amazing No One Knows Are you Gonna Be My Girl? Take Me Out Wish You Well One Crowded Hour Knights of Cydonia Sex on Fire Little Lion Man Big Jet Plane Somebody That I Used to Know Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Thrift Shop Vance Joy Riptide Chet Faker Talk is Cheap The Rubens Hoops
Country ARIA rank USA UK UK AUS AUS USA AUS AUS AUS USA AUS UK AUS AUS USA USA UK AUS AUS
N/A 38 N/A N/A N/A 16 N/A 73 71 N/A 96 N/A N/A N/A N/A 5 87 69 2
USA AUS AUS AUS
9 55 76 N/A
The claim to being Australia’s (and sometimes the world’s) largest musical democracy deserves some investigation. For one, if the poll is a democracy, it is a democracy in which less than 10% of the Australia population votes. For any kind of democracy, this level of voter turnout would be dire – but even more so in an Australian context where voting in local, state and federal elections is mandatory – with conscientious objectors given fines for their refusal to vote. Of course, there is something ridiculous about comparing a musical poll to a national election – but triple j’s use of the term “musical democracy” begs such comparisons to be made.
Representative music democracy? If the poll is a “musical democracy,” and if such democracy has the potential to represent an alternative form of Australian national identity, the question must be asked, who are the Australians participating in the poll and are they a reflection of the Australian population at large? Or, is the poll an example of what Anderson would call an “imagined community” (1983), one claiming to be a synecdoche for Australia, but perhaps one which bears little reflection to the reality it aims to represent.
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First, it is important to note the shift in triple j’s demographics over time. In the 1990s, when the Hottest 100 poll began, triple j was known as the national youth broadcaster, and the rating statistics bore this out; triple j was indeed most popular with the 18–24 age group (Ore, 2013). Yet, in recent years there has been a shift, so much so that now triple j’s listener base sits firmly within the 25–39 age bracket (McMahon, 2015). Both of these groups are significant in terms of reading the Hottest 100 in terms of identity formation. Comparing 1994 and 2014, years which mirror quite closely the years in which the Hottest 100 poll has been in operation, the median age of the Australian population has grown from 33.4 years to 37.3 years (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014). While this aging of the population may explain some of the aging of the triple j listener base, it also reveals that in 1994 as well as in 2014 the median age is above the average age of triple j listeners. Thus, while the poll may be representative, it is not of Australia’s music tastes as a whole but of an overwhelmingly younger proportion of the population. Moreover, there are more male listeners to triple j than in the gender split in the greater Australian population. Additionally, women made up 48% of voters in the 2015 poll, greater than the proportion of triple j’s usual listenership but again less than the proportion of women in the Australian population. However, this number still doesn’t explain why, as in that year’s poll, female artists still were remarkably under-represented compared to men (Koziol, 2015). More than a demographical reading is a reading of the logistics and administration of the vote itself. If as the term democracy implies, the poll reflects the voice of the people, what happens when station management steps in to cancel votes and disqualify artists? Such is the situation that occurred when in 2014, fans of Taylor Swift, encouraged (albeit as a joke) by Buzzfeed writer Mark DiStefano, launched an online campaign to have her mega-pop-hit “Shake it Off” entered into the countdown. Triple j purists were outraged, protesting that the countdown is always limited to songs which have been played on the station that year and, despite its popularity – or perhaps because of it – the song had not graced triple j’s airwaves, although it did play on Australian commercial radio a total of 13,511 between August 2014 and January 26, 2015 (triple j, 2015). More than that, Taylor Swift was deemed too “pop” for triple j’s alternative image. While there is no mistaking the popular appeal of the song or the fact that it debuted at number 1 of the Billboard 100, recent “legitimate” winners of the triple j poll had also featured on the Billboard charts including 2011 winner “Somebody I Used to Know” by Gotye, 2012 winner “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and two of the top 5 songs in the 2013 poll, “Royals” by Lorde and “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk. If what “belongs” on triple j’s airwaves and in the Hottest 100 is, as some believe, alternative music rather than commercially-successful songs, then, as Mark Pollard (2015) observes, these two terms are becoming increasingly interchangeable. If the Hottest 100 is a performance of Australian national identity on Australia’s national day, it is a performance of a form of alternate identity – a rejection
Triple j’s Hottest 100
of the mainstream or the popular. This alternative identity became clear when triple j station management stepped in and (despite the fact Taylor Swift’s song received enough votes to officially rank at number 12) disqualified the song. Although the “official” reason given by management was because they cited Buzzfeed as the campaign source and deemed it illegitimate for a media organisation to influence the outcome of their poll (triple j, 2015). On one hand, this act was a defence of the “democratic” nature of the poll, while on the other hand, a supremely undemocratic move, declaring legitimate votes illegitimate and silencing the voices of those who truly wanted Taylor Swift’s song included as a reflection of Australian music taste at the time. The disqualification of the song also reflects the conception of triple j listeners as one hegemonic group – one which could not possibly contain diverse music tastes which embrace both “popular” and “alternative” music. This action flies in the face of the diversity in the Australian national identity itself – a reassertion of a normative expectation rather than an opening of the poll to the realities of complex individualism.
Representation within representative democracy One thing the Taylor Swift controversy did achieve was to highlight a greater scrutiny of the poll which has led to the discovery of a larger and more troubling lack of diversity in the countdown than something Taylor can just “shake off.” As one commentator noted in their analysis of the controversy, the very fact that a win for Taylor Swift in the 2014 poll would be the first for a female solo artist in Hottest 100 history shows the problematic nature of the poll. Of the countdown-winning songs listed in Table 6.1, only one features a female vocalist (“Zombie” by the Cranberries) and no female solo artists have ever topped the poll. While this could be a criticism levelled at the countdown or the station, others have seen it as a systemic issue within the music industry itself (Riley, 2015). The Hottest 100 poll is thus situated in the tension identified by Fox and Miller-Idriss (2008), wherein national identity is both influenced by elite power-structures as well as produced by “ordinary people.” The elite influence is exerted on the poll through power structures not only of the music industry but the radio station itself. This power is in tension with the purported democratic nature of the poll, and the inequality that is evident in the poll’s content, particularly regarding the high proportion of white male artists compared to artists who are female or of minority ethnicities. After the 2015 poll, triple j tweeted an infographic in which great care had gone into breaking down the poll into such minute detail – sharing statistics of average song length, nationality of artist and number of votes – but failing to mention the gender of the artists featured (Watson, 2015). In response to this, Casey Briggs performed his own analysis and posted his findings on his blog. Of the 100 bands in the countdown that year, only 21 were female;4 of the 273 musicians in the poll, only 34 were women; finally, there were only two female artists in the top 20 (Briggs, 2015).
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When journalist Erin Riley posted a tweet after the same poll, observing that the Hottest 100 has had more winners from a particular Melbourne school (both 2013 and 2014 winners Vance Joy and Chet Faker attended St Kevin’s Toorak Melbourne) than female winners (only one), the online response was a vitriol reminiscent of gamergate, only this time it was male music fans rather than male computer gamers who were attacking the female journalist for “daring” to question male privilege. Riley was trying to highlight the way “triple j is not intentionally marginalising the voices of women, and it certainly isn’t alone – but it is contributing to a broader social trend.” The trend of which she speaks is the cultural dominance of voices, stories, and artworks representing heterosexual male experience and values – not only in Australia but in the Western culture more generally. Riley concludes by undermining the claims triple j makes about its countdown being a “democracy,” a claim that triple j’s station manager Chris Scaddan reiterated when criticised for the lack of gender diversity in their polls: So when both men and women invoke the fact the Hottest 100 is based on a popular vote as evidence it couldn’t possibly be biased, they ignore the role of radio in creating context for music, and the insidious ways privilege influences taste: in play counts, in the inclusion and exclusion of genres, in who is interviewed and how they’re spoken to. (Riley, 2015) Although triple j routinely takes meetings from recoding labels who don’t get a chance to have their music played on commercial radio in Australia, as well as hosting an online and digital station, triple j Unearthed dedicated to unsigned Australian artists, there is, nevertheless, one person whose influence flavours all of the music played on the station – long-time music director Richard Kingsmill. Kingsmill has been in the role since he replaced triple j’s original music director Arnold Frolows in 2003. Writing in 2009 about the process of music selection on triple j, Ben Eltham describes Kingsmill’s influence, stating that “triple j is programmed by a small group of people led by Richard Kingsmill.” Eltham is quick to add that this observation is not meant as a criticism, instead praising Kingsmill’s work and commitment to triple j’s listeners. However, there is evidence which indicates a perhaps unconscious bias in the music selections on the station. One possible solution that has been proposed to redress the issue is the introduction of quotas for female artists. Such was journalist Eliza Sarlos’s proposal in 2013 in response to another triple j poll in which listeners voted for the best songs of the last 20 years. Of the top 100 artists featured, female artists made up five (with female voices heard on an additional four songs). Sarlos is quick to note that despite the lack of female representation in the poll, it was a vast improvement on the previous “all time” poll triple j held in 2009 where there were no female artists featured at all. Moreover, in an analysis of the top 10 songs featured in the hottest 100 from 1993 to 2013, Sarlos observed that women feature in 7.3% of the songs. In the
Triple j’s Hottest 100
week leading up to the 2013 poll, Sarlos also observed that women featured in just 5% of the feature spots on triple j used to highlight new music. When taken holistically, triple j’s figures don’t fare much better. In 2012, only 31 women were featured among the 317 musicians whose songs were the 100 most played on triple j. Interestingly, when Sarlos made her proposal for quotas on triple j, she was met with the same argument that the Australian Liberal party has used for two decades to justify the lack of women in politics: merit. The implication being, if on “merit alone” women cannot get radio airplay (or make it into politics), then they must not be “good enough.” Of course, those making such claims overlook the power that privilege brings to ensconce those in their dominant positions and keep those outside of the mainstream away. Or, perhaps those critical of quotas for women and other disempowered groups have overlooked what Jane Caro (2015) has called the 100% quota that privileged white men were beneficiaries of for over 2000 years. Those opposed to such quotas, particularly for triple j’s music content, overlook the fact that triple j has been operating a quota system for the past 41 years – holding themselves to 40% Australian content in all their programming. This is in contrast to the commercial radio quota of 25% – a quota that the Commercial Radio Association of Australia has recently attempted to remove (Pollard, 2015). The impact of the high, self-imposed quota on triple j is clearly seen in the number of Australian artists in the annual countdowns in general, as well as the large number of Australian acts that have made it to number 1 (13 out of 22). When answering questions about gendered representation in the 2015 poll, triple j managing director Chris Scaddon proudly stated that “Approximately 29 per cent of the music you hear week to week on Triple J features female lead vocals. As a comparison, recent APRA figures show that 21.6 per cent of their songwriting membership is women” (Koziol, 2015). And while this may be true, and does reflect some steps that triple j is taking towards greater female representation in the Hottest 100 specifically and on the station as a whole, it is still a far way not only from equality, but from the self-imposed 40% Australian quota, a quota which, as Table 6.1 reveals, has had the effect of including far more Australian acts in the poll than would be represented by the ARIA music sales of the same year. If quotas have made such an impact on Australian music on triple j and in the Hottest 100, might not the same occur if such quotas were introduced for female music? Just as Australian national identity traditionally overlooks the roles of women for larger focus on rugged outback masculinity, it seems that the Hottest 100, too, is following in a similar trend. Moreover, not only are women excluded from the poll, but it seems that more and more, like in Australian history, Indigenous voices are marginalised or silenced. As Hannah Donnelly (2016) has observed, the lack of Indigenous artists appears not only in the final results, but in the short list created by triple j to assist in voting (the very same list from which Taylor Swift was “controversially” excluded). In 2015, only 10 Indigenous artists were present on the list and one of the songs hadn’t been played on the
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station in the eight months leading up to the poll, and four of the songs hadn’t been played at all since they were especially featured on the station for NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) week in July. The effect of this lack of Indigenous music representation is to, as Donnelly puts it, “censor” Indigenous stories. Indigenous music in Australia performs a powerful function of reclaiming the public discourse and highlighting issues facing aboriginal communities which the majority white media frequently overlooks (at best) or sensationalises for political ends (at worst). More than reclaiming the contemporary media space, Indigenous music is essential in healing long-term issues, as Janes Jun Wu writes, Indigenous music provides “an artistic platform for Indigenous performers to express a concerted resistance to colonial influences and sovereignty.” This point was expressed potently by Indigenous musician Apaak Juprrua: Music is perhaps one of the few positive ways to communicate a message to the wider community. Take, for example, politicians. They address an issue, but people will only listen if they share those particular political views. Music has universal appeal. Even if you have your critics, people will still give you a hearing (interviewed by Dunbar-Hall & Gibson, 2004, p. 214) Of course, in order to give music and your point-of-view a hearing, it must first be accessible. As with the debate about the underrepresentation of women in the poll, Donnelly (2016) observes that privilege plays a role in excluding Indigenous music. Analysing a list of the “five new indigenous artists you need to hear” segment from 2015, Donnelly notes that only one of the five songs includes a “hard-hitting” message, or, as Donnelly claims, one which will confront the privilege of the majority triple j listeners and presenters. But, as Donnelly concedes, the issue is not with triple j specifically, but Australian culture generally. It is far easier for the dominant group to remain ignorant rather than confront their complicity. If, as Donnelly claims, these voices are excluded not only from the Hottest 100 but also from airplay on triple j, these alternate viewpoints and resistance to dominant discourses are unable to be communicated. Further troubling, particularly when considering the lack of Indigenous music in the Hottest 100, is the continuation of the disempowerment of Indigenous Australians, one which Australia Day already represents to many. So excluded is the feeling of Indigenous musicians when faced with the lack of representation in the Hottest 100, that in 2015 Melbourne-based Indigenous broadcaster KND ran their own version, focusing exclusively on the Top 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander songs of all-time (Donnelly, 2016). Such is the feeling of exclusion that in September 2016, there was a petition given to triple j management asking them to change the date of the Hottest 100 (Rao & McCabe, 2016). Those asking for a change to the date were reflecting
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not only on the issues inherent in Australia Day itself, but were also aware of these issues of a failure of the poll, and triple j more generally, to include the music of Indigenous Australians. At the time of writing, it seems that the Hottest 100 will remain on Australia Day – but triple j have indeed taken the request under advisement – and are working with Indigenous communities not only to respect the issues with Australia’s national day more generally, but to include greater numbers of Indigenous artists on the network year-round. A recent addition to the triple j music line-up reflects this; the song “January 26,” performed by Indigenous musicians A.B. Original, attempts to highlight for non-Indigenous Australians their feelings of exclusion from Australia’s national day. Lyrics paint the stark reality: “Fuck celebratin’ days made of misery/ White Oz still got the black history/ [. . .] If you ain’t havin’ a conversation, well, then we startin’ it.” Only time will tell if the conversation truly is started among triple j listeners – and the Australian people more generally. The song is eligible for inclusion in the 2016–7 countdown. Only time will tell if it makes the list, or if it too, like other Indigenous works before it, and Indigenous identity on Australia day, will be excluded from modern conceptions of Australian national identity.
Conclusion Where in the past triple j has been a trailblazer for Australian music and for the role of women in Australian broadcasting, and does, arguably, focus more on diversity than any other radio station in Australia, as triple j station manager Chris Scaddan claims, perhaps it is time for a greater emphasis on diversity in music, to manufacture a need for diverse representation just as the original 2JJ station did in (successfully) driving the fledgling Australian music industry in the 1970s and beyond. By limiting the music of Indigenous, ethnic, and gendered others, triple j’s Hottest 100, and triple j more generally, constructs a particular narrative not only about Australian music, but about Australia itself. Although not quite as “muscular-masculine” as Russell Ward’s 1958 version, the version of Australia painted by the poll reflects (albeit unconsciously) the point of view of white, male experience over the true diversity that modern, cosmopolitan Australia represents. If these issues in triple j’s representation are addressed, perhaps in 40 years’ time (or, hopefully less), triple j’s hottest 100 can truly earn the title they claim as the world’s largest musical democracy. If triple j’s Hottest 100 is a musical democracy – it is a “closed” democracy. As evidenced by the #Tay4Hottest100 controversy, there are gatekeepers protecting the vote. More than just the station overtly acting as gatekeeper, there is an implicit cultural curation which has been taking place, not only by the station’s programmers, but by the unseen influence which sees popular culture dominated by music, movies, and artwork which, by and large, disproportionately focuses on representations of a predominantly white male experience. Thus, the Hottest 100 poll is simultaneously a representation of the “everyday nationalism” that Fox and
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Miller-Idriss posit, as well as the discursive construction which, as Pierre Bourdieu (1991) observes, is simultaneously enacted by and enacting of social realities. It is evident in the preceding analysis that there is a complex feedback loop in which Australian identity is constructed by the poll as well as the force which contributes to the versions of Australian identity included and excluded from the popular discourse. These issues are as complicated as the concept of Australian identity itself, but controversies aside, the triple j Hottest 100 does succeed in providing an outlet for Australian pride through music, something which has the power to bring people together in spite of the divisiveness, cultural baggage, and psychic trauma that January 26 represents in the Australian psyche.
Notes 1 triple j insists on being stylised without capitalisation as part of the network’s “brand identity.” 2 According to triple j’s own reporting, 30% of 18–34 years olds listened to the countdown in 2018. 3 Other sources place the figure closer to 315,000 where Noel Butlin (1983) believes the total was more like 1.25 million. 4 Briggs defines a female band as one in which women “make a significant contribution to the music.”
References Aboriginal Population Statistics (2016) Available (accessed 15 October 2016). Allmark, P. (2007) “Flagging Australia: Photographs of Banal Nationalism,” Illumina, 2. Anderson, B. (1983) Imagined Communities, London: Verso. Applegate, C. & Potter, P. (eds) (2002) Music and German National Identity, London: Chicago University Press. Austin, G. (2005) “Off The Dial.” Available (accessed 4 December 2019). Australian Bureau of Statistics (2008a) “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Population.” Available . ——— (2014) “Population by Age and Sex.” Available (accessed 15 October 2016). Australian Government (2016a) “The Changing Face of Early Australia.” Available (accessed 15 October 2016). ——— (2016b) “Australian Identity.” Available (accessed 15 October 2016). ——— (2016c) “Australia Day.” Available (accessed 15 October 2016). Biddle, I. & Knights, V. (eds) (2016) Music, National Identity and the Politics of Location: Between the Global and the Local, London: Routledge.
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Billig, M. (1995) Banal Nationalism, London and Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Bourdieu, P. (1991) “Identity and Representation: Elements for a Critical Reflection on the Idea of Region,” in Language and Symbolic Power, Cambridge: Polity Press, 220–8. Briggs, C. (2015) “The 2014 Hottest 100 By the Numbers.” Available (accessed 15 October 2016). Brubaker, R. & Cooper, F. (2000) “Beyond ‘Identity’,” Theory and Society, 29: 1–47. Butlin, N. (1983) Our Original Aggression: Aboriginal Populations of South Eastern Australia 1788–1850, Sydney: Allen and Unwin. Byrne, D. (2018) “Hottest 100: An Australian Inspection.” Available (accessed 1 April 2018). Caro, J. (2015) “Get Real Ladies, Quotas on Boards Are for Losers. We Want Winners!” The Guardian. Available (accessed 15 October 2016). Cvoro, U. (2014) Turbo-folk Music and Cultural Representations of National Identity in Former Yugoslavia, London: Routledge. Dayan, D. & Katz, E. (1992) Media Events: The Live Broadcasting of History, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. DiStefano, M. (2014) “Tay4hottest100?” Buzzfeed. Available (accessed 15 October 2016). Dixon, M. (1976) The Real Matilda, Melbourne: Penguin. Donnelly, H. (2016) “Disrupting Songlines: Some Thoughts About the Triple j Hottest 100,” The Lifted Brow. Available (accessed 15 October 2016). Dunbar-Hall, P. & Gibson, C. (2004) Deadly Sounds, Deadly Places: Contemporary Aboriginal Music in Australia, Sydney: University of New South Wales Press. Eltham, B. “The Curious Significance of triple j,” Meanjin. Available . Fox, J. & Miller-Idriss, C. (2008) “Everyday Nationhood,” Ethnicities, 8: 536–63. Graham, C. (2016) “Change the Date: Read This If You Want to Know Why Australia Day Is So Offensive to Aboriginal People,” New Matilda. Available (accessed 15 October 2016). Hall, S. & duGay, P. (1996) Questions of Cultural Identity, London: Sage Publications. Hubbs, N. (2004) The Queer Composition of America’s Sound: Gay Modernists, American Music, and National Identity, Berkeley: University of California Press. Jun Wu, J. (2014) “Sounds of Australia: Aboriginal Popular Music, Identity, and Place,” Nota Bene: Canadian Undergraduate Journal of Musicology, 7(1). Available . Koziol, M. (2015) “Triple J Hottest 100: It’s a Man’s World,” SMH. Available (accessed 15 October 2016). Lohrey, A. (1982) “Gallipoli: Male Innocence as Marketable Commodity,” Island Magazine, 9(10): 29–34. McCann, P. (2008) Race, Music, and National Identity: Images of Jazz in American Fiction, 1920–1960, Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson UP.
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McMahon, N. (2015) “Triple J Beats Fox, Nova and MMM to Win Radio Ratings for 25–39 Age Bracket,” SMH. Available (accessed 15 October 2016). Ore, A. (2013) “More People Listen to Triple J Now Than Ever,” Tone Deaf. Available (accessed 15 October 2016). Pollard, M. (2015) “Tay4hottest 100: The Collision Between Pop and Alternative,” ABC News. Available (accessed 15 October 2016). Rao, S. & McCabe, K. (2016) “Online Campaign for Triple J Hottest 100 Date Change,” News Corp. Available (accessed 15 October 2016). Richards, F. (2007) Spirit, Place and Power in Arnhem Land Christian Music, London: Ashgate. Riley, E. (2015) “What the Debate Around Triple J’s Hottest 100 Misses About Privilege,” The Guardian. Available (accessed 15 October 2016). Sarlos, E. (2013) “Could Quotas Save Triple j’s Gender Problem?” Junkee. Available
(accessed 15 October 2016). Shaw, P. (1988) “The Development of a National Identity in Australian Contemporary Music,” unpublished thesis, University of Melbourne. Sutherland, C. (2005) “Nation Building through Discourse Theory,” Nations and Nationalism, 11(2): 105–202. Triple J (2015) “Hottest 100 Announcement.” Available (accessed 15 October 2016). ——— (2016) Available (accessed 15 October 2016). Volcic, Z. & Andrejevic, M. (2011) “Nation Branding in the Era of Commercial Nationalism,” International Journal of Communication, 5: 598–618. Ward, R. (1966/1958) The Australian Legend, Melbourne: Oxford University Press. Washabaugh, W. (2012) Flamenco Music and National Identity in Spain, London: Routledge. Watson, M. (2015) “Here Are the Important Stats That Were Missing From Triple J’s Hottest 100 Round-Up,” Junkee. Available (accessed 15 October 2016).
Transnational laughter Reception and conservative policies of transposition. The case of The Nanny and Married with Children Fernando Gabriel Pagnoni Berns
Introduction: the coming of cable TV to Argentina The advent of cable television to Argentina in the 1990s was a critical factor to build new national audiences. One of the most immediate consequences was the progressive disappearance of the American TV shows that had dominated much of the prime time in previous decades. With cable TV, Argentinean audiences found subtitled classic shows, new series and diverse schedules: in other words, a new world of rich programming which integrated and disseminated new forms of (foreign) popular culture within national borders. This new system was accepted in Argentina by around five million homes during the 1990s. Currently, “Argentina is the country with the highest cable TV penetration in Latin America” (Argentina Company Laws and Regulations Handbook, 2011, p. 153). There were few American series surviving within traditional broadcasting in the Argentinean 1990s. US shows found a new home in cable TV. A new audience was gestated, one that now wanted to see the latest hot show in the global immediacy of cable TV. There was only one exception that managed to satisfy both the new viewers of cable TV and traditional audiences hooked on national programming: The Nanny (CBS, 1993–1999). This show was viewed “by all the [social] segments” (Emanuelli, 2001) and the ratings were so high that continuous reruns were scheduled to satisfy the demands. The show was aired in Argentina up to 2016, always reaching strong ratings. In the 2000s, Argentina produced its own version of the show; La Niñera was, as the original, a local success. Later, the same channel (Telefe) gave a green light to another national version of a classic American sitcom: Married with Children (Fox, 1987–1997). The particularity of this decision resides in the fact that the original version was a ratings flop in Argentina. There is a second particularity: unlike The Nanny, Casados con Hijos (Married with Children’s national version) progressively moved away from the original scripts to find a national voice of its own – and eventually, success. This chapter will analyse the reasons for the success of both versions of The Nanny in Argentina to explain the ways in which the original show was not entirely foreign to national values. Later, I will point out the changes registered in the Argentinian version of Married with Children. I think that the success of
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the latter is integral to the dissemination of Argentina’s national and traditional values of “father knows best.” Since Casados con Hijos has become some kind of “ace” to Telefe to the point that the show is still scheduled to fill gaps in the national programming (for example, when a show is abruptly cancelled due to low ratings and it is urgent to get a replacement), it seems clear that the show certainly taps into a vernacular zeitgeist, thus making it an interesting case for study. Even in 2019, more than 15 years from its debut, Casados con Hijos is still strong in the ratings and can be watched Saturday nights at prime time and, right up until the end of summer 2019 (March in Argentina), it was broadcast from Monday to Friday at 12 P.M. The show’s durability points to the complex relations between national audiences, reception and adaptation of foreign sitcoms and the dissemination of vernacular values through popular culture. The following chapter is divided into three sections: in the first section I will provide an overview of the historical concepts of comedy formulated in Argentina (in cinema as well as on television), to understand how these new sitcoms legitimized (or not) the national legacy of comedy. Second, I will discuss the possible reasons for The Nanny’s success in Argentina, examining briefly its national version, and end with an analysis of Casados con Hijos to point out the ways in which this sitcom gradually found its own ideological narrative and ratings. The politics of transposition made to Casados con Hijos were a complex play between strategies that legitimized traditional national values and new paths to conceptualize family and humour in the Argentina of the new millennium.
National comedy and family values: the white comedy As Gitlin states, “every society works to reproduce itself – and its internal conflicts – within its cultural order” (1979, p. 251). Following Michael Billig, it is easy to think of cultural reproduction and dissemination of values “in terms of identity” (2002, p. 7) and national citizenship. Billig coined the term “banal nationalism”, a kind of “reminding” of national belonging disseminated through political discourses and cultural products. “In so many little ways, the citizenry are daily reminded of their national place in a world of nations” (2002, p. 8). Banal nationalism is talking about nationhood and citizenship without speaking directly of the nation or forms of patriotism. More important, this banal nationalism does not take place only within national borders, but it is a way to enhance foreign projection upon the global scenario (2002, p. 9), a “way of being within the world of nations” (Billig, 2002, p. 65). Objective marks of nationhood such as shared geographical space, language or religion are not enough to shape and tie national identities (Billig, 2002, p. 24). The process of shaping a sense of national belonging needs more: it needs, precisely, banal, everyday reminders of nationalism which, in turn, help to legitimate and present national identity as natural rather than historically, socially and culturally constructed (Billig, 2002, p. 37). Popular culture and mass culture work, in many cases, to create, sustain, legitimate and, more importantly,
disseminate the “logic of nationalist thinking”, one that states that each person belongs to an easily identifiable nation; in turn, “an individual’s nationality has some influence on how they think and behave” (Skey, 2011, p. 5). This logic also indicates that there is a fixed set of values circulating and giving national identity and a sense of national belonging. As Billig notices, these daily embodiments of nationalism “slips from attention” (2002, p. 8). The intention of this essay is to study two cultural artefacts that work to disseminate nationwide a “natural” set of vernacular conservative values which have roots in the beginning of Argentinean understanding of comedy. Argentinean comedy, as part of our popular culture, was a symbolic system that used to define, map and justify ideas of identity and national formation. Tim Edensor refers to A. Crang when the latter observes that a national culture is not imagined as “the outcome of material and symbolic processes but instead as the cause of those practices – a hidden essence lying behind the surface of behaviour” (Crang, 1998, p. 162). These processes (both high and popular culture), however, rather than just being products of our sense of national identity, help to ground any sense of belonging through “the everyday, in the mundane details of social interaction, habits, routines and practical knowledge” (Edensor, 2002, p. 17). Rather than just being the products of national identity, cultural artefacts help in the dissemination and legitimating of vernacular belonging. Ground national identity was an important issue in the conformation of Argentina as a nation. It should be understood that Argentina was formed from immigrants communities that arrived at the country after the First World War searching for a better future in a land that was heavily “promoted” on the outside as “vacant” and barbaric. Thus, it was necessary to “civilize” and whiten the country to the detriment of the aboriginal groups who presumably wasted the potential of the land (Rodriguez, 2006, p. 5). Italian, Spanish, German and Polish immigrants, among others nationalities, built up Argentina in the first years of the twentieth century. “During the period 1860 to 1910, over 3 million European immigrants came to Argentina. According to the national census of 1914, 30 percent of the country’s residents were born elsewhere” (Lewis, 2001, p. 6). Thus, the country was more a melting pot than a coherent body: it was important to disseminate some kind of univocal values to give national and cultural dimension to such a homogeneous group. Although the opportunities for immigrants after the First World War were, in fact, scarce, the country indeed took shape through European immigration. Despite the great influx of Jews to Argentina, the religion that prevailed was Catholicism, imposed by blood and fire since the times of the Spanish colonies. Catholicism has been a dominant force in the social and political formation of Argentina up to today. “Clerical and Catholic writers defined what should be the Argentine values – Catholicism, Latinity, paternalism, family, and order” in a social discourse that “advocates the supremacy of the white race” (Alfaro Velcamp, 1998, p. 231). That paternalistic and strongly Catholic thinking would imprint its mark in the symbolic representations that the society would
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make of itself, as a way to blend seamlessly into a common identity the different languages and idiosyncrasies. Different nationalities and dialects cohabited especially in “conventillos” (tenement housing for immigrants). This Babylonian landscape should be integrated and banal nationalism was the perfect vehicle to do so. The comic theatrical genre par excellence in the 1900s (a historical moment in which theatre was vastly popular) was the “sainete”, a genre formulated on the basis of immigrant archetypes and stereotyped characters whose simple humour tried to please the masses. It provides immigrants with a sense of collective belonging that would outweigh cultural and linguistic differences (Werth, 2010, p. 134). The genre disseminated the values of the rising middle class (Pelletieri, 2002, p. 93) through glimpses of a new social class: the bourgeoisie, formed by immigrants who had ascended in the social scale. It is precisely this model that cinema would develop in its first sound comedies. The bourgeois comedy populated with happy middle-class families can be seen in two of the first comedies of Argentinean cinema: Los Tres Berretines (uncredited director, 1933), and Así es la vida (Dir. Francisco Múgica, 1939), films that depict “the heroic bourgeois” (España, 2000, p. 43) and how this social class does succeed despite the obstacles. Claudio España argues that both films present situations that disarticulate the patriarchal order to, in the outcome, recover “the paternal authority, previously undermined” (2000, p. 46). Audiences find in these early comedies the bourgeois conservative values of family union and paternal authority; these ideological norms would become uncontested forms of production and dissemination of a supposedly harmonious world in a nation made of differences. The films didactically taught the attitudes to adopt if immigrant audiences wanted to be considered fully “assimilated” as Argentineans within an imagined community “imagining “us” as “one”” (Edensor, 2002, p. 7). This triumph comes to its peak in the figure of the immigrants’ children – legally Argentinian – who achieved better jobs thanks to social climbing through university education, paid for with the economic sacrifices of their parents. Soon, national cinema was dominated by the denominated “white/light comedy”, films which no longer staged the adventures of the immigrants but those of their children living now not in conventillos but rather in upper-class homes. There, “the fatherly figure is a righteous person, the mother is honest, and the children are willing to sacrifice themselves for their parents. There are no problems and if any, they are solved through harmony and love” (Pelletieri, 2008, p. 148). Claudio España argued: The Argentinians went to cinema to learn how to be Argentineans[my own emphasis]. The movie theatre was the space of illusion for the middle class. Within the theatre, manners, social behaviours and ways of dressing were auscultated (. . .) and the children’s education tested. In the movies, ways of being were coded and fixed within the audience’s memory. (2000, p. 130)
This imaginary continued well until the 1980s. Although in the 1960s was born a “new Argentinian cinema” enthusiastic with the notions of rupture and auteur filmmaking, it was commercial cinema that was the most successful and the one that configured, through means of wide circulation and dissemination – together with other institutions and media such as television – the symbolic constructions of society. As Kackman argues, “a nation’s self-identity (its history and its mythological destiny) is voiced through numerous media artifacts and is repeatedly witnessed and rehearsed at different venues across time” (2011, p. 182). In 1960, many Argentinian homes owned a TV set. Programs featuring model middle-class families proliferated (Karush, 2012, p. 219). One of the successful national series was La Familia Falcon (Canal 13, 1962), which in turn had an antecedent in the radio show Los Pérez García (El Mundo). The Falcons were the first of TV families within the small screen depicting desirable “normal” Argentinean values and roles: submissive mother, father who knows best, kind and beautiful children and good friends. “Father knows best, mother understood, and children obeyed” is Judy Kutulas’s formula for this type of comedy (2005, p. 52). Los Campanelli (Canal 13, 1969) was another prototypical family who saw huge success in TV. The series revolved around a family with Italian roots that solved their (very few) problems with love and authority. All those shows followed the same formula: families facing minor conflicts happily resolved thanks to the wisdom of the father (Karush, 2012, p. 219). In the 1960s, TV had already displaced cinema as the most popular media, and now the successful Campanellis were those who taught behaviours and customs to adopt. These TV shows were the blueprint of the “normal” family, an image that will endure well into the 1990s. Bringing together “different regional and ethnic differences by identifying national high cultural points as common denominators” such as the enthroning of the family is, according Tim Edensor, “a national(ist) imperative” (2002, p. 16). Argentina’s social context was extremely conductive for this type of conservative media production, since the social and political situation in the country through the 1960s and 1970s was far from good. Argentineans naturalized the fact that the democratic governments were subordinated to military leadership’s interests, which limited the very idea of democracy, in what Alain Rouquié calls “recurrent militarism”, i.e. the alternation between military and democratic governments to the point of “institutionalizing” this practice (Rouquié, 1989, p. 272). In 1975, the bloodiest military coup in Argentina’s history took place as a consequence of Juan Domingo Peron’s death and Isabel Peron’s disastrous government. The idea of democracy which had begun in the early twentieth century in Argentina was so delicate and malleable that it did not succeed in forming conscience. Hence, it was best to take the instituted values and to project with them a future and a global presence in a country whose rulers constantly changed. In this scenario, traditional values and the nuclear family were central to Argentina. Both the model family and traditional Catholic values helped to shape the country
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in a twofold way: first, because it allowed a fusion of different idiosyncrasies in immigration times. As Francine Masiello argues, the representation of the unified family served to create stability in the emerging nation. It became a model for the reproduction of national values and for the advancement of state ideology (1992, p. 18). As a “microcosm of the state” (Masiello, 1992, p. 17), the family unit was enthroned to protect national cohesiveness in a young country shaped by multiculturalism and, previously, by colonialism. Second, because those values were heavily promoted by the military governments that, recurrently, took the reins of Argentina. Family unity granted stability in a country without a strong sense of political constancy. The family cast a semblance of order while channelling the sociocultural national praxis. As Edensor argues, “the most common spatial experience is that in everyday life, where familiar space forms an unquestioned backdrop to daily tasks, pleasures and routine movement” thus creating “a habitat organised to enable continuity and stability, and which is recreated by these regular existential practices” (2002, p. 54). In brief, family was a locus of stability in a society accustomed to military paternalism and brief, always changing presidencies. Indeed, Argentina was constituted as a country through a history of colonialism and coups d’etat. The figure of the caudillo (local or national politicomilitary chief) was – and still is – the national political figure for antonomasia. The caudillo, thanks to his protectionism of cultural nationalism, aggressiveness and “electoral violence” (Di Tella, 2001, p. 111) rife with fraud and projected manliness, was the figure who could keep Argentina stable and unified amidst a sea of languages and weak politics. The caudillos positioned themselves as the defenders of order, as warriors for traditional values, while nurturing a personality cult around their personas. The caudillo, the figure who “truly embodied national values” (Goebel, 2011, p. 123) was replicated within the microcosm of the family, within the sacred figure of the father (Di Tella, 2001, p. 29). Military governments created an environment of constant threat in which only Christianity, private property and the family were unquestioned (Ros, 2012, p. 14). Luis Ormaechea analyses the film comedies of the 1970s, framing them under “a strong adhesion to the cultural rules imposed by the most conservative sectors” (2005, p. 477). In these films, “the children escape from paternal models ‘to live their life’ for a short period of time, after which they return to the household to achieve an unrealistic solution to their generational conflicts” (2005, p. 480). The only differences that Ormaechea finds between the family films of the 1930s and 1940s and those of the 1970s lie “in the narrative stance against military authoritarianism” (2005, p. 489). If in the first decades the authority (if only slightly) was criticized, in the 1970s any criticism disappears and the youths appreciate the treatment they receive. The family’s father – reminiscent of the caudillo – is omniscient and he is always right. The youths can be rebels, but ultimately, in the film resolution, they return home acknowledging their mistakes. Paternal figures parallel the military state that dominated the country. If the military government removed citizens’ social rights it was, after all, for the good of citizenship. The military government knew best.
Through the 1970s, Argentinian television was populated with American shows. From Daniel Boone (at 8 A.M!) by NBC, to Charlie’s Angels (1976, ABC), from Wonder Woman (1975, ABC and CBS) to Starsky and Hutch (1975, ABC), as well as melodramas like Dallas (1978, CBS) or comedies like Get Smart (1965, NBC and CBS), TV offered a wide range of American shows which, obviously, did not touch national issues. Falicov explains: “During this period, apart from a few propagandistic films and light comedies approved by the censors, the regime (for the most part) preferred to allow imported entertainment programming to flood the market, therefore removing political themes from the realm of cinema” (2007, p. 44). When democracy came in the 1980s, many citizens were doubtful of the new status and waited with apprehension for the new military coup, habituated as they were to the “recurrent militarism”. Television and film began to experiment with the fictional recreations of the immediate past while looking for the causes of Argentina’s predisposition toward conservative authoritarianism, as seen in the Oscar-winning film La Historia Oficial (Luis Puenzo, 1985). With a renewed focus on national topics that had previously remained invisible, the American productions increasingly disappeared from Argentinian television, with the exception of Get Smart, Dynasty (1981, ABC), ALF (1986, NBC) and The Three Stooges reruns. It is in the 1990s, with the neoliberal model imposed by President Carlos Saul Menem that conservative families appear again on national TV, as a cultural annex of the “economic happiness” politics that this government installed in a hypothetical “First World’s entry” (Valenzuela, 1996, p. 91). Monetary policy equated the dollar to the national peso and, for the very first time, the nation faced deflation rather than inflation. Although this policy would submerge Argentina in a serious economic crisis (with the destruction of the domestic industries and a resolute move toward privatization) and political corruption reigned, the fact is that Menem’s years – two consecutive presidencies – were exhibited as years of good life and the “American dream.” In this neoliberal climate, the family must be restored since this trope was kindred to the government’s interests. The conservative measures of a government that put a halt to the welfare state, introduced severe cuts to public spending and the privatization of social security, greater openness of the national economy to foreign investors and the weakening of workers’ rights, should be supported by mass media and banal nationalism, and therefore, the nuclear family defined by Kutulas (2005) returned with a vengeance. TV shows that exemplify the most traditional values (male chauvinism, female chastity, family values) led the ratings through the 1990s: Amigos son los amigos (Telefé, 1989), La banda del Golden Rocket (Canal 13, 1991), Son de Diez (Canal 13, 1992) and specially Grande Pá (Telefé, 1991), next to less successful attempts as ¡Dále Loly! (Canal 9, 1993) or Gino (Canal 9, 1996) restored to Argentinian television an entire plethora of naïf comedies celebrating the status quo. Even a show such as Los Benvenutto (Telefé, 1989) made clear references to the traditional Italian family shows, thus uniting decades of televised families. In addition,
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serious drama shows that spoke of national issues began to dwindle and by the end of the 1990s there were none.
The Nanny: between tradition and novelty The neoliberal 1990s were the years in which cable TV firmly established its place in Argentina as an alternative to traditional broadcasting (Straubhaar & Duarte, 2005, p. 235). This “novelty” (for Third World countries, at least) gradually shaped new audiences which quickly adopted this system (really inexpensive during that decade of deflation). American shows could be seen as never before: uncut, subtitled and with the episodes in chronological order (all of them novelties for national audiences). Soon, vernacular TV was devoid of foreign shows. Still, some attempts were made to give space to the more successful American shows of the era, but without success. When Telefé decided to broadcast a dubbed version of Friends (NBC), most of the potential audience was already hooked watching the show in the original language on cable. Attempts like broadcasting back-to-back Roseanne (ABC) and Murphy Brown (CBS), arguably two of the best sitcoms from the 1990s, also did not achieves any success. Only eternal reruns of The Three Stooges, Get Smart and El Zorro (ABC) survived in a kind of “bottled time” (Kompare, 2005, p. 12). Just one American show not only survived, but also reached great success: The Nanny, shown initially on Telefé on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 A.M. At first, the series was just an incidental “filler” in a schedule distinguished by low ratings. But the numbers were indeed so high that soon the show began to air daily in prime time, the most culturally significant programming timeslot, with great success. It should be noted that in Argentina a “season” includes daily or weekly shows running approximately from March–April until December. Therefore, the episodes were soon over – Telefe began showing the first season when the US was airing the second – forcing the channel to broadcast reruns. The ratings did not fall, but rather increased reaching double digits, a feat for a foreign show. Telefe eventually aired all the seasons in chronological order. However, the channel was forced to survive the wait for each new season by intermixing new episodes with others seen in the same year more than a dozen times. While a dubbed version of the sitcom was broadcast by Telefe, the original show in its original language could be followed in Sony, the cable channel that brought the new episodes to Latin America. Although the percentage of subscribers was high for cable TV, the audience watching the show went beyond the viewers that only watched American shows on cable TV, merging for the very first time several layers of different audiences. The Nanny was as successful for cable as it was for vernacular TV. The reasons for the show’s success were clear. The basic premise is as follows: a working-class girl from Queens, Fran Fine (Fran Drescher), is fired from her job by her boss – and boyfriend. She eventually finds a job working as a nanny for the widower Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy), a successful
English Broadway Producer. Fran soon gains the love of her boss’ children (two daughters and a son), at the same time that she rivals C.C. Babcock (Lauren Lane), Maxwell’s female associate. As can be easily seen, the setup recalls The Sound of Music (Robert Wise, 1965). But more importantly, the show has many points in common with an extremely successful television genre in Latin America: the telenovela (soap opera), one of the most important forms of banal nationalism within Argentina. The typical “poor maid” storyline of the telenovela is well known. She works for a handsome millionaire in a white mansion filled with high stairs; she earns the love of the children while she competes with a sophisticated female villain who constantly humiliates her. It is an easily recognizable tale for the Latin audience. Thousands of telenovelas had used that same basic plot for their stories. The Nanny had explicit relationships with Latin soap opera, thus explaining the popular acceptance that the sitcom had in segments that did not watch American series. The core of TV comedy in Argentina is, arguably, the family, and Fran Drescher’s show did not steer away from this scheme. Through the show, social tensions made up many of The Nanny’s stories. What lies in the show’s core is the acceptance of a working class woman into the upper class world, a dear topic within the Latin American popular culture (Allatson, 2002, p. 235). But this explanation is not enough to completely understand the phenomenon of The Nanny in Argentina. It can be argued that the success of the show is due to an intersection between different narratives and agendas, one traditionally firmly rooted in vernacular values, the other favouring progressive storytelling more related to foreign open-mindedness. The text “soap opera,” with its rigid regulations of feminine stereotype, can slip a subtext of resistance to many conventions (Press, 1991, p. 29). It is this subtext that, I think, would settle for the other part of the audience. In the traditional telenovela, the heroine is a virgin and the handsome hunk a womanizing heartthrob. This situation is reversed in the sitcom. Fran keeps a highly active sex life, while Maxwell Sheffield has a more secluded style with very little romance. In episode 24 of the second season (“Strange Bedfellows”), Maxwell admits that he likes singing after lovemaking, which leads Fran to reflect that after two years working with the producer, she has never heard him singing. There is another difference that sets The Nanny apart from other sitcoms, and this difference has gone unnoticed. During season four, Fran begins to attend therapy sessions with Dr. Miller (Spaulding Gray) to treat her obsession with getting married. Unlike shows like Ally McBeal (Fox), Will & Grace (NBC) or Monica of Friends, the female obsession to get married is pointed as problematic in The Nanny. It can be argued that the show did not do much with this subplot, but for the first time the almost pathological obsession of female main characters in sitcoms to marry as their only “natural” purpose in life is not just a recurrent source of humour but also a problematic issue, even if delineated in a sketchy way.
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The show oscillates between a traditional and a progressive agenda: on one hand, The Nanny is a sitcom that refers to a basic and highly well-known plot taken from countless soap operas; on the other, the show is led by a sexually active female character that points out her social role as symptomatic of social conservative culture. It can be argued that in the intersection of these contradictions lies the show’s appeal to Argentineans. Fran Drescher is funny, wears fabulous clothes and represents the prototypical low-class maid in love with the rich boss. Her active sexuality is just one more aspect within a perfect package that allows enjoyment by audiences habituated to soap operas, as well as it permits viewing by the more sophisticated audience from cable TV. In 1997, The Nanny obtained a non-official national version in the TV comedy Mama × 2 (Canal 9), which copied the basic plot but with more traditional elements to answer the national role for women. For example, the main nanny (Flavia Palmiero) lacks any sexual life. The attempt was a resounding failure, indicating some form of reluctance by national audiences to embrace narratives that were starting to be seen as slightly passé. In 2004 Telefe, now without new episodes of The Nanny (which had concluded in 1999), decided to create a national version called La Niñera. With Florencia Peña as Flor Finkel, the show was characterized by faithfully following the scripts of its American counterpart. There was no reason at all to change it. The original show had proved to be extremely successful in any schedule and the smartest thing was to leave the format untouched. That includes Fran/ Flor’s active sexual life. Fran will often jump at any chance of meeting a man due to her compulsive desire to get married. There is no clear indication that she has sex with the many potential husbands through her dating life, but there is no indication to the contrary either. All the references to sex are kept in the Argentinean version and, more important, Fran’s sexual life is not downplayed. Also, Fran’s “pro-sex” attitude is kept intact. For example, in episode 17 from season three (“The Grandmas”), Fran thinks that Mr. Sheffield needs a change in his life because he is becoming much too predictable: MAXWELL:
[after asking Fran if she likes the tie he is wearing] Yes or no?
FRAN: Well, it wouldn’t be Monday without your Monday tie. MAXWELL: [ripping off his tie] That’s it, it’s gone. All right, what
else don’t you
like? I’m not crazy about the pants.
The gag is kept unchanged in the national version, with the addition of Flor Finkel looking intently at her boss in the hope of seeing him ripping off his pants. A sexually minded nanny was unthinkable in Argentina just some years ago. However, audiences were mature enough to support changes if they were packed within the boundaries of traditional storytelling. In conclusion, The Nanny has enough traditional and novel elements to attract larger audiences, and that is why its local version followed the original as closely as possible, keeping in mind the success obtained by the show in Argentina.
Married with Children: or, a father must be respected The situation of Married with Children was completely different. Few episodes of the original show aired in the 1990s before being cancelled in Argentina due to low ratings. Amid a flood of TV family comedies depicting traditional roles for each member of the family (following Kutulas’ formula), the Bundy family had no place in Argentina in the conservative nineties. Nothing was more unthinkable than a family composed of a lazy, uncaring mother, a loser father, a virgin son (oh, the national machismo!) and a promiscuous daughter. The Bundy’s represented quite the opposite to Argentinian family values and hence the widespread rejection. Then, what changed in 2005? Why did a national version of this sitcom suddenly become something viable? It can be argued that The Nanny was the trigger for this new venture. The show’s huge success made it clear that even cable TV audiences could dedicate some time to a national sitcom. Casados con Hijos, starring Florencia Peña as Moni Argento (Peggy Bundy) and Guillermo Francella as Pepe Argento (Al Bundy), debuted without the high rating numbers that The Nanny had obtained through its entire run or a good critical reception. Professional critics could not understand why it was necessary to speak of the millennial Argentinian working-class using a local version of an American show lifted right from the 1980s. Luis Maria Hermida wondered in Clarin (the newspaper with the largest circulation in Argentina) “We need to bring out a minor and aged sitcom to talk about something of which we are experts? Answer: no” (2005, p. 4). We must ask, however, how exactly are we experts? Argentina had no sitcom based on the life of working class families and, in fact, little programming revolving around national issues with the exception of serious dramatic miniseries in the 1980s. National sitcoms, up to that point, only toiled on the dissemination of conservative values depicting upperclass, naïf families, so the brassy attitude of the Bundys/Argentos was a novelty in the Argentina of the new millennium. The reasons to air Casados con Hijos were simple: economic. Telefe obtained great success with The Nanny’s reruns and they wanted another show to exploit. Also, the deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment had proved fruitful, so it was logical to continue the alliance. The cast was easy to assemble: Peña was already familiar with sitcoms after her success with La Niñera. Francella was known especially by his macho roles in strongly traditional family comedies such as De Carne Somos (Canal 13), Los Benvenutto – which, as the Italian surname states, goes back to TV family comedies from the 1960s and 1970s – and Naranja y Media (Telefe), in which he interpreted a womanizer married to two women. His roles in films like Papá es un Idolo (Dir. Juan José Jusid, 2000) and Papá se volvió Loco (Dir. Rodolfo Ledo, 2005) confirmed him as the prototypical conservative father “who knows best.” The hardest thing was to imagine the always “winning” macho-type Francella in the skin of his antithesis, the always loser Al Bundy. Still, the show’s first season incorporated scripts of the first four years of Married with Children
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and ended its run with moderate success. Triumphal numbers really came with the reruns, which convinced Telefe to give a green light to a second season, which received with even stronger ratings. Slowly, the show found a very enthusiastic and loyal audience and Casados con Hijos exceeded the ratings of La Niñera. Does the audience accept Guillermo Francella as Al Bundy? The answer is affirmative, but with reservations. The American show can be framed into what Robert Hanke (1998) calls “mock-macho situation comedy,” i.e. a sitcom using as a source of humour the realization of masculinity as performance. Unlike the shows analysed by Hanke – like Home Improvement (ABC, 1991– 1999) – Francella does not put its “manly” role, nor the values that it embraces, totally under self-parody. There was always a space within the narrative to keep fatherly integrity safe from total ridicule. To some extent, Francella’s characterization as Pepe Argento continued and legitimized the features associated with the actor, like paternalism and machismo. The first episodes of Casados con Hijos faithfully follow the original scripts of Married with Children, but eventually the scripts departed so heavily from the source that, for the second season, it was almost impossible to tie an Argentinean episode with its American counterpart, even if the Argentinian screenwriters shared credits with the original screenwriters in the opening of each episode. Thus, episodes like “Como Bola sin Manija”, a version of “Alley of the Dolls” (Season 2), replicated with fidelity the humiliation which the Argentos/Bundys must undergo when losing a bowling game against an enemy family. But the humiliation is shared by the whole family: it did not affect only Pepe. What the Argentinian version denied systematically was the extreme and individual humiliation of Pepe Argento, the father figure. The destruction of the paternal figure was kept within limits of national acceptability, in which fathers held the authority in the household. To better explain this statement, I will analyse some episodes. One of them is the national version of “You Gotta Know When to Fold Them” from season four. In the original version, the Bundys head off to Las Vegas. When they get there, they have no money and they need to make enough to get back home. After several frustrated attempts to get some money, they got the required amount when Al (Ed O’Neill) fights for money against Big Mama, a huge mean female wrestler. Even if he kept the stand against her the necessary three minutes to win the money, Al is beaten to a pulp. The episode ends with Al in a wheelchair and in a calamitous state, to the point that he must be feed by his children, Kelly (Christina Applegate) and Bud (David Faustino). Peggy (Katey Sagal) decides to risk the money they had won with the fight and with her children and her friend and neighbour Marcy (Amanda Bearse) left Al all by himself. Al is pushed by the crowd and fell down the stairs, concluding one of the most well-known episodes of Married with Children. The Argentinean version of the episode concludes in a way that illustrates the changes that Casados con Hijos underwent to fit within national idiosyncrasy. Pepe gets the money playing poker – a nod to the manly figure of James
Bond – and the last scene shows the happy family members hugging dad. Not Big Mama. Not a semi-quadriplegic and abandoned father. Still, in one earlier scene, the son of the family, Coqui (Dario Lopilato), tries to get some money working as a stripper, but the attempt ends in an embarrassing situation for him and the rest of the family when the boy’s scarce manliness is revealed. This situation is nowhere in the original episode. The source of humour of the episode shifts from the humiliation of the father to the figure of the son. In the re-writing, the authors made explicit the conservative policies that have permeated most of Argentinean popular culture as a form of banal nationalism. The re-writing moves away from the radical ridicule of the paternal figure and a slight retreat into traditional patterns, even if family is, indeed, under fire. Children may be ridiculed, even by their own parents. Instead, the mockery of the father figure can only be performed up to a certain extent. In “Tooth or Consequences” (season four), Al is forced to see Marcy’s dentist due to a strong toothache. Before that, Marcy examines Al’s mouth: MARCY: AL: Go
[checking Al’s teeth] Oh, my God. It smells like a hamper. on. Just check the teeth, will ya? MARCY: Well, the green one looks pretty good. And some might be bothered by that black one. But the one that’s actually bleeding could be a problem starting. The Argentinean version of the episode follows the general plot (together with Al/ Pepe’s fear of dentists), but the gag about Pepe’s mouth involves the family discovering that he has a gold tooth. There is not any green or black tooth. In fact, the Argentinean version scrupulously leaves out from all the episodes the recurrent references to Al’s lack of hygiene. Unlike Al, Pepe is closer to the common TV father disseminated through vernacular media who, incidentally, has a lousy family now. In the same episode, Al enters the dentist’s office carrying a balloon and a puppet (all of them clearly given by the dentist’s secretary to calm down Al’s nerves). In the Argentinean version, Pepe enters not carrying any infantile object. He enters “like a man.” This politics of “cleaning up” Al/Pepe can be observed in the Argentinean version of “Eatin’ Out” (season three). In the original version, the Bundys go out to eat at a fancy restaurant and trouble starts when they forget to bring the money with them. The main gag of the episode comes when Peggy uses Al’s stinking shoe to ward off the waiters. To avoid being followed, she drops Al’s smelly sock in the middle of the restaurant. In turn, the Argentinean version (which until the end has followed closely the original plot), ends with Pepe faking a heart attack. What do these changes tell us about Argentina? First and foremost, that the construction of comic archetypes in Argentina has not changed that much since the “sainete” times. Even the Argento surname refers back to the Italian families that populated the first TV families (Los Campanelli) until the 1980s
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and 1990s (Los Benvenutto), prolonging the historical dissemination of national archetypes. Despite the social changes framing the country including a female president (Cristina Kirchner), a national feat within a sexist country (Luongo, 2011, p. 41), and the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2010 (only four years after the end of Casados con Hijos), some traditional symbolic constructions survived: the father uncritically remains the head of the household and thus, he must be respected. We should not forget that the Argentinean social construction of nationality was built on the basis of the authoritarian discourse. As Carolina Rocha argues, the military dictatorships “had great influence on sustaining the importance of traditional men’s roles within the family well into the 1980s” (2012, pp. 7–8). Neither should we forget that the most charismatic president that Argentina had, Juan Domingo Peron, although chosen by popular vote in the 1940s, held military status and his measures to improve working-class conditions fit “the paternalistic attitude towards the poor that characterized many Army officers” (Potash, 1969, p. 286). When Rouquié (1989) denominates as “recurrent” the militarism that dominated the country, he referred to a national tendency to appeal to military coups and paternalistic authorities as definitive solutions when democratic governments did not assist people’s immediate demands. This situation, which began in 1933 when the then elected President Hipolito Yrigoyen was removed from office by a military coup, became recurrent to the extent that this situation was “naturalized.” After the conservative neoliberalism of Carlos Menem in the 1990s and the boom of TV family comedies, the country was plunged into a deep economic and institutional crisis, which led to the overthrow of the highly unpopular figure of President Fernando de la Rua (1999–2001), a situation that led the country to be leaderless without a stable image of authority (in fact, one of the problems with de la Rua’s government was his lack of authoritative image, which led him to be considered as “bland”). Immediately after de la Rua’s debacle, there came and went five presidents in just a few days. There were times of “politicians go home” since people felt cut out from the political agenda and increasingly dissatisfied with traditional governments. It is remarkable that the people filling the streets requested a better democracy, rather than a return to the military coups, thus demonstrating that the civic institutions were reaching maturity. Further, the complicated amalgam between a progressive/regressive agenda mirrors the sociocultural context of the time in which Casados con Hijos aired. Democracy was getting strong, but the paternalistic figure of the “caudillo” still dominated. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the first woman to be elevated to presidency by popular vote (two periods: 2007–2015), won her second term with historical numbers (54%). Even with several serious (and well-based) allegations of corruption against her, the citizenry mostly chose her. In Cristina Kirchner’s second mandate as president, the progressive agenda increased with a reform of the Civil Code to boost gender equality. For example, women are no longer obliged to use as their last name their husband’s surnames. The new code
also allows that children bear both the name of the mother and/or father, implying a greater balance between spouses. In addition, it has become simpler to get divorced: it is possible for just one party to seek divorce, providing gender equality between the wife and husband. Also, laws about gender violence have been created and/or perfected to protect women from gender violence. Still, despite the progressive agenda, Cristina Kirchner was well known for her authoritarian attitudes. In a country known for its paternalistic culture, Cristina Kirchner took that paternalism to new extremes, developing a confrontational style of government in which anyone who was not with her was against her. It was clear that Cristina Kirchner continued Argentine’s reliance on caudillos. Thus, Francella continued being Francella and a father, a father. The progressive agenda and its deconstruction of traditional paradigms allowed that a grotesque conception of the family like the one that Casados con Hijos proposed was accepted. These changes, I think, can be glimpsed in a germinating form in audiences’ acceptance of The Nanny, a series led by a sexually active poor maid, a novelty within the national ideology. But it is not until a serious social crisis permeating all the social strata that Argentina allows itself to laugh at a sacred institution like the family. However, Casados con Hijos steps back at the moment of subjecting Pepe to the same inequities as his US counterpart. Moni does not cook nor perform domestis tasks, same as Peggy. The two children are walking disasters, and Paola is sexually active, the same as Kelly. However, she is depicted more “love-struck” than truly promiscuous, thus salvaging to some extent the chaste figure of the female teenager. A sexually promiscuous female teenager was still much too radical for national tastes. But Pepe did not end the episodes broken and humiliated to the extremes to which Al is subjected. In fact, Pepe is not the loser that Al is. Unlike Al, Pepe is smart and astute. Meanwhile, Coqui is virgin but also dumb (unlike his national counterpart Bud, the only bright mind in Married with Children). Thus, Pepe is here the only man with some degree of intellect within the family, again, an issue that puts him above the rest, thus re-establishing paternal authority as an issue inextricably linked to the Argentinean “soul.” Furthermore, Casados con Hijos veered from the confrontation of Pepe/Moni towards Pepe clashing with his snobby next door neighbour, Maria Elena (Erica Rivas), Bearse’s character’s counterpart. The chemistry between the two actors was so rich that the episodes began to spin more, especially in the second season (which strays further from the original scripts), towards the fight between Pepe’s “macho” model and the pseudo-feminist hypocrisy of Maria Elena. The characters hated each other and the insults between both of them were central to the construction of gags, to the point that the confrontations between the family father and his wife, central in the original show, fades into the background, which helps make the show more acceptable. It is not the same thing to have a main character having raw verbal battles with his wife as against a neighbour. Another interesting episode is the last one of the second season, the one that puts an end to the successful show. This episode shows Argento’s neighbours, Maria Elena and her husband Dardo (Marcelo de Bellis) moving to Paris,
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leaving the Argentos alone. The episode ends with Pepe and Maria Elena sitting and talking in Pepe’s house. In that conversation, they take the opportunity to say what they will no longer be able to say: how much they actually love each other and what good persons both of them are. Both characters reveal feelings of mutual affection and both of them end in tears. Argento’s caricature cracks open and deeper feelings show up, giving the characters some complexities. But at the same time, the show harks back in time to the “naïf family TV comedies,” where all discussions ended with forgiveness and family hugs. If a series’ finale is culturally significant because it gives an end to the main narratives within the show and takes a look back to the show’s key premises, this tearinducing last episode explicitly states the fact that within the transnational frame of Married with Children subsisted the prototypical white and paternalistic Argentinean comedy.
Conclusion The paternal figure has resisted the challenges of new times and it has been able to survive while insinuating that Argentina’s sociocultural constructions are still not mature enough to give space to a complete formulation of a coherent national “mock-macho” sitcom. Casados con Hijos was, all things considered, The Nanny’s logical follow up in more than one aspect. Fran Fine/Flor Finkel were interesting alternatives to the traditional comic roles relegated to women in Argentina. Casados con Hijos seemed to do the same reformulation with the father’s role, but retreats at the last minute, safeguarding both Guillermo Francella’s place (honour?) in popular culture and the image of the father within Argentina’s ideological imaginary. The 1990s in Argentina provided the audience with the most conservative national TV family comedies, which were consequent with the neoliberal structures that shaped the decade, in a mutual relationship of legitimization of hegemonic discourse. At the same time, the 1990s granted, with the installation of cable TV, a tool which gave space to the conformation of audience(s) that sought and enjoyed American shows and their more labile human relationships, especially between family members. Murphy Brown and Roseanne did not meet success in Argentina, but they persisted in cable TV next to many other innovative sitcoms. The Nanny was the only sitcom in those years which combined very different audience’s demands/expectations, thus becoming a success. But it is Casados con Hijos the sitcom that better illustrates the current contradictory and complex nature of Argentina’s popular culture and the national identity that the former illustrates. On the one hand, the show proposes, as the original did, a reconstruction of televised families in a country gradually embracing a progressive agenda. But this reconstruction is formulated only to a certain extent. The father’s role is kept safe. The authority is mocked, but remains authority nonetheless, for better or for worse, and the episodes of Casados con Hijos mostly end with Pepe showing personal frustrations, but not being humiliated.
Beneath the undeniable social changes, Argentina still has epistemological structures that sustain paternal authority, the figure of the “caudillo” and the traditional values sustained in the nation since the sainete’s years. Comical texts that perpetuated the family as key in the construction of nationhood still persisted, even if with changes that secure its endurance. Within these televised families, the father’s figure survives, filled with omniscient authority. Because, after all, father knows best.
References Alfaro Velcamp, T. (1998) “The Historiography of Arab Immigration to Argentina: The Intersection of the Imaginary and the Real Country,” in I. Klich and J. Lesser (eds) Arab and Jewish Immigrants in Latin America: Images and Realities, Oregon: Frank Caos. Allatson, P. (2002) Latino Dreams: Transcultural Traffic and the U.S. National Imaginary, New York: Rodopi. Argentina Company Laws and Regulations Handbook (2011) Washington: International Business Publications USA. Billig, M. (2002) Banal Nationalism, London: Sage Publications. Crang, M. (1998) Cultural Geography, London: Routledge. Di Tella, T. (2001) Latin American Politics: A Theoretical Approach, Texas: University of Texas Press. Edensor, T. (2002) National Identity, Popular Culture and Everyday Life, Oxford: Berg. Emanuelli, P. (2001) “Posmodernidad y Globalización en los medios masivos de comunicación,” Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 39. Available . España, C. (2000) Cine Argentino. Industria y Clasicismo: 1933–1956, Buenos Aires: Fondo Nacional de las Artes. Falicov, T. (2007) The Cinematic Tango: Contemporary Argentine Film, London: Wallflower Press. Gitlin, T. (1979) “Prime Time Ideology: The Hegemonic Process in Television Entertainment,” Social Problems, 26(3): 251–66. Goebel, M. (2011) Argentina’s Partisan Past: Nationalism and the Politics of History, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. Hanke, R. (1998) “The Mock-Macho Situation Comedy: Hegemonic Masculinity and Its Reiteration,” Western Journal of Communication, 62(1): 74–93. Hermida, L.M. (2005) “Familia tipo ¿de donde?” Clarin, 14 April. Espectáculos 4. Kackman, M., et al. (2011) Flow TV: Television in the Age of Media Convergence, New York: Routledge. Karush, M. (2012) Culture of Class: Radio and Cinema in the Making of a Divided Argentina, London: Duke University Press. Kompare, D. (2005) Rerun Nation: How Repeats Invented American Television, New York: Routledge. Kutulas, J. (2005) “Who Rules the Roost? Sitcom Family Dynamics From the Cleavers to the Osbournes,” in M. Dalton and L. Linder (eds) The Sitcom Reader: America Viewed and Skewed, Albany: State University of New York Press. Lewis, D. (2001) The History of Argentina, New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Luongo, M., O’Malley, C., and Pashby, C. (2011) Frommer’s Argentina, Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing.
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Masiello, F. (1992) Between Civilization & Barbarism: Women, Nation, and Literary Culture in Modern Argentina, London: University of Nebraska Press. Ormaechea, L. (2005) “Las Comedias Familiares en el Cine Argentino de los Años ‘70,” in A. Andujar et al. (eds) Historia, Género y Política en los ‘70, Buenos Aires: Feminaria Editora. Pelletieri, O. (2002) Historia del Teatro Argentino en Buenos Aires, vol. 2, Buenos Aires: Galerna. ——— (2008) El Sainete y el Grotesco Criollo: del Autor al Actor, Buenos Aires: Galerna. Potash, R. (1969) The Army and Politics in Argentina: 1928–1945. Yrigoyen to Perón, California: Stanford University Press. Press, A. (1991) Women Watching Television: Gender, Class, and Generation in the American Television Experience, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Rocha, C. (2012) Masculinities in Contemporary Argentine Popular Cinema, New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Rodriguez, J. (2006) Civilizing Argentina: Science, Medicine and the Modern State, Chapel Hill: The University of Carolina Press. Ros, A. (2012) The Post-Dictatorship Generation in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay: Collective Memory and Cultural Production, New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Rouquié, A. (1989) The Military and the State in Latin America, Los Angeles: University of California Press. Skey, M. (2011) National Belonging and Everyday Life: The Significance of Nationhood in an Uncertain World, New York: Palgrave MacMillan. Straubhaar, J. & Duarte, L. (2005) “Adapting US Transnational Television Channels to a Complex World: From Cultural Imperialism to Localization to Hybridization,” in J. Chalaby (ed) Transnational Television Worldwide: Towards a New Media Order, New York: I.B. Tauris. Valenzuela, L. (1996) “Trying to Breathe,” in W.H. Gass and L. Cuoco (eds) The Writer in Politics, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. Werth, B. (2010) Theatre, Performance, and Memory Politics in Argentina, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Understanding nationalism in popular culture through the lenses of affect and circulation Emily West
Media and nationalism: foundations For some time now, scholars have theorized media and popular culture as constitutive sites for the expression and circulation of nationalism. As cultural studies scholar Stuart Hall insists, national identity is fundamentally ideological, and a nation is “not only a political entity but something which produces meanings – a system of cultural representation” (1996, p. 612, emphasis in original). Similarly Laclau, writing about the idea of a “people,” suggests that “relations of representation are not a secondary level reflecting a primary social reality constituted elsewhere; they are, on the contrary, the primary terrain within which the social is constituted” (2005, p. 163). Media and popular culture are among the primary means by which nation as representation is disseminated, and the tools that interpellate, to use Althusser’s (2001/1971) terminology, people into its logics. Hall argues that nationalism is ideological not just because it makes something artificial appear to be a natural and common sense part of identity, but because it seeks to impose a sense of unity on a large group of people that is inescapably diverse, sometimes even divided. Nationalism says “we are one” and discourages attention to the ways in which “we are many” or the ways in which the very construction of “we” advantages some groups over others, justifying various forms of violence and social control. Hall (1996, p. 617) writes, “Instead of thinking of national cultures as unified, we should think of them as constituting a discursive device which represents difference as unity or identity.” In this formulation, the notion of national unity is not a given, but a (fictive) accomplishment achieved through both spectacular and routine or everyday forms of nationalism (Fox & Miller-Idriss, 2008; Mihelj, 2008). The production of national identity, and even a shared belief in the legitimacy of the nation as a political and historical unit, is an “ongoing production,” as are all hegemonic processes (Skey, 2009, p. 334). Approaching nationalism as a product of representation brings our attention to the means of representation: media and popular culture. Historically, and still very much today, media institutions have been oriented to their national context. In the case of publicly funded or subsidized media industries, serving the public interest is typically an explicit part of the mission of media organizations, with “the public” most often defined as the national community. Most laws
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and regulations governing the production and distribution of media are made on the national level. Legal, regulatory, economic, and technical arrangements have usually meant that the audiences imagined by media producers and regulators are organized by national borders. We can think of media organizations and national identities as mutually constitutive, if we consider Benedict Anderson’s (1991) argument that print capitalism facilitated nationalism by creating “imagined communities” brought together by synchronized consumption of regular news, in shared languages, that allowed people to imagine themselves as having some kind of natural or essential connection with other national subjects. Practically speaking, national subjects can never physically “commune” with their fellow citizens, but regularly consuming the same news, information, and images via media constitutes this “social imaginary” (Taylor, 2002). The way national media address readers as national subjects is a form of constitutive rhetoric that significantly constructs an identity by assuming its a priori existence (Charland, 1987). This is not to say that such identities are necessarily taken up in automatic or complete ways, as ethnographic studies of media consumption in various national contexts amply demonstrate (Antonsich, 2015; Madianou, 2005). Thinking about media consumption and national identification as mutually constitutive recalls James Carey’s (1992) ritual view of communication. A ritual analysis considers how communication “maintains society” and social arrangements “through time,” through the repetition of shared meanings and experiences (Rothenbuhler, 1998, p. 125). Scholars working in the tradition of “everyday nationalism” have described in detail the everyday, routine practices, gestures, and linguistic habits that reproduce but also potentially transform national subjectivities (Billig, 1995; Goode & Stroupe, 2015). While these scholars emphasize the daily, routinized forms of communicative action, including media consumption, that make nationalism “banal” (Billig, 1995), Dayan and Katz’s theory of media events focuses not on the routine production and consumption of media that assumes and thereby contributes to the construction of national fellowship, but on the “high holidays of mass communication” (1992, p. 1) in which national publics are invited to participate, and imagine others participating, via television. Media events refer to the planned media broadcasts that hail viewers as national subjects and invite them to participate in mass ritual via their television sets. Encompassing coronations, state funerals, inauguration speeches, the Olympics, the Eurovision Song Contest, and others, Dayan and Katz’s theory of media events ranges from the ceremonial, spectacular aspects of national politics to forms of mass entertainment that mobilize or assume national identities. Large audiences are thought to commune, in a sense, through their shared participation in a mediated event, and in so doing experience and celebrate their connection with national others as much as the explicit content of the event in question. Since the publication of Media Events (1992), the media landscape has greatly changed. Media choices – both news and entertainment – and their audiences have fragmented, making the mass audiences of the past a rarity. Time-shifting
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makes audiences resistant to event organizers who want people to watch or bear witness at a designated time, thereby reducing the ritual magic of liveness and coordinated communion via television. Digital media technologies, particularly the rise of satellite TV services and the Internet, increasingly provide options for transnational media consumption, making people less dependent on the offerings of nationally-oriented media. And yet, the concept of media events continues to have purchase with recent scholarship continuing to find the concept relevant (Couldry, Hepp, & Krotz, 2010; Mihelj, 2008; Mitu & Poulakidakos, 2016). One of the key questions that has emerged in new media events scholarship and beyond is whether the role of media and popular culture in the formation of national identities is becoming less relevant. Certainly, deterritorialized forms of media distribution, connectivity, and reception facilitate transnational forms of identification that challenge the relevance of national identity. However, recent events (such as the Brexit vote of June 2016) make it increasingly clear that it is less a question of transnational identities (such as a European identity) undermining or replacing national ones, than of how transnational flows of people, resources, and information are shaping nationalisms that remain highly relevant. Indeed, it seems that for some, feelings of national identity are becoming newly entrenched in the face of the perceived encroachment of transnational forms of economic and political power into their daily lives and consciousness (e.g. see the interview with Michael Ignatieff in Taub, 2016). Edensor (2002, p. 29) has argued that globalization and national identity are binary, “inextricably linked processes,” such that while globalization can diffuse or transform nationalism, it can just as easily reinforce it. In this context, it remains crucial to track how mediated forms of popular culture – both everyday forms and more marked, ceremonial ones – function as key constitutive sites for nationalism. This chapter presents emerging theoretical tools that have arisen partially as analytic responses to the changes in our media environment and considers how they can help us conceptualize the role that popular culture plays in the formation of nationalisms. Both the “affective turn” (Clough & Halley, 2007) and “the circulatory turn” (Straw, 2010) in critical theory serve this analysis in the contemporary media moment. These theoretical tools, I argue, don’t replace our existing theories of nationalism via popular culture as much as they reanimate and refocus them.
New directions: the affective and circulatory turns The “affective turn” (Clough & Halley, 2007; see also Gregg & Seigworth, 2010) is a notable development in critical theory. Although there are multiple strands of affect theory across disciplines, here I draw on affect theorists who primarily consider intensity, energy, and its circulation in an effort to understand and theorize aspects of human experience that are consequential, even fundamental, and yet often beyond our capacity to name or represent them. Following noted affect
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theorist Brian Massumi (1995), Shouse (2005) has described affect as “a nonconscious experience of intensity . . . a moment of unformed and unstructured potential.” Affect theorists foreground the sensory and the embodied, rather than the linguistic or “rational” dimensions of experience. Affect theorists distinguish between affect and the more familiar category of emotion. Emotions fall into socially recognized categories such as happiness, sorrow, and even patriotism and are associated with familiar and widely shared social discourses and modes of expression. Affects, on the other hand, may have observable effects, but they may not even be consciously “experienced” per se, nor have labels or recognizable cultural forms (Massumi, 1995). Lawrence Grossberg (2010) suggests that since emotion is available to consciousness and can be narrated, it is therefore already captured by ideology. Drawing on Raymond Williams (1977), Grossberg says that affect points to what is not yet sayable but is nonetheless “livable” (2010, p. 318). Shouse (2005) argues that affects are pre-personal, contrasting affect to emotion which is social in the ways it is displayed to others in a form that will be legible to them. Affects involve our bodily, autonomic responses to images, other bodies, music, and environments. As such, Gregg and Seigworth (2010, p. 9) explain, affect is a key factor in cultural phenomena that are shareable, mimetic, collective, or otherwise “sticky” – in other words, culture that is popular. Affect theory considers the body in these processes, as source, recipient, and conduit of affect. Affect is a useful sensitizing concept for the study of nationalism via popular culture given the inherently affective, and therefore persistently mysterious nature of nationalism. Central to many of the classic theories of the relationship between media and nationalism is a grappling with what we might call the mysteries of attachment to national abstractions. Given Anderson’s (1991) key insight that the scale of national community is more than can be realistically experienced and is therefore a social construction (albeit, like all powerful social constructions, one with very real and practical consequences, such as borders and rules of law), and also given the ways in which not just consent but actual devotion to the nation exceed the logics of reason, self-interest, and even explicability, how do we make sense of nationalist affects? This brings us to our second emerging theoretical focus, which comprises a distinct literature but also overlaps significantly with considerations of affect: circulation. This literature pays attention to how the signs and practices of culture circulate, or move through both space and time, and how these processes of circulation are themselves constitutive of interpretive communities and social imaginaries. Lee and LiPuma argue that structures of circulation “presuppose the existence of their . . . interpretive communities, with their own forms of interpretation and evaluation” (2002, p. 192). In thinking through the work of Habermas (1989) and Anderson (1991) respectively, Gaonkar and Povinelli write that “both the public sphere and the citizen state posit new forms of subjectivity and sociability that depend on the circulation of specific types of textual materials and semiotic forms to imagine and recognize their participation in a totality called the people” (2003, p. 390). Valaskivi and Sumiala assert that, “without the
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circulation of ideas, items, emotions and/or people, no shared experiences – and thus no community – can exist” (2014, p. 231). Aronczyk and Craig conceptualize this as “the performativity of circulation” (2012, p. 96). Similar to a speech act, “circulation does things” and has been conceptualized “as action” that “produces and maintains social imaginaries” (Valaskivi & Sumiala, 2014, p. 233). Similar to the affective turn, the “circulatory turn” (Straw, 2010) involves a move away from semiotic and other kinds of close reading of representations (although in practice much work that engages circulation continues to perform that kind of analysis as well, e.g. Valaskivi & Sumiala, 2014), in favor of a greater focus on structures of circulation and exchange, and the ways in which these constitute “cultures of circulation” (Lee & LiPuma, 2002, p. 192). Straw even characterizes work on circulation as “anti-interpretive” in nature (2010, p. 23). In moving away from a focus on the “discrete objects” themselves and what they might mean, Aronczyk and Craig say the goal is to understand “how meaning resides in cultural experience: in conversation, improvisation, and ongoing active invention” (2012, p. 94), or as Gaonkar and Povinelli put it, “the social embeddedness of the sign” (2003, p. 393). Straw explains that, in a “distant reading” that focuses on flows rather than content, “Social texture is no longer a world of meanings shared or contested, but a set of diagrams produced by the rhythms and geometries left as residues by successive communicational events” (2010, p. 21). Such an approach converges with the observation among scholars of nationalism that temporal structures – both everyday rhythms and the structuring of “sacred” times such as holidays and anniversaries – are key to instantiating national identities (Edensor, 2006). Circulation through both time and space, as well as the way circulated forms relate time and space to each other, are key to the social construction of nation as a historicized, spatialized entity. Although not all work on circulation considers affect, nor all affect theory emphasizes circulation, there is significant overlap in the scholarship inspired by these theoretical turns. When Gaonkar and Povinelli say that a central question for scholars of circulation is, “Why is it that some forms move or are moved along?” (2003, p. 387), this question echoes affect theorists’ focus on movement as not only indexical of affect, but something that allows symbols to acquire affective intensity through movement and circulation. Sara Ahmed (2004) uses Marx’s (1998/1978) conceptualization of circulation as a metaphor to understand how signs accumulate social affects. She argues that we fetishize emotions as somehow attached to objects, symbols, or persons (her focus is “hate” towards groups seen as “other”), when in fact this effect is only produced through an “affective economy” created by the circulation of these things across time and space. In this way, affect and circulation are mutually implicated. As media institutions and technologies undergo rapid transformation, theories of affect and circulation have arisen in response, in order to make sense of how new material, circulatory, and corporeal arrangements are transforming experience, and as a result the societies in which we live. Scholars have used these theoretical developments to make sense of mobile media, new technologies of
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communication and surveillance, and the instantaneity and mobility afforded by digital communication technologies (Straw, 2010; Beer, 2013; Clough, 2010; Valaskivi & Sumiala, 2014).
Affect and circulation: analytic implications What might it look like in practice, to approach nationalism in popular culture through the analytic lenses of affect and circulation? Starting with these social processes does not assume in advance what the narratives, images, or tropes of nationalism will be, nor what they mean. It starts with the basic questions of “what nationally inflected texts are circulating,” even “what texts and practices circulate within the nation but not beyond,” and “how, if at all, are people affectively engaging in popular expressions of national feeling?” At the intersection of these questions we should observe that affective engagement or participation itself contributes to circulation. In the contemporary media environment we assume this to mean that sharing content digitally can itself be understood as a form of participation, as argued by scholars such as Jenkins, Ford, and Green (2013) in their work on “spreadable media.” However, even in offline contexts participation feeds circulation through various means – such as when mainstream news reports on people’s participation in national expression, when people repeat their own practices or imitate the practices they see, or even when people perform or report on their participation to others, i.e. “word of mouth.” Affect theory gives us tools to add, even serve as a corrective to, exclusive attention to the symbolic and the textual in popular expressions of nationalism. It draws our attention to questions of immediacy, liveness, eventfulness, embodiment, circulation, intensities, and flows. These phenomena may be organized by popular culture but are not readable off popular texts alone. It is only by examining how these texts are consumed, taken up, spread, and circulated that we can understand their role in generating affect. To study circulation is, as Gaonkar and Povinelli have suggested, to “foreground the social life of the form rather than reading the social life off of it” (2003, p. 387). Such a move resonates with the approaches of everyday nationalism scholars who attend to the “bottomup” of nationalism rather than limit themselves to the “top-down” (Madianou, 2005, p. 3). To illustrate this distinction, I return to a form of nationalist popular culture that I have analyzed previously, Canada’s Heritage Minutes (West, 2002). My analysis of these “commercials for Canadian national identity” focused on how they sought to educate Canadians about their history, implicitly arguing that Canadians should be proud of their national past. This series of short films, initially produced by the Charles R. Bronfman Foundation and now by the non-profit Historica Canada, attempts to address and even resolve the conundrum of “diversity within unity” through their images and narratives. However, while I considered the Minutes in-depth in terms of their representational content, I did not address the impact of the form itself and its modes of circulation on the Minutes’ effort to be media that popularize national identity. Certainly, the particular stories the
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Heritage Minutes tell are consequential, and the Minutes from 2016 that acknowledged the history of violence against Canada’s First Nations peoples are an excellent example of why the specifics featured do matter, making the exclusion of these stories in the first 25 years of the Minutes more widely legible (Omar, 2016). However, we should also consider the materialities of the form and its circulation. Beginning in the 1990s, these 60 second or so vignettes from Canadian history became ubiquitous through repeated airings on television and in movie theatres, where unsold ad space could be filled with Minutes that counted for CanCon, the popular term for the obligations to air Canadian content as determined by the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (Daubs, 2013). The concise, dramatic stories they told mimicked the form of an ad, appeared alongside commercials for regular products, and in a real way were “promoting” Canadian identity. Especially for Canadians coming of age in the 1990s while Heritage Minutes were at the peak of their visibility, the form and conventions of the Minute, as well as some of the specific episodes and moments, have become part of collective memory, even a source of nostalgia (Daubs, 2013). The Minutes were produced regularly from 1991 to 2005. After a pause of seven years, in 2012 the foundation received federal funding to produce two new Minutes per year until 2017 (Daubs, 2013). These Minutes mostly mark significant anniversaries in Canadian history, such as the bicentennial of the War of 1812, and the centennial of the outbreak of WWI (Daubs, 2013). The Minutes, then, participate in two kinds of circulation. First, they create a highly spreadable form that instantly signals “nationalism” to viewers. The Minutes are designed to be encountered in repetition; the more recent Minutes invite people to recall their previous exposures to the Minutes in the 1990s, at their height of circulation. So on one level the Minutes invite people to consider their own Canadianness within the temporal scope of the last 25 years. These reflections no doubt include a wide range of responses to the version of Canadian identity on offer from the Minutes, but at minimum, constitute a shared memory of being addressed and invited to see oneself as Canadian in this way. If nothing else, they trigger a shared memory of the ubiquity and repetition of the Minutes. On a second temporal level, the more recent Minutes invite Canadians to see themselves in relation to a national community that exceeds their lifetimes, connecting to past events as they circulate through the temporal logic of the anniversary. The durability of the Minutes form is attested to by the extent to which they have been parodied. These parodies have appeared in professional comedy productions such as CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes and The Rick Mercer Report, and The Comedy Network’s “Canadian Sacrilege Moments” (Historica Canada, 2016); by amateur producers who make satirical, humorous Minutes; and more earnest ones such as student history projects. Indeed, Historica Canada, the non-profit organization that produces the Minutes, happily hosts dozens of Minutes Parodies on their own website. Whereas many content producers seek to limit the use of their intellectual property and try to prevent other people’s
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content being mistaken for the real thing, the Historica Canada organization actively supports and promotes the parody Minutes, no doubt recognizing that these videos only testify to the high degree of recognition that Canadians have for this form. New videos, even the parodies, continue the circulation of the form and only add to its identification with “Canadianness.” Even repetitions and circulations motivated by negative affects or humor born of shared experience keep the Minutes “moving,” instantiating their recognizability as a national form. The Heritage Minutes example imagines an approach that decenters textual interpretation in favor of interpreting the social embeddedness of the text. Another seemingly “anti-interpretive” move is to focus on people’s participation in ostensibly national events without prematurely assigning a specific motivation to it. While the study of nationalist emotions can certainly zero in on expressions such as pride, loyalty, and patriotism, the study of affect is uniquely suited to examining less tidy expressions of national feeling. If “to study affect is to attempt to uncover sensation, some of which is beyond human perception” (Beer, 2013, p. 159), then an intriguing starting point for the study of nationalist affect is when people respond and act in their capacity as members of a national group, but struggle to explain their own responses and actions. For example, why did so many British people feel moved to bear witness to the untimely death of Princess Diana in 1997 – through vigils, attending her funeral, and signing condolence books – sometimes in spite of their own ambivalence about her celebrity and her link to Britishness (Turnock, 2000)? A similar phenomenon occurred on the occasion of Pierre Trudeau’s death in 2001; the news reported with some frequency on Canadians who participated in recognitions of his death (such as watching his funeral train’s progress, standing outside the funeral, or signing a condolence book) despite their reported ambivalence or even political opposition to his record as Canadian Prime Minister (West, 2008). It seemed that they mourned not just the man, but the end of a particular era for the national group of which they felt themselves members, even if they similarly felt ambivalent about that membership. They acknowledged the shared nature of the memories which, by their very nature, were experienced via media. And in so doing, they physically enacted a new drama of national group membership, making possible a new set of popular, performative, affective images that the national media and federal elites could return to and recall to authorize the existence of national feeling. The fact that these moments of participation are significant in an affective economy of nationalism comes into focus when considering contexts in which participation is uncertain or does not occur. Such a fear informed much of the news coverage in the months leading up to Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in the UK in 2002 (Wardle & West, 2004). Reporters and even event organizers were unsure what public participation would be like for the 50th anniversary of Elizabeth II’s reign. Not only did such an anniversary lack the ritual significance of a death or a marriage, but the popularity of the monarchy was notoriously low at the time. The eventual warm and well-populated celebrations for the Jubilee, including not only the official events in London, but street parties around the country at least some of which were organized by
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ordinary people, led to a notable sigh of relief in the pages of many newspapers. The very real possibility that the celebration would be built, but the people would not come, had not come to pass, and hence the need to re-examine some of the fundamentals of British nationalism, included whether its “invented traditions” (Hobsbawm & Ranger, 1983) would still circulate, had been avoided. Similar to the Trudeau funeral, participation in the Jubilee events cannot necessarily be reliably read as indicating a particular group feeling about the Queen, but may in fact include a multiplicity of affects, or attachments, to the monarchy, Great Britain in general, or to the sense of community produced by participating in festivities in public space. As Mihelj (2008) points out, media frequently don’t emphasize variations or ambivalence in public responses in their reporting unless they go looking for it, leaving the impression of a public coordinated in national feeling. Despite affective gradations among participants, the performativity of the audience which is then circulated by media coverage tends to have the ultimate effect of inspiring mimetic behaviour on this or subsequent occasions that invite citizens to perform as national subjects. Of course, there are cases where public sentiment moves from ambivalence to rejection of media events planned by officials as rituals of nationalism. Such was the case for pan-Yugoslav events in the late 1980s (Mihelj, 2008), where not just audiences but mainstream media and political leaders in different parts of the republic offered opposing interpretations of traditional holidays. Similarly, Thomas (2001) has written about shifts in participation in public events in Vietnam. Through the 1990s participation in state-related and state-sponsored events steeply declined in Hanoi, while attendance for religious and cultural events, such as the funerals of celebrities, greatly increased. The decline in Vietnamese participating in person was accompanied by a similar disengagement among the viewing audience at home. Here an impulse to experience group affects did not just disappear, but found new outlets to replace events that defined groupness in terms of national identity. And in so doing a particular kind of circulating experience and imagery that was thought to define the social imaginary of the Vietnamese nation state was weakened. The examples considered here illustrate that participation (as a sign of affective engagement) and circulation are generative starting points for identifying and theorizing the construction of national social imaginaries through popular culture. These concepts draw our attention to how people embrace, reject, or even mindlessly inhabit practices and gestures of nationalism, and the mechanisms by which these building blocks of national identity circulate, or, on occasion, are stopped in their tracks. However, we must recognize that these phenomena are not “innocent” or that they necessarily indicate national feeling that is real or authentic. Both affect and circulation depend on, and are facilitated by, infrastructures and power relations.
The modulation of affective circulation The participation of ordinary citizens in various forms of affective circulation – be it participation in national mourning rites, annual national celebrations, or
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everyday activities like flying a flag, referencing the national group through linguistic habits, or sharing nationalist memes – provides a key form of legitimacy to the always at-risk social imaginary of the nation state. These forms of participation don’t just authorize and legitimize, they are in fact a constitutive component of this social imaginary. This makes the manifold tools for observing, manipulating, and channelling affect of all the more concern. While the practice of modulating nationalist affect is not in itself new, the tools of digital and interactive communications that allow for more fine-grained and real-time surveillance of affect online, combined with the ability to respond to and channel these affects rapidly and through proliferating channels of distribution, is new (Beer, 2013). Mark Andrejevic (2011) makes just this point in his critique of Henry Jenkins’ (2006) fairly celebratory attitude to the affective economics afforded by convergence culture, in which Jenkins sees greater opportunities for audiences to express their affects about popular culture, connect with like-minded others, and be responded to quickly by the culture industries. Andrejevic argues that while Jenkins’ model of affect is merely “the role played by emotion in an interactive context” (2011, p. 608), his own view is that, “In an affective economy, a circulating, undifferentiated kind of emotion [i.e. affect] (neither solely ‘in’ the stories nor ‘of’ the audience) comes to serve as an exploitable resource, a part of the ‘infrastructure’” (2011, p. 608). The accumulation of affects formed by shared experiences and interactions, both embodied and virtual, are a kind of affective “natural resource” that a variety of interest groups – marketers, governments, politicians – would like to harness and channel in particular ways. Andrejevic insists that the “modulation of affect” is distinct from “ideological manipulation,” which has historically been the dominant theoretical model (2011, p. 610). This critique raises important questions about how we theorize “participation” in popular culture. Andrejevic writes, “A context in which control relies increasingly upon expanded opportunities for participation requires a rethinking of the oppositions that place participation per se on the side of democratic empowerment” (2011, p. 616). In other words, we should be more circumspect in celebrating the ways people participate in public life or circulate national forms and consider the conditions that have elicited, extracted, or compelled such participation. Some brief examples help illustrate how the modulation of national affects can occur. A notable example is that of nation branding (Aronczyk, 2013). In recent years an industry of nation branders has arisen to design campaigns that promote a particular image and feeling about the nation. Although the intended audience is typically citizens of other nations who will hopefully be persuaded to do business or travel to the branded nation, another part of the nation brander’s task is to promote the campaign to national citizens themselves with the hope of making everyday people into brand ambassadors and encouraging them to be “on message” (Aronczyk, 2013; Burdick, 2016). The resonance of a nation branding campaign to national subjects is typically engineered into the brand itself through extensive market research that seeks to find what moves people and what attachments they might have to the nation or region and then incorporate these images and signs into the branding materials. Only by creating resonance between a
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national brand and existing affective flows can a campaign hope to enlist citizens in continuing or enhancing their circulation. In contrast to nation branding, which attempts to make a business-friendly image of the nation “popular,” the rise of “populism” signals nationalist affects that frequently resist containment by the interests of capital. In this political moment, the capture of affective intensities into focused political slogans and emotions broadly recognized as populist is a timely question, not just in the United States and Great Britain, where populism has only recently become legible to many observers, but in diverse national contexts where populism has a longer history of being a visible political force (e.g. continental Europe and Latin America). Populism is arguably just a particular kind of nationalism, characterized by strong us/them dynamics, aimed typically at powerful elites (including the media) or outgroups defined by ethnicity, race, religion, or language (Chakravartty & Roy, 2015; Laclau, 2005). Chakravartty and Roy (2015) align with Andrejevic’s wariness of conceptualizing digital participation in a celebratory way, framing their approach to “mediated populism” as motivated by “the global expansion of the commercial twenty-four-hour news cycle and the proliferation of partisan online and social media in the twenty-first century” which, they argue, “enable distinctive projects of ‘people-making’ with contingent political outcomes that cannot easily be classified as participatory, democratizing, or resistant” (p. 314). While populism is in no way an invention of the digital age, the discursive and social construction of “peoples” is being accomplished with new media tools and networked forms of communication. The case of Donald J. Trump and his support in the United States is a case in point that amply illustrates why “participation” and “affective engagement” are not necessarily empowering and democratic, nor should they be understood as merely spontaneously arising from the grassroots. The unprecedented election of businessman, reality television star, and tabloid regular Trump to the American Presidency in 2016 has been widely attributed to his ability to articulate a certain mood or negative affect of disenfranchisement among parts of the American public to particular anti-elite, anti-globalization, anti-immigrant, anti-’other’ political stances. This is a content-based analysis of his success, but just as, if not more important, was Trump’s lack of emphasis on traditional campaign routines – such as television advertising and direct mail – in favor of a ubiquitous and continuous social media presence. With this approach his campaign communications evolved almost minute to minute through a sense of what kinds of statements “trend” and “stick.” As emerging revelations make clear, targeted communications were also designed in light of information about the psychometrics, or personality profiles, of individual Facebook users (Granville, 2018). The strategy, continuing into the Presidency itself, generates strong responses in the Twittersphere and beyond, be they supportive of his messages or expressions of horror from his opponents. Both responses achieve the goal of increasing Trump’s message, image, and sound bites, and largely through the participation of others – be it mainstream news organizations or “ordinary” people on their social media accounts – rather than through the time and expense of the campaign or
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the White House itself. According to estimates, media organizations granted Donald J. Trump more than two billion dollars of what is called “earned media” during the Presidential campaign, not even taking into account the mindshare and momentum generated by the online sharing, commenting, and responding of “ordinary people,” such as his 12 million Twitter followers (Confessore & Yourish, 2016). What matters here is “moving” people to participate, and not necessarily just his base. The rapid, voluminous, multi-vocal responses of those outside Trump’s base create a counter-flow against which Trump’s supporters aim yet more energy and intensity, increasing the need and desire to respond and circulate affect amongst themselves, which in turn strengthens the social imaginary of a newly emboldened, self-described anti-establishment community of Trump supporters. Of course, some types of content are seemingly custom-built to invite affective investment. Donald J. Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” illustrates why questions of participation and circulation are so central to nationalist affects. A clearly ambiguous phrase – what criteria for greatness is he using? what previous moment or era of greatness is being invoked by the term “again”? – lends itself to participation and the creation of meaning among the public much more so than a slogan with clearer referents (arguably the case for one of Hillary Clinton’s prominent campaign slogans: “I’m With Her”). The slogan and its resonance recall Ernesto Laclau’s conception of empty signifiers, “which function to represent the ‘absent fullness’ of an ontologically lacking social order” (Howarth, 2015, p. 11). An America that was once great and whose greatness can be summoned again is an idea, rather than a reality, just as the idea of the nation itself is a construction. However, Laclau suggests, it is precisely because the national group lacks ontological certainty that people infuse it with the “radical investment” necessary to make it feel real (2006, p. 169). Arguably, the vaguer or more nonsensical the symbolic gesture in question, the more urgently it requires affective engagement and circulation to fill it with social meaning. Laclau’s attention to the force of passionate attachment to populism is a question about affect. The extent of public participation and circulation of the slogan “Make America Great Again” is clear from the sheer range of merchandise featuring the words – hats and t-shirts of many colors and styles, bumper stickers, sweatbands, and mugs – not just from the official campaign but from other vendors who provide their own spin, sometimes a parodic one, on the candidate and his slogan. The stickiness of the MAGA hat is due not just to the content of the slogan, but the way it is embodied when wearing the hat (with its connotations of truckers and white working class, male authenticity), and the sensory impact and memorability of its bright red color. Even if Trump himself was the only one wearing the hat, audiences would experience it in repetition due to the wall-to-wall media coverage, but in fact, Americans have purchased significant numbers of hats. Although estimates on the number of MAGA hats sold are undoubtedly squishy due to the track record of exaggeration on the part of the Trump campaign, plus the participation of non-official manufacturers of the hats, the campaign itself reported selling more than half a million hats by April 2017 (Balsamini, 2017).
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In the world of memes, “Make America Great Again” has seemingly unlimited appeal, with both pro- and anti-Trump memes recontextualizing the slogan and infusing it with meaning through both words and images. The frequency with which characters from popular culture are juxtaposed with the slogan or a variant thereof illustrates the true “popularization” of this iteration of populism. Kermit the Frog, South Park, Dr. Evil (from Austin Powers), Ronald McDonald, Bill Murray, Miley Cyrus, Morpheus (of The Matrix), Maury Povich, Taylor Swift, Pokemon, The Simpsons, SpongeBob, Willy Wonka, and Jesus Christ are just some of the popular images on the first page of “Make America Great Again” memes found at one point on Google Images. These and other popularizations fill this intrinsically vague slogan with meaning, and the creation, reading, and sharing of these memes on personal devices, through the course of everyday life, make populism not just semiotic but experiential, or felt. The creation, reception, and circulation of the Make America Great Again merchandise and memes construct and make legible not just an idea but a communicative network that can stand in for the imagined America invoked by the populist slogan. The slogan may even work this way for those who attack its hegemonic assumption that the peak of American greatness was in the past, or that “greatness” is even the relevant goal for the country. In articulating alternate, critical visions, Trump’s opponents contest his vision of the nation. In addition, the circulating anti-Trump memes and expressions conjure one of the necessary elements of populism, according to Laclau, which is an “other” (or perhaps, one of the “others”) against which Trump populists can articulate their group identity (2005). It is through affective circulation of often very basic symbols and gestures that the division in the national body gets mapped, and every act of participation – even a click, share, like, or retweet – contributes to the mapping and the ability of stakeholders to use that information to redouble their efforts, building in real time on what they learn about who responds to what, why, and where. Recalling Massumi’s (1995) contention that emotions are captured affects, it’s important to reflect on the conditions – not just of meaning and timing but also of livelihoods, mobilities, lived encounters, and communicative flows – that have captured these affects into this particular socially embedded expression of socalled populist sentiment. When using affect and circulation as analytic tools to understand the workings of nationalism in popular culture, we must read these in the context of the various forces that enable, promote, and prevent the movement of people, signs, and practices. While the obvious culprits are coercion, laws, and propaganda, no less relevant are mainstream media practices, algorithms, digital tools of surveillance, and interactive communication technologies that amplify and channel diffuse affects into more focused popular emotions in very fast, highly spreadable, recursive ways.
Conclusion A focus on affect, which I have operationalized in this chapter as participation, in some ways returns us to the ritual theories of communication that have always played a role in the study of nationalism in the media. At work in both bodies
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of theory is a desire to address non-rational, non-cognitive logics that organize social life. This is not to say that these theories conceptualize social action as irrational, or overly emotional. For the purposes of this chapter, I would observe that affect theory opens up our attention to forms of participation that index affective intensity beyond what may initially be recognizable as ritual. Circulation via participation is never a given. The very contingency of people’s participation highlights affect and circulation as the building blocks of hegemony. Most nationalisms are hegemonic, which to be faithful to Gramsci’s (1971) presentation of the term, means not that they are ideologically dominant, but that their symbolic power is contingent, and must be continually re-established and re-articulated to ever-changing conditions and realities. Affects that drive the circulation of gestures and images across space and time are part of this dynamic of reinforcing or countering hegemony. To consider another classic theory, that of Althusser’s (2001/1971) interpellation, the memorable image of someone turning around when a police officer says “hey you,” speaks to the autonomic nature of affect. In other words, the body acts out, or performs an embodied identity, before the brain has even had a chance to register meaning. Our national identities can pull on us to act and respond to the images, gestures, music, and narratives of nationalism in a similar way. When common sense is a matter of not just meaning but embodied sensation, then nationalism’s hegemony is deep indeed. The theoretical tools presented in this chapter build on more traditional theories, and may even inspire revisiting them in a new way. Anderson (1991) theorized print capitalism to be key in producing the narratives and images that allowed the national community to be imagined as real, even though it could never be directly experienced. Theorists of the circulatory turn expand this observation to consider how all kinds of circulatory flows, including but not limited to the products of print capitalism, are constitutive of social imaginaries. Scholars of everyday nationalism include the domains of the linguistic and the interpersonal as key circuits for nationalism. Notably, these circuits have become much faster and much more responsive and dynamic as feedback loops given the increased speed of digital communication technologies and the ways in which the traces of people’s use and participation are registered and fed into communicative circuits. If socially-recognized emotions “capture” and channel affects, then the cycle from pre-personal affect being tapped as a resource which then becomes emotionally-charged social expression, which in turn produces affect in the form of responsive participation, is getting ever faster. On the one hand, this sped up transformation from affect to nationalist emotion creates tremendous value for those who can benefit from or manipulate these expressions (e.g. nation branders, populist politicians, the monarchy). But arguably this state of affairs can become disorienting, as intense group-based emotions seemingly appear, disappear, and morph in the public sphere at great speed. Popular culture registers the emotional whiplash of these affective surges and transformations. When nationalism is conceptualized ideologically as something stable and timeless, the increasingly unpredictable, changeable nature of nationalist expression presumably runs the risk of
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revealing the very socially-constructed nature of it. Perhaps this is not such a bad thing, since historically nationalisms have not necessarily, and perhaps rarely, promoted democracy and justice. On the other hand, the intensity of nationalist affects may override the sense that they are rapidly changing and evolving, as recent events throughout the world seem to suggest.
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West, E. (2002) “Selling Canada to Canadians: Collective Memory, National Identity, and Popular Culture,” Critical Studies in Media Communication, 19(2): 212–29. Available (accessed 7 May 2019). ——— (2008) “Trudeaumania Part II: Passionate Politics in a Canadian 21st Century Media Event,” International Journal of Communication, 2: 792–825. Available (accessed 7 May 2019). Williams, R. (1977) Marxism and Literature, New York: Oxford University Press.
“Nothing here is what it seems” Firefly, anti-statism, and American national identity Tim Nieguth
In 2002, the FOX network launched a new TV series by the name of Firefly. The brainchild of Joss Whedon (who had been responsible for creating such iconic shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel), Firefly was a science fiction/ Western crossover set in the early twenty-sixth century. Characteristically for Whedon, the series was not centred on one or two protagonists, but was an ensemble show revolving around nine central characters. The show’s first few episodes quickly established each of them as three-dimensional individuals and developed the promise of a complex story arc for the series as a whole. However, Firefly was cancelled after a mere 11 episodes had been broadcast. Firefly thus shared the fate of most new television programmes. The cancellation of Firefly caused considerable indignation among a small but dedicated core group of fans. Styling themselves “Browncoats” (after one of the factions within the series), these fans began to pressure FOX for a revival of the series (Cochran, 2008). While they did so to no avail, the series did experience a second lease on life in 2004/05, when Universal Studios offered Joss Whedon the chance to direct a feature-length movie based on the original series. That movie, entitled Serenity, reunited the original crew and was released to some theatrical success in 2005. Firefly also expanded into other venues, including board games and graphic novels (see, for example, Whedon, Matthews, & Conrad, 2006, 2008; Whedon, Whedon, & Samnee, 2010). One of the main reasons for Firefly’s tenacity may be the fact that the show, in the view of many fans, offers an uncompromising critique of state authority – a critique that strongly resonates with key elements of the so-called American Creed. Anti-statist readings of the show are widespread for good reason: Firefly frequently questions the legitimacy of government authority, and the commitment of atrocities by the state and its agents is central to the plot of Serenity. This chapter will contend that anti-statist interpretations of Firefly are nevertheless inadequate, because the show does, in fact, paint a nuanced, ambivalent, and contradictory picture of the state. These nuances reflect (and contribute to) ongoing contests over American national identity. In particular, they complicate dominant accounts of the American Creed, and of American national identity more broadly. Analysing the politics of Firefly can consequently offer useful insights into the dynamics of American nationalism, the ways it is being reproduced, and the ways in which it is being challenged.
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By extension, examining Whedon’s space Western can help to enhance our understanding of nationalism in general. First, exploring Firefly and its afterlife lends additional support to one of the key contentions behind the quotidian turn in nationalism studies: that the everyday is an important site both in the entrenchment and contestation of nationalism (see, for instance, Brubaker et al., 2006; Edensor, 2002; Fox & Miller-Idriss, 2008). Second, the discrepancy between Firefly’s political ambiguity and the anti-statist reading many fans have mapped onto the show demonstrates that audiences are not merely passive recipients of political narratives produced and disseminated by social elites. Rather, as theorists of everyday nationalism point out, they play an active role in the “meaning-making” enterprise of nationalism. Finally, neither Firefly itself nor fan debates about the show are typically framed explicitly in terms of nationalism. By virtue of drawing on ideational vocabularies that are intimately linked to the American Creed, they nonetheless bear on the reproduction of American national identity. This suggests that, in order to fully appreciate the operation of nationalism in everyday life, we need to attend to unintentional, indirect, and subterranean dynamics as well as deliberate, direct, and overt ones. In order to support these observations, the chapter will begin with an overview of Firefly and anti-statist interpretations of the show. It will suggest that these interpretations reflect a set of values that are typically seen as core elements of the so-called “American Creed,” which, in turn, is often described as a key component of American national identity. As a substantial body of scholarship has demonstrated, American identity is, in fact, considerably more complex, malleable, and contradictory than “Creedal” accounts allow. Taking these insights as a point of departure, the chapter will continue by examining the politics of the Western, Firefly’s portrayal of the state, and varying attitudes towards the state depicted within the show. By way of concluding its analysis, the chapter will outline the implications of Firefly for American nationalism and for our understanding of everyday nationalism more generally.
Surveying the ‘verse The events of Firefly take place roughly 500 years in the future. By the early twenty-sixth century, planet Earth – or “Earth-that-was,” in the terminology of this future society – is not much more than a distant memory; humanity has emigrated from the solar system and has settled on several hundred planets and moons in a cluster of neighbouring stars. These new worlds have been rendered habitable through terraforming. Together with the stars they orbit, they are collectively referred to as “the ‘verse.” Before humanity left the solar system, its political organization had undergone fundamental upheavals, leaving the United States and China as the sole remaining superpowers. These two powers led the exodus of humanity to the ‘verse and staked claims to the two largest, centrally located planets in the new system (Sihnon and Londinium). Sometime after the exodus, these planets formed a permanent Alliance, which gradually expanded to include all of the central planets.
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The outer planets remained independent until the early twenty-sixth century, when the central planets attempted to bring them under Alliance control by way of military force. The outer planets (or Independents) resisted conquest for several years, but in the end, they succumbed to the superior resources and manpower of the Alliance. The events of the show occur several years after the War of Unification and revolve around the crew of a small space transport called Serenity. The ship’s crew carves out a tenuous existence in the region of the outer planets. In order to ensure their day-to-day survival, they frequently operate on or beyond the fringes of Alliance law. The show’s intended pilot episode (entitled “Serenity”), for example, finds the crew illegally salvaging goods from a derelict spacecraft. In the second episode, “The Train Job” (which was in fact broadcast as the pilot), a major crime lord hires Serenity to execute a train heist. In “Shindig” and “Safe,” the crew smuggle livestock from one planet to another. The show’s setting is strongly reminiscent of the American Reconstruction era. That resemblance is not accidental. In fact, the show was very much inspired by the American Civil War and its aftermath (see Vaughn, 2007 for a discussion of parallels between Firefly and the American Civil War). According to Joss Whedon, the “basic tenet was that it was [analogous to the post-United States Civil War] Reconstruction era” (Serenity: The Official Visual Companion, 2005, p. 8). In light of the show’s setting, and given that some of its protagonists fought on the side of the Independents (the show’s rough analogue for the Confederate South), it should be noted that Firefly does not present a defence of the Confederacy’s claims to independence, its political values, or its social practices. In fact, many of the show’s plot lines – as well as some its central characters – emphasize themes of individual liberty and distrust of the state. Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds, Serenity’s captain and proprietor, is a case in point: to him, the ship, its crew, and their life on the fringes of the ‘verse are the means to achieve liberty. More precisely, they are a means to escape the restrictions on personal autonomy imposed by the Alliance. Shortly after purchasing Serenity, which at that point is in an advanced state of disrepair, Mal leads Zoe Washburne, his future second-incommand, on a tour of the ship; trying to overcome her reservations, he offers her the vision of an independent, self-determined existence: I tell you, Zoe, we get a mechanic, get her up and running again. Hire a good pilot, maybe a cook. Live like real people. A small crew – they must feel the need to be free. Take jobs as they come. They never have to be under the heel of nobody ever again. No matter how long the arm of the Alliance might get, we’ll just get ourselves a little further. (“Out of Gas”) Throughout the TV series and feature film, Mal frequently reiterates a strong commitment to individual liberty and an equally strong opposition to actors and institutions that, in his estimation, seek to curtail the personal freedom of others. Often, those actors and institutions are those of the Alliance government.
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As Mal puts it rather pithily, the Alliance aimed to “[u]nite all the planets under one rule, so that everybody can be interfered with or ignored equally” (“The Train Job”). Other key characters share Mal’s scepticism. Zoe, for example, had fought with Mal against the Alliance during the War of Unification. As one might expect, her view of the Alliance is not much more favourable than Mal’s. Many of Firefly’s central plot elements seem to bear out the anti-statist view espoused by Mal and Zoe. Notably, the fact that two of the show’s central figures – Simon Tam (the ship’s doctor) and his sister, River Tam – are on the run from agents of the Alliance emphasizes the show’s concern with liberty and government control. River had been subjected to debilitating experiments by the Alliance, until Simon succeeded in breaking her out of the facility where she was being confined. Much of the original TV series and movie sequel focus on persistent attempts by state agents to apprehend the Tams. Serenity gradually uncovers the reasons behind these attempts. It emerges that River, during her confinement, had been exposed to state secrets concerning the origin of the so-called Reavers. The Reavers are, in many ways, depicted in terms that parallel the representation of Indigenous peoples in many classic Westerns. They are not subject to Alliance control and are consistently portrayed as vicious, violent, and exceedingly aggressive. They pose a constant threat on the frontier, since they attack and annihilate ships and entire settlements on a regular basis (see Rabb & Richardson, 2008 for a discussion of parallels between the Reavers and the portrayal of Indigenous peoples in many classic Westerns). There is little agreement on where the Reavers came from; the original TV series offers several competing rumours that circulate in the ‘verse. Events during Serenity reveal that the Reavers are, in fact, the result of a large-scale experiment conducted by the Alliance on the planet Miranda. Alliance scientists released a psychotropic drug into the planet’s air supply with the goal of eliminating aggression in the local population. In a small segment of the population, the drug produced the opposite effect, magnifying their aggression drive “beyond madness” (Serenity). The Alliance fears that its rule might be destabilized if this secret were to become public knowledge. Throughout the movie, Alliance agents therefore go to considerable lengths – including the wholesale slaughter of communities that had provided a safe haven to Serenity – to prevent Mal and his crew from uncovering the truth about Miranda.
Reading the state with Firefly Considering these plot developments and the political views espoused by some of Firefly’s protagonists, it is perhaps unsurprising that fans and scholar-fans tend to read the show as a principled defence of individual liberty and as a sustained critique of state authority. For example, Sutherland and Swan argue that “Firefly is squarely grounded in the dystopic tradition” (2008, p. 99), describe the Alliance as totalitarian and emphasize the show’s preoccupation with (and critique of) state control. Matthew Hill similarly contends that the Alliance is a totalitarian regime and suggests that the very name of the defeated party in the War of
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Unification – the Independents – is “clearly a metonym for the hardscrabble American sense of rugged individualism and self-reliance” (2009, pp. 490–2). Raymond Keating argues that “it wasn’t just the concept behind ‘Firefly’ that was truly unique; it also was an unabashed anti-big-government and profreedom philosophy. Clearly, the bad guys in the television series were the Alliance” (2006, p. 13). Mercedes Lackey underlines Firefly’s emphasis on the (detrimental) constraints imposed by society and the state on individual liberty and describes the “Alliance [as] a behemoth, a juggernaut: insensate and ultimately faceless” (2004, p. 64). According to Lackey, the ‘verse is riddled by “Orwellian contradictions” (2004, p. 64) and decidedly dystopian in character. Often, these anti-statist interpretations of Firefly are framed in explicitly libertarian terms. As Sanchez (2005) notes, the show appears to have attracted an especially sizeable following among libertarians. Hinson, for example, asserts that, [a]t its best, science fiction advocates liberty. While Star Trek lamentably supported a “Federation knows best” mentality, other works like Star Wars and Robert Heinlein’s novels have promoted the dissolution of central rule and the triumph of the individual. For the science fiction writer, space means one thing: freedom. Like the Wild West where men made their own rules and property rights were enforced at the end of a landowner’s shotgun, space has afforded the hope that one day man can move beyond the reach of any government’s oppressive hand. No recent T.V. series understands this better than Fox’s Firefly (2005) Stoddard provides a similar assessment. In his view, “the story of the film [Serenity] is not just an excuse for the action. There’s real intellectual substance. It’s a secondary pleasure, but a real one, that this substance is so congruent with libertarian political values” (2005). Stocker (2008) concedes that Whedon seems to subscribe to a mixture of liberal and libertarian views, but argues that Firefly very much emphasizes the latter. Tate (2014) likewise suggests that the show is shot through with libertarian tropes. Gardner Goldsmith presents one of the most detailed libertarian readings of Firefly. In his view, one of the show’s most appealing characteristics is the steadfast commitment to individual liberty displayed by Mal. Similar to the observers mentioned above, Goldsmith describes the Alliance government not simply as tyrannical and oppressive, but suggests that it aims to construct a “totalitarian utopia” (2007, p. 63). Goldsmith perceives Mal as the standard-bearer of freedom, as someone who seeks to resist the illegitimate encroachment of government regulation on society: [The ideal libertarian] endeavors to leave others alone, and merely asks for the same in return. Malcolm Reynolds is one such man. He embodies those values, and practices them every day. And because he never waivers, he [. . .]
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can be appropriately identified as a libertarian archetype, fighting in a system that is inimical to freedom. (2007, p. 56) Goldsmith does not examine whether Mal’s efforts in this regard produce any appreciable results. Lackey, on the other hand, insists that whatever freedom from state control Mal believes he enjoys is illusory. In her view, the Serenity crew enjoy freedom only because at least some of their activities are ultimately useful to the Alliance, and because they do not present a significant challenge to Alliance authority (Lackey, 2004, p. 66). These differences aside, both Lackey and Goldsmith read Firefly as a trenchant critique of the state and of government practices that threaten to restrict personal freedom. As suggested above, this is an interpretation shared by many fans and scholar-fans. Assessments of Firefly tend to take an overwhelmingly negative view of the Alliance. In part, this is because they tend to accept Mal’s verdict on the nature of the Alliance and his perception of state intervention as “interference” in individuals’ personal lives. In this view, Alliance attempts at regulating society, even if pursued in the name of the common good, are ill-conceived at best, and tyrannical at worst. By contrast, many fans see Serenity not as a crew of petty criminals operating on the fringes of society, but as champions of individual liberty struggling against an over-reaching government.
The American Creed This widespread anti-statist reading of Firefly strongly resonates with dominant narratives of American values and national identity. American political culture is commonly described as overwhelmingly liberal. Typically, this is taken to mean that it is characterized by an emphasis on individual liberty, a commitment to equality of opportunity, and a profound scepticism of – if not outright opposition to – state authority. In fact, these dispositions are frequently seen as the core elements of the so-called “American Creed.” As Samuel Huntington puts it, the values of this Creed are liberal, individualistic, democratic, egalitarian, and hence basically antigovernment and antiauthority in character. Whereas other ideologies legitimate established authority and institutions, the American Creed serves to delegitimate any hierarchical, coercive, authoritarian structures, including American ones. (1981, p. 4) Huntington contends that the vast majority of American citizens subscribe to the (relatively stable and unchanging) values associated with the American Creed; in his view, the Creed has been central to the construction of American national identity. Other classic analyses of American political culture and national identity take a similar view. For example, Louis Hartz’s (1955) seminal study of The Liberal Tradition in America argues that liberal values and orientations have
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dominated the American ideological landscape. According to Hartz, this is due to the fact that the British colonists settling on the North American continent brought with them a commitment to Lockean liberalism. This particular variant of liberal thought consequently laid down the basic pattern for the integration of later immigrant groups and American political development more broadly. Seymour Martin Lipset likewise points to the liberal bent of American national identity, including its emphasis on individualism and distrust of state authority. In his influential study of American exceptionalism, for instance, Lipset notes that [t]he emphasis in the American value system, in the American Creed, has been on the individual. Citizens have been expected to demand and protect their rights on a personal basis. The exceptional focus on law here as compared to Europe, derived from the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, has stressed rights against the state and other powers. America began and continues as the most anti-statist, legalistic, and rights-oriented nation. (Lipset, 1996, p. 20) Lipset’s notion of liberal individualism thus stresses individual rights, autonomy, self-interest, and freedom from state-imposed constraints. He traces the dominance of liberal individualism in contemporary American society to the genesis of the republic. In his view, the United States has been profoundly shaped by the legacy of the American Revolution: the country’s origins in an armed struggle against a supposedly tyrannical government exercised a formative influence on its political, social, and economic development and set the template for the development of American political culture (Lipset, 1970). As various observers have pointed out, these “Creedal” accounts are problematic in several respects. To begin, the American Creed is a fairly loose assemblage of different (and potentially competing) normative commitments. In addition, these commitments are themselves open to interpretation and contestation. For example, as Condit and Lucaites (1993) have demonstrated, the term “equality” has been used in substantially different ways in American politics, varying not only with the socio-historical context, but also with the “racial” identity of the actors invoking the concept. Similarly, “individualism” can cover a range of potentially conflicting normative commitments. Grabb, Baer and Curtis, among others, have criticized Lipset (and, by extension, observers who adopt a similar analysis of American political development) for suggesting that a particular kind of liberal individualism was the constitutive element of American political culture at the time of the Revolution. They point to a body of recent scholarship that has offered a different interpretation of the historical record: “In this portrayal of the early American value system, personal liberty is highly prized and encouraged, but, at the same time, is consistently moderated by a regard for civic responsibility and a respect for the rights of others” (1999, p. 519).
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Just as importantly, a substantial body of scholarship has questioned the supposed dominance of liberalism in American political culture. Seminal texts published by Bailyn (1967), Wood (1969), and Pocock (1975) over the course of the 1960s and 1970s argued forcefully that the dominant American value system during the revolutionary era and the early decades of the Republic was not so much a Lockean variant of liberalism, but civic republicanism. More recently, Rogers M. Smith’s influential studies of American political ideas have shown that American national identity has been indebted to “multiple traditions”: liberal individualism, civic republicanism, and ethno-culturalism (1988, 1993, 1997). Similarly, philosopher Charles Mills (1997) suggests that the American social contract has, in fact, been underpinned by a racial contract that restricts full access to membership in the American nation and the attendant benefits on the basis of race. In this sense, racial discrimination and inequality do not represent an aberration from the values of the American Creed, but their foundation. These analyses have been borne out by a number of classical and recent empirical studies. For instance, Gunnar Myrdal’s (1944) seminal study of race and American identity sheds significant doubt on the supposedly inclusive, egalitarian nature of American political traditions, as does Fraga and Segura’s (2006) more recent work on Latin American immigration to the United States. Lending further weight to Rogers M. Smith’s arguments, Schildkraut (2007, 2010) confirms the existence of multiple constitutive principles governing membership in the American nation. Along similar lines, Straughn and Feld (2010) point to persistent religious definitions of American identity – a finding that is difficult to reconcile with the exclusive emphasis on liberal individualism in Hartz, Huntington, and Lipset’s readings of the American Creed.
Invoking the Western Clearly, then, American political traditions are considerably more variegated, fluid, and contradictory than “Creedal” accounts allow. In consequence, American national identity – as national identities everywhere – has been subject to constant (and ongoing) contestation. In part, this contestation unfolds in the field of popular culture, including shows such as Firefly. Arguably, Whedon’s space Western, rather than subscribing to a particular version of American values, reflects and reproduces the ambiguous, unsettled character of American political traditions. This is evident in the show’s treatment of collective action, gendered power relations, or racialization. It is also true of Firefly’s portrayal of the state, a portrayal that is difficult to square with strictly anti-statist interpretations of the show. Firefly’s deliberate use of the Western genre – one of the archetypal products of American popular culture – offers a first clue in support of this point. The show’s roots in the Western are evident in a variety of key tropes, including its primary setting (a sparsely settled and inhospitable frontier), the contrast between urban “civilization” and frontier society, the reliance on violence as a means of domination and resistance, the portrayal of entrenched social hierarchies, and the
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presence of a fearsome and supposedly irrational foe. Likewise, many of the show’s villains and “heroes” would be instantly recognizable to fans of the Western. In fact, Joss Whedon has, on occasion, referred to Firefly as Stagecoach in space (for an in-depth examination of Firefly’s relationship to Stagecoach, see Erisman, 2008; Wills, 2015 provides a detailed analysis of the show’s debt to the Western genre). Firefly’s setting is especially instructive for discussions of the state and governmental authority because many Westerns cast a critical eye on “civilized” society. In Stagecoach, for instance, “[m]ost of [the] characters are running away from civilisation, taking refuge in the wilderness of the frontier” (Madsen, 1998, p. 132). In many ways, this applies to the crew of Serenity as well; as mentioned earlier, Mal sees the ship as a means to safeguard personal freedom outside the confines of Alliance control. The further Alliance control expands, the further he will move towards the frontier of the ‘verse. In this, he is not entirely alone. The following exchange – taking place after the crew narrowly escape an Alliance cruiser patrolling far from the central planets in the show’s original pilot episode, “Serenity” – is particularly germane here: JAYNE:
What the hell they doin’ out this far anyhow? Shining the light of civilization. JAYNE: Doesn’t do us any good . . . KAYLEE: Well, we’re uncivilized. KAYLEE:
This brief scene not only encapsulates the contrast between “civilized” life in the Alliance and life on the outer planets, but also conveys the crew’s scepticism towards the blessings of “civilization” as understood by the Alliance. This sense of scepticism would not seem out of place in many classic Westerns. However, while Westerns frequently emphasize the value of individual autonomy and privilege a rough frontier morality over the letter of state-sanctioned law, they do not necessarily single out the state for special criticism. Instead, many Westerns critically examine social inequalities and moral decay in society as a whole (Stagecoach being a case in point). In doing so, these Westerns offer a broader engagement with power and its abuses – a legacy that clearly plays out in Firefly. At the same time, Westerns routinely legitimate certain forms of oppression and inequality, whether perpetrated by the state or other social actors; this is especially apparent in the genre’s treatment of Indigenous peoples. As Madsen (1998, p. 131) points out, the Western is ultimately about conquest; it deals with the dispossession and subjugation of the continent’s Indigenous peoples, the appropriation of land by European settlers, and the territorial expansion of state control. If the Western genre as a whole is deeply ambivalent about unequal power relations (especially where those power relations are racialized or gendered), the same can be said about its portrayal of the state. Westerns often celebrate the expansion of European settlement and the role of state agencies in that process. This is evident, for example, in John Ford’s classic cavalry trilogy. At
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the end of She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (the second entry in the trilogy and Ford’s personal favourite), viewers are shown a long column of US-troops, a spectacle accompanied by the following voice-over: So here they are, the dog-faced soldiers, the regulars, the fifty cents a day professionals riding the outposts of the nation [. . .] they are all the same, men in dirty shirt blue and only a page in the history book to mark their passing. But wherever they rode and whatever they fought for, that place became the United States. (cited in Madsen, 1998, p. 136) Here, the military is portrayed as an indispensable agent in the formation of the American nation. In this sense at least, the expansion of state power and control to the Western frontier is not seen as a reason for lamentation, but rather as a cause for celebration. Based on the show’s liberal use of Western tropes, there is reason to expect that Firefly may also share the Western genre’s ambiguous view of the state. This expectation is confirmed by the show’s depiction of varying attitudes towards the Alliance, as well as its depiction of state practices in the ‘verse.
Attitudes towards the Alliance Anti-statist interpretations of Firefly typically assume that the political attitudes espoused by some of the show’s protagonists offer a reliable guide to the sociopolitical realities of the ‘verse. In particular, commentators who read Firefly as a straightforward defence of individual liberty and an attack on government control tend to privilege Mal’s view of events. This is problematic for several reasons, not least because Firefly, as mentioned above, is an ensemble show revolving around nine central characters. These characters hold a wide variety of political values and beliefs. Mal may indeed subscribe to ideas that are broadly libertarian and strongly resonate with the American Creed, but it is much less certain that Mal’s personal ethos is the ethos of Firefly, or that it is shared by all members of the small community aboard Serenity. On one occasion, for example, Inara Serra – a member of the Companions, the ‘verse’s highly respected courtesan guild, and a long-term passenger aboard Serenity – explicitly states that the “Alliance has no quarrel with me. I supported Unification” (“Out of Gas”). Since Inara was born, educated, and trained on Sihnon, this is perhaps not entirely unexpected. As a Companion, Inara also enjoys considerable social prestige, and her clientele is typically recruited from the upper strata of Alliance society – including an unnamed young man whose father is a person of influence (“Serenity”), an affluent dandy (“Shindig”), and the son of a local Magistrate (“Jaynestown”). In consequence, Inara is much more willing than Mal to rely on Alliance authorities, and much more comfortable interacting with them. For example, when Mal and Wash, Serenity’s pilot, are captured by a crime lord in “War Stories,” she requests assistance from a member of the World Council on planet Ezra. In “Safe,” Derrial Book – a Shepherd (priest)
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and another long-term passenger on Serenity – is critically injured during a gunfight on the border planet of Jiangyin. Since there are no adequate medical facilities in the vicinity, Inara suggests that Serenity approach the Alliance cruiser Magellan for emergency treatment. While Mal is initially reluctant, he ultimately follows Inara’s suggestion. Regarding two of the show’s other key characters, it is worth noting that Simon and River Tam are the scions of a wealthy establishment family. The fact that their father serves on several corporate boards affords them a life of affluence and social prestige. The opening scene of the episode entitled “Safe” unmistakably casts River and Simon’s younger selves as members of the ‘verse’s social elite: they reside in a substantial mansion, sport luxurious clothes and appear to enjoy generally high levels of material comfort. Simon and River also have access to elite education and high-status career paths; for example, Simon attended the leading medical academy on Osiris, one of the central planets (“Serenity”). As concerns River, Simon informs the Serenity crew early in the TV series that [t]here was a . . . a school . . . a, uh, a government-sponsored academy. We had never even heard of it but it had the most exciting program, the most challenging. We could have sent her anywhere, we had the money, but she wanted to go. She wanted to learn. (“Serenity”) Given the Tams’ socio-economic background, it is no surprise that Simon’s political stance differs dramatically from Mal’s or Zoe’s. A younger Simon and River, when re-enacting the War of Unification in “Safe,” choose to play members of an Alliance platoon rather than fighting on the side of the Independents. River’s views have clearly become more critical over time: as the feature film’s opening sequence demonstrates, she disagrees with the forcible extension of Alliance rule to the outer planets (Serenity). Simon, however, never explicitly challenges the merits of Alliance rule or the legitimacy of the existing social order. This is remarkable in and of itself, given that River had been subjected to debilitating experiments in a government institution, that Simon had to give up his fortune and career prospects in order to save her, and that the two of them have, as a result, been on the run from the law. Another key member of the crew, Jayne Cobb, does not seem to take particular exception to Alliance rule, nor does he seem overly invested in the conflict between Browncoats and the Alliance. When Mal and Zoe get into a bar fight with Alliance supporters in “The Train Job,” Jayne flatly refuses to take part, stating that “I didn’t fight in no war. Best of luck, though.” In “Serenity,” Jayne refuses to sell out Mal and the rest of the crew to a government agent – not as a matter of principle, but because the “[m]oney wasn’t good enough.” Later in the show, Jayne does not hesitate to betray Simon and River to Alliance authorities – once again not as a matter of principle, but in the interest of personal gain (“Ariel”). Given that Jayne seems to be motivated primarily by self-interest, his refusal to choose political sides is certainly consistent. One might, in fact, be
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inclined to conclude that Jayne embodies Goldsmith’s “libertarian archetype” to a greater extent than Mal.
Beyond the evil empire? The mix of political attitudes we find on Serenity parallels the show’s ambivalent portrayal of the state. This ambivalence is by design: rather than casting the Alliance and its representatives in the role of archetypal villain, and the Serenity crew in the role of the show’s valiant heroes, Whedon has stated explicitly that he “didn’t want it to be ‘Empire evil, rebels good.’ The whole point of this show and the movie is to say that things are not simple, that there is a moral gray area that we all live in that’s very clear when we live on the frontier” (Serenity: The Official Visual Companion, 2005, p. 18). While authorial intent does not necessarily provide a privileged avenue of interpretation, Whedon’s remarks are echoed in the events of the TV series and movie sequel. One particularly poignant scene in Serenity can serve to illustrate this point. In this scene, a secret agent of the Alliance, known as “the Operative,” declares that “[n]othing here is what it seems. [Malcolm Reynolds] isn’t the plucky hero. The Alliance isn’t some evil empire. This is not the grand arena” (Serenity). The Operative’s sentiments are not so different from Whedon’s in this regard. The depiction of the ‘verse’s social and political reality, both in the TV series and in the movie, likewise provides reason to question whether Mal’s perspective on the Alliance can be treated as authoritative. For instance, the central planets (which are most tightly under Alliance control) are portrayed as technologically advanced, economically prosperous, and endowed with an extensive infrastructure. Residents on those planets seem to have ready access to comprehensive, state-of-the-art medical care and facilities. Frequently, anti-statist readings of Firefly suggest that the Alliance is to blame for the relative social, economic, and technological deprivation of the outer planets. There is little textual evidence for this; it would therefore be equally valid to conclude that the central planets have benefitted from the fact that Alliance control is most secure and most firmly established on those planets. In this sense, Firefly may point to some of the benefits that appear to attend Alliance rule. By way of illustration, in the episode entitled “Ariel,” Simon plans to run some tests on River in order to determine what sort of experiments have been conducted on her. In order to do so, he requires access to advanced medical equipment housed in the hospital of Ariel City, which is located on one of the core planets. He asks the Serenity crew to assist him in getting River into the hospital facilities. In exchange for their assistance, he proposes to help the crew steal valuable drugs from the hospital. One of the crew members voices concerns that the hospital may need those drugs, but is assured by Simon and others that it will be resupplied in short order. On a related note, Firefly provides some evidence that the Alliance may take an active interest in the welfare of (at least some of) its citizens on the frontier as well. In “Serenity,” Alliance cruiser Dortmunder happens on Serenity while the
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crew are illegally salvaging an abandoned cargo ship. It refrains from pursuing Serenity because it receives a (fake) distress call by a passenger freighter and sets course to assist with the rescue operation. In “The Train Job,” the Serenity crew first steals, and then returns, medical supplies en route to settlers on an outer planet – supplies provided by the Alliance and guarded by Alliance personnel. In “Bushwhacked,” Serenity comes across a seemingly abandoned vessel. As the episode unfolds, we learn that this ship was a settler transport bound for the outer planets, but that all of the crew and passengers save one have been slaughtered by Reavers. Checking the vessel for valuables, Mal and Zoe find substantial government-issued supplies: MAL:
Here. Gen-seed, protein, crop supplements. Everything a growing family needs to make a fresh start on a new world. ZOE: Hard subsidies for fourteen-plus families. That’s . . . MAL: About a fortune. Forget the rest, we just take this stuff. Gonna need a hand hauling it out of here. Judging from this scene, the provision of significant government subsidies to settlers is nothing unusual. It appears likely, then, that the Alliance regularly provides considerable support to families who wish to settle on the outer planets. At the same time, a number of instances in the show – in addition to the governmental acts of mass murder and experimentation on large population groups depicted in the feature film – have prompted viewers to question the Alliance’s concern for the welfare of its citizens. In “The Train Job,” for example, Alliance authorities refuse to let a platoon of federal marshals assist in clearing up the train heist: [Alliance officer enters a station. There is an alert.] OFFICER: What’s the fuss? ENSIGN: All-network alert.
Cargo theft. Medical shipment lifted off a train in the Georgia system en route to Paradiso. OFFICER: Six crates of Pescaline “D.” Right. That’ll get you a tidy fortune on the black market. Tag it received, bounce it back. Locals can deal with it. ENSIGN: Sir, there is a regiment holding in Paradiso. They were on the train headed to the installation. OFFICER: Then get them back on the train and get it moving. Who’s holding them there? ENSIGN: The sheriff requested a few to help him investigate . . . OFFICER: These are federal marshals, not local narcotic hounds. They’ve got better things to do, and so do we. Some critics have taken this scene as proof positive the Alliance is indifferent to the well-being of the local population (see, inter alia, Sobolev, 2015). This is not an unreasonable conclusion, but it is not the only possible interpretation. Requests
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for cross-agency cooperation are a common feature of most complex government bureaucracies. Such requests are not always honoured. In and of itself, this says very little about a government’s attitude towards the general population. Moreover, the Alliance, like any government, presumably operates with limited resources. The Commander’s somewhat testy dismissal of the sheriff’s request may indicate frustration with multiple, competing demands on scarce state resources, rather than simple disregard for the welfare of the local population. In this context, it is perhaps worth emphasizing that the sheriff did not request humanitarian relief, but assistance in the investigation of a crime.
Firefly and everyday nationalism Madsen suggests that “the Western hero is often treated ironically: he cannot live in the world he has helped to create and even destroys the lawless environment that made him a hero” (1998, p. 123). If we accept Lackey’s contention that Serenity’s crew unwittingly performs valuable services for the Alliance, the same can perhaps be said of Joss Whedon’s protagonists in Firefly. These ironies notwithstanding, fans and scholar-fans often read Firefly as an affirmation of values that are integral to the American Creed: individual liberty and scepticism towards government intervention and regulation. On this reading, the show strongly resonates with anti-statist, “Creedal” versions of American nationalism. However, as the preceding sections of this chapter have shown, anti-statist interpretations of Firefly, though plausible in many respects, rest on a severely abbreviated reading of the show. In particular, they tend to treat Malcolm Reynolds as a disinterested, objective observer of society in the ‘verse; privilege Mal’s politics over those of other key characters in the show; describe the Alliance as dystopian, authoritarian, or even totalitarian despite the lack of robust evidence for such claims; and disregard the complex legacy of the Western genre in dissecting Firefly’s take on individual freedom, society, and state power. Due to these limitations, anti-statist interpretations of Firefly capture important elements of social reality in the ‘verse, but ultimately underestimate the show’s moral and political complexity. Addressing the limitations of anti-statist interpretations yields a significantly different reading of the show: on this reading, Firefly and its movie sequel, Serenity, neither embrace nor reject an anti-statist view. Rather, they offer a nuanced treatment of state authority, individual liberty, and societal power relations. Sociopolitical realities in the ‘verse effectively reflect some of the tensions inherent in constructions of American identity; in particular, they mirror competing political traditions that variously define the nation in liberal, communitarian, and ethno-cultural ways. In doing so, Firefly points to long-standing patterns of contestation over the terms of membership in the American nation, the relationship between nation and state, and the belief systems that are considered central to American national identity. From the perspective of nationalism studies, Firefly is thus worth analysing because it both reflects and contributes to ongoing struggles over the nature of American nationhood.
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Analysing the politics of Firefly can also contribute to our understanding of everyday nationalism more generally, beyond the particulars of the American case. First, unpacking the politics of Firefly supports one of the central insights underlying the quotidian turn in nationalism studies: that everyday life is an important site in the ongoing articulation, contestation, and re-articulation of nationalism (see, inter alia, Brubaker et al., 2006; Edensor, 2002; Fox & Miller-Idriss, 2008). Firefly’s ambiguous take on the state, coupled with its critical view of unequal power relations in civil society and the private sphere, challenges some of the core assumptions underlying the value system of the American Creed. At the same time, many fans interpret the show in ways that both draw on and reinforce that value system. Discussions over Firefly cannot only serve to underline the importance of popular culture in the meaning-making work of nationalism, they also illustrate that the pathway between popular culture and nationalism runs both ways: just as popular culture potentially functions as a vector for the production, dissemination, and contestation of nationalism, so nationalism potentially influences the way in which audiences receive, interpret, and consume popular culture. To the extent that particular artefacts – such as Firefly – are widely perceived to resonate with hegemonic expressions of national identity, this may help explain their appeal and the affective investment of fans. Second, much of the theoretical literature on nationalism continues to be dominated by approaches that emphasize the role of social elites. In these approaches, ordinary citizens are implicitly cast as passive recipients of national narratives fashioned by those in positions of power. The fact that many fans subscribe to an anti-statist reading of Firefly – a reading that sits uneasily both with the show’s content and the stated views of its creator – raises a number of questions about this assumption of passivity. Specifically, the tendency of many fans to read Firefly “against the grain” suggests that audiences are not merely unwitting consumers of narratives produced and disseminated by social elites, but play an active part in defining, amending, and circulating such narratives. This strongly resonates with the position taken by proponents of the quotidian turn in nationalism studies, who stress the role of non-elite actors in the construction of national identities (see, for instance, Antonsich, 2016; Miller-Idriss, 2009; Raney, 2017; Skey, 2011). Two cautionary notes may be in order here: the emphasis on the role of ordinary citizens should not be taken as a suggestion that all members of society have equal influence on the construction of nationalism; clearly, different members of society have differential access to relevant resources and opportunities. Equally clearly, however, nationalism cannot simply be understood as a game of social elites. In addition, it is worth underlining that ordinary citizens are not a homogeneous mass; as such, they do not produce homogeneous renderings of national identity narratives (or other political discourses). As Antonsich puts it, “far from being uniformly distributed in time and space, carrying an equal, banal meaning to all the members of the nation, nationalism might be consumed, articulated and mobilized differently by the different subjects involved” (2016, p. 33).
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Third, much of the literature on everyday nationhood stresses the intentional dimension of national reproduction. In Fox and Miller-Idriss’s words, “nationhood is not (only) lurking in the crevices of the unconscious, furtively informing talk without becoming the subject of talk; it is simultaneously the practical accomplishment of ordinary people giving concrete expression to their understandings of the nation” (2008, p. 539). Examining the politics of Whedon’s space Western points to a third possibility: that nationhood may indeed result, in part, from conscious action, but that the intent behind that action may have little to do with nationhood as such. More to the point, interpretations of Firefly are not typically framed in explicitly national terms; by virtue of drawing on cultural conventions and value systems that are central to American national identity, they are nonetheless actively involved in the continuation of American nationhood. Thus, individual actors may reproduce (or disrupt) elements of national identity – such as putative “national” values – in contexts that, on the face of it, are not concerned with nationalism. In this sense, the reproduction of nationalism may occur neither consciously or unconsciously so much as inadvertently.
Conclusion Despite its short run on broadcast television, Joss Whedon’s Firefly has attracted a dedicated fan following. The show’s enduring popularity may, in part, be due to the fact that it is often read as a trenchant critique of state authority. This antistatist interpretation strongly resonates with the values embedded in the socalled American Creed, a core component of American identity. As this chapter has shown, anti-statist readings of Firefly have considerable merit: many of the show’s protagonists harbour deep distrust of state authorities, and government regularly appears to be implicated in the commitment of atrocities. Ultimately, however, these anti-statist interpretations are unconvincing: rather than offering an uncompromising attack on state authority, Firefly paints a nuanced, ambivalent, and contradictory picture of the state. In doing so, it effectively troubles narratives that seek to anchor American identity in a clearly defined, universally shared, and stable set of values. Analysing Firefly also offers useful insights into the dynamics of nationalism in general. In particular, the competing interpretations of Firefly – some of which accord with dominant national narratives, some of which challenge them – demonstrate that popular culture, like other facets of everyday life, is an important venue in struggles over nationalism. In addition, the fact that many fans subscribe to a political reading of the show that sits rather uneasily with its content suggests that, in keeping with everyday theories of nationhood, nonelite actors matter a great deal in the articulation of nationalism. Nationalism cannot be understood solely as an elite project. Finally, fan interpretations of Firefly hinge, in part, on a value system intimately associated with American nationalism. Even though they do not explicitly invoke national identity, they are therefore implicated in its reproduction. This suggests that, in order to fully understand the dynamics of nationalism, we need to attend not just to intentional expressions of nationhood but also to inadvertent ones.
“Nothing here is what it seems”
Discography “Ariel” (2002) Firefly, episode 9, dir. A. Kroeker. “Bushwhacked” (2002) Firefly, episode 3, dir. T. Minear. “Jaynestown” (2002) Firefly, episode 7, dir. M. Grabiak. “Out of Gas” (2002) Firefly, episode 8, dir. D. Solomon. “Safe” (2002) Firefly, episode 5, dir. M. Grossman. “Serenity (Parts 1 and 2)” (2002) Firefly, episode 1, dir. J. Whedon. Serenity (2005) Dir. J. Whedon. “Shindig” (2002) Firefly, episode 4, dir. V. Gillum. “The Train Job” (2002) Firefly, episode 2, dir. J. Whedon. “War Stories” (2002) Firefly, episode 10, dir. J. Contner.
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Note: page numbers in italic type indicate figures or illustrations, those in bold indicate tables. Abdurab, Adi 88 A.B. Original 109 aboriginal groups: treatment of in Argentina 117; see also Indigenous peoples Abu-Laban, Y. 9 affect, usefulness for the study of nationalism 136 affect and circulation: analytic implications 138–41; foundations of media and nationalism 133–5; literature review 135–8; modulation of affective circulation 141–5 Ahmed, L. 83 Ahmed, S. 137 ALF (NBC) 121 Allerseelen 41, 51 Alpher, R. 72 Althusser, L. 133, 146 “Amazing” (Lloyd) 102 American national identity: central belief systems 166; contestation of 160; liberal nature 159; literature review 158–60; multiple traditions 160; religious definitions 160; role of queer composers in the formation of 97; role of race 160; role of the American Creed 154, 158; see also Firefly Amigos son los amigos (Telefé) 121 Amireh, A. 68 Anderson, B. 1, 3, 80, 82, 103, 134, 136, 146 Andrejevic, M. 96, 142 Angel (The WB) 153 anti-Crusaderism, in northeastern European Neofolk content 44
Antonsich, M. 167 ANZAC Day 99 Apaak Juprrua 108 apocalyptic folk 39, 41 apoliteic ethos, of neofolk and related genres 38, 40–1, 44 Apple Music 97 Arab-Israeli identity, Arab Labor’s examination of 65–9 Arab Labor (Channel 2) 10, 61; focus of the program 10; popularity and ratings 66; presentation of the Nakba 65–9; theme and characters 65 Arcana 41 Arendt, Hannah 81 “Are you Gonna be my Girl?” (JET) 102 Argentina: cable TV established in 115–16, 122; and the caudillo 120, 128–9, 131; cinematic portrayal of social class 118; cultural significance of the paternal figure 130–1; gender equality measures 128–9; immigration’s role in formation of 117; impact of democracy on television and cinema 121; importance of family unity 120; importance of national identity 117; legalization of same-sex marriage 128; Married with Children’s reception in 125–30; military coup 119, 128; The Nanny’s reception in 122–4; national comedy and family values 116–22; neoliberal climate 121; popularity of comic theatre 118; popularity of traditional values in TV shows in the 1990s 121; prevailing religion 117–18; regime’s preference for American TV shows in the 1970s 121;
173 social and political situation 119–20; successful national TV series 119; television ownership 119; see also Married with Children; The Nanny Argov, Sasha 68 armaments 81 Armstrong, J.A. 4 Aronczyk, M. 137 the arts, connection between nationalism and 5 Así es la vida (Múgica) 118 “Asshole” (Leary) 102 Austin, Gayle 101 Australia, the Hottest 100 101–3 Australia Day 96, 100–101, 108–9 Australian national identity: the concept 98–101; white masculine focus 99–100, 107–8; see also Hottest 100; triple j Austria 39, 43 Averill, Alan 40, 44, 52 Azmat, Ali 87 Baer, D. 159 Bailyn, B. 160 Banal Nationalism (Billig) 20, 80–1 banal nationalism: Argentinian popular culture as form of 123, 127; Australia’s Hottest 100 as enactment of 96; Billig’s thesis 6, 61; function of the term 116; Kashua and Zaguri’s use of humor to oppose 74–5; meaning of 116–17; memorial days and 63; primary focus 7; role of patriotic music 37; telenovela as form of 123; as vehicle for integration 118 La banda del Golden Rocket (Canal 13) 121 Batavi (Heidevolk) 43 ‘The Battle of Saule’ (Skyforger) 44 Bauman, Z. 41 Benoist, Alain de 50–1 Los Benvenutto (Telefé) 121, 125 Berton, Pierre 30 Bhutto, Zulfiqar Ali 84 Billig, M. 6, 8, 20, 80–1, 91, 116–17 Black Metal 38, 40–1 Black Sabbath 52 Blood Axis 43, 51, 54 Bourdieu, P. 110 Bowie, David 52 branding 20, 30; nation branding 96, 142–3, 146 Brexit 54, 135 Briggs, C. 105 Brooks, S. 23
Brubaker, R. 6, 66, 96 Buckley, J. 46 Buffy the Vampire Slayer (The WB) 153 ‘Build Fortress Europa’ (promotional sticker) 50 Burger King 28 Burka Avenger (Unicorn Black) 11; awards 87; background of the show 87–8; equality and anti-discrimination discourse 91–3; female education as central theme 89–91; games and website 87; and the Malala incident 88; praise and criticisms 79; theme and characters 87–8 “Buy me a Pony” (Spiderbait) 102 Los Campanelli 119 Canada: differences and similarities with the US 23; donut consumption 32; evolution of Tim Hortons as symbol for 19; feminization and racialization of poverty and inequality 31; foundation as a European settler colony 21–4; Heritage Minutes 138–40; history of violence against First Nations peoples 139; immigration 21, 23, 31; minority groups 22; Minutes Parodies 139–40; the national imaginary and Tim Hortons 24–9; policies on Muslim cultural practices 24; roots of English Canadian nationalism 23; Syrian refugees denied entry 31; Tim Hortons’ place in Harperstyle conservatism 29–32; trading relationship with the US 23; treatment of minoritized and racialized groups 24; Truth and Reconciliation Commission 22 Canada–US Free Trade Agreement 23 “Canadian Sacrilege Moments” (Historica Canada) 139 Captain Canuck 1 Carey, J. 134 Caro, J. 107 Casados con Hijos (Telefé) 11, 128–30; comparison with Married with Children 115, 126–7, 129; cultural significance of series finale 129–30; as illustration of Argentina’s national identity 130–1; ratings 116, 126; reasons for airing 125 caudillos 120, 128–9, 131 Cernunnos Pagan Fest 48 Chakravartty, P. 143 Charles R. Bronfman Foundation 138 Charlie’s Angels (ABC) 121
Chase, C. 49 Christianity 22, 39, 46, 50, 120 Chur 53 cinema, role of in constructing Argentinian identity 118–19 circulation: literature review 136–7; and participation 138, 146; performativity of 137; see also affect and circulation Clannad 40 Clinton, Hillary 144 Cohen, Leonard 39 Coil 51 collective consciousness 4 comic books, research on the relationship between national identity and 7 common destiny 21, 24, 32 communication, Carey’s ritual analysis 134 Condit, C.M. 159 convergence culture 142 Cooper, F. 96 Cormack, P. 25, 27 Corvus Corax 41 Craig, A. 137 Cranberries 105 Crang, A. 117 critical theory, the affective and circulatory turns 135–8 currency, research on the relationship between national identity and 8 Current 93 39 Curtis, J. 159 Čvoro, U. 97
Edensor, T. 7, 80, 117, 119–20, 135 education, of women and girls in Pakistan 86, 88, 89–91 Elizabeth II, Golden Jubilee 140–1 Eltham, B. 106 Eluveitie 43, 46 El Zorro (ABC) 122 emotion, categories of 136 España, C. 118 Estonia 43, 47 ethnicity, Hutchinson’s definition 4 Europe, spiritual and cultural heritage 51 European integration 49 Europeanism 54; ‘dead Europeanism’ 39–40, 44, 49, 54 European New Right (ENR) 50 European Union (EU) 51 everyday culture 9 everyday life, national identity and 80–1 everyday nationhood 6–8, 12, 81, 168
Daft Punk 104 ¡Dále Loly! (Canal 9) 121 Dallas (CBS) 121 Daniel Boone (NBC) 121 Darkwood 53 Davies, M. 46 Dayan, D. 134 Dead Can Dance 41 ‘dead Europeanism’ 39–40, 44, 49, 54 Death in June 39, 41, 48, 53–4 Death in Rome 44 De Carne Somos (Canal 13) 125 Deeks, M. 41 Delacourt, S. 29–30 de la Rua, Fernando 128 Der Blutharsch 43 The Development of a National Identity in Australian Contemporary Music (Shaw) 97 Diana, Princess of Wales 140 Die Weisse Rose 52
Facebook 143 Faker, Chet 106 Falicov, T. 121 La Familia Falcon 119 Fanon, Frantz 91 fascism 39, 48, 52 Feld, S.L. 160 Feldhay-Brenner, R. 66 Ferrier, Thomas 51 Feschuk, Scott 28 Finland 48; Neofolk and Folk Metal bands 41 Fire + Ice 51 Firefly (Fox) 12; ambivalent portrayal of the state 164–6; and the American Creed 158–60; anti-statist interpretations 156–8, 166; cancellation 153; Civil War inspiration 155; enduring popularity 168; and everyday nationalism 166–8; feature-length movie based on 153; launch 153; libertarian framing 157–8;
DiStefano, Mark 104 diversity 20–1, 31, 50, 74, 97, 99, 105 Dixon, M. 99 Dokk’em Open Air Festival 48 Donnelly, H. 107–8 Double Double: How Tim Hortons Became a Canadian Way of Life, One Cup at a Time (Hunter) 19 Dune Messiah 45 Dungeons & Dragons 55 Dynasty (ABC) 121
175 Mal’s perception of state intervention 158; origins of the Reavers 156; political values and beliefs of characters 162–4; theme and characters 154–6; Western genre roots 160; Western tropes 160–2 Folk Metal: potential alignment with cultural national and politics 40; thematic content 43; see also Neofolk; Neofolk and Folk Metal food, research on the relationship between national identity and 7 Ford, John 161 Ford, S. 138 Fox, J.E. 6, 54, 81, 105, 109, 168 Fraga, L.R. 160 Francella, Guillermo 125–6, 129 François, S. 48 Friends (NBC) 122 gamergate 106 Gaonkar, D.P. 136–8 garden cultures 80 Garmana 38 Gellner, E. 3, 80 gendered perspectives: female education and the future of the Pakistani nation 89–91; female representation in Hottest 100 105–7; gender and ethnicity bias in the Hottest 100 104–5; gender equality in citizenship in Pakistan 91–3; gender equality measures in Argentina 128–9; Islam’s relationship with gender and politics 84; nationalism and gender 81–4; women and gender in Pakistan 84–7 Generation Identity: A Declaration of War Against the ‘68ers (Willinger) 50 Germany 39, 43, 48, 97 “Get Lucky” (Daft Punk) 104 Get Smart (NBC/CBS) 121–2 Gino (Canal 9) 121 Gitlin, T. 116 globalization 135 Goldsmith, P.G. 157–8 Gotye 102, 104 Gouri, Haim 68 Grabb, E. 159 Gramsci, A. 146 Grande Pá (Telefé) 121 Granholm, K. 38, 41, 48 graphic novels, research on the relationship between national identity and 7 A Great Game: The Forgotten Leafs and the Rise of Professional Hockey (Harper) 30
Green, J. 138 Gregg, M. 136 Grossberg, L. 136 Guibernau, M. 90 Habermas, J. 136 “Habibi Diali” 74 Hage, G. 11 Hall, S. 133 Hanke, R. 126 Harlap, I. 71 Harper, Stephen 21, 30 Harrison, George 102 Hartz, L. 158–60 ‘Heathen Tribes’ (Primordial) 44 hegemony 64–7, 146 Heidevolk 43, 53 Heilbronner, O. 38 Heinlein, Robert 157 Helvetios (Eluveitie) 43 Herbert, Frank 45 Herder, J.G. 2, 39 Hermida, L.M. 125 Hexentanz Festival 48 Hill, M.B. 156 Hinson, S.T. 157 La Historia Oficial (Puenzo) 121 Historica Canada 139 Hlehel, A. 74 Hobsbawm, E. 5–6, 80 hockey, relationship with Canadian identity 19 Holden car 99 Holocaust, examination of in Zaguri Empire 69–74 Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day 61–2, 70–1 Home Improvement (ABC) 126 Horton, Tim: appearance in Tim Hortons advertising 25; death 19, 26; iconic status 9; see also Tim Hortons Hottest 100 (triple j) 11, 101–3; democratic claims 103, 103–5; as enactment of banal nationalism 96; female representation 105–7; first countdown and growth 102; gender and ethnicity bias 104–5; lack of diversity 105; marginalization of Indigenous voices 107–9; as performance of alternate identity 104; petition to change the date of 108; predominance of Australian music 102; “Shake it Off” campaign 104–5; top songs with country of origin and ARIA rank 103; and the triple j listener base 104; see also triple j
176 Index Hubbs, N. 97 Hudood Ordinances 85 Hunter, D. 19 Huntington, S.P. 84, 158, 160 Hutchinson, J. 4 Iceland 38, 51 identitarianism 10, 44, 49–52, 55 Ignatieff, Michael 135 imagined community: Argentinians as 118; Hottest 100 poll as example of 103; print capitalism’s facilitation of nationalism through creation of 3, 8, 134 immigration 23; Canadian experience 21, 23, 31; representation in Argentinian cinema 118; role in Argentina’s formation 117; US experience 160 “I’m With Her” (Clinton campaign) 144 Indian residential schools 22 Indigenous Australians, disempowerment and exclusion of 108–9 Indigenous music in Australia, function of 108 Indigenous peoples: claims for land and sovereignty in Canada 20; cultural diversity 21; exclusion from national identity discourse 99, 109; marginalization of Indigenous voices in the Hottest 100 107–9; portrayal in the Western genre 161; and Tim Hortons 19; treatment of in Canada and the US 23 industrialization 3, 23 interpellation, Althusser’s theory 146 Ireland, Neofolk and Folk Metal bands 41 Islam: Burka Avenger’s commentary 92; relationship with gender and politics 84; Zia ul-Haq’s Islamization project 84–5 Israel 10; Arab Labor’s presentation of the Nakba 65–9; memorial days 61; memory of the holocaust in Zaguri Empire 69–74; producing nationalism in canonic ceremonies and memorial days 61–3; representing minority groups on television 63–5; split identity of Arab citizens 61 Italy 46 Jamaat-e-Islami 85 “January 26” (A.B. Original) 109 Jenkins, H. 138, 142 JET 102 Jewish-Israeli identity, examination of in Zaguri Empire 69–74 Jones, R. 7 Joy, Vance 106
176 Les Joyaux de la Princesse 41 Joy Division 39 Jun Wu, J. 108 Kackman, M. 119 Kali Yuga 53 Kashua, Sayed 61, 65–6 Katz, E. 134 Kauja Pie Saules (Skyforger) 45 Keating, R.J. 157 Kingsmill, Richard 106 Kings of Leon 102 Kirchner, Cristina 128–9 Korpiklaani 40–1 Kūlgrinda 46 Kutulas, J. 119, 121, 125 Kvetkovskis, Pēteris 44 Kymlicka, W. 2 Lackey, M. 157–8 Laclau, E. 133, 144–5 Latin 3 Latin American immigration, to the US 160 Leary, Dennis 102 Led Zeppelin 52 Lee, B. 136 Lewis, Ryan 104 The Liberal Tradition in America (Hartz) 158 license plates, research on the relationship between national identity and 8 Lipset, S.M. 159 LiPuma, E. 136 Lithuania 46 Lloyd, Alex 102 longue durée 4 Lorde 104 “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (Joy Division) 102 Lucaites, J.L. 159 Lucas, C. 41 Lumsk 43 Luxembourg 43 ma’abarot 71 Macklemore 104 Madsen, D.L. 161, 166 “Make America Great Again” 144–5 Malala incident, Burka Avenger and 88 Mama × 2 (Canal 9) 124 Married with Children (Fox) 11; Argentinian version 125; as “mock-macho situation comedy” 126; reception in Argentina 125–30; see also Casados con Hijos
177 Marx, K. 137 Masiello, F. 120 mass communication, “high holidays” of 134 Massumi, B. 136, 145 McCann, P. 97 McClintock, A. 82 McDermott, L. 29 media events: Dayan and Katz’s theory of 134; relevance of the concept 135 Media Events: The Live Broadcasting of History (Dayan & Katz) 134 Memorial Day for Israel’s Fallen Soldiers 61–2 memories, role of in ethnicity 4 Mendelson-Maoz, A. 10 Menem, Carlos 121, 128 Menuo Juodaragais Neofolk festival 48 Merriman, P. 7 Metallica 40 Metsatöll 43, 47 Mihelj, S. 141 militarism 30–1, 128 military, role in the formation of the American nation 162 military coups: Argentina 128; Pakistan 84 Miller-Idriss, C. 6, 9, 54, 81, 105, 110, 168 Mills, C.W. 160 minority nationalism 20, 66 Mizrahi Jews 10 modernity, emergence of the nation as a consequence of 80 Moon Far Away 45 Moynihan, M. 46, 51 multiculturalism 5, 11, 74, 101, 120 Mumtaz, K. 85 Murphy Brown (CBS) 122, 130 music: national identity role 36, 96–7; see also Neofolk “My Happiness” (Powderfinger) 102 Myrdal, G. 160 ‘My Sacred Grove’ (Metsatöll) 47 Nairn, T. 21, 24 Nakba, Arab Labor’s presentation of 65–9 The Nanny (CBS) 11; Argentinian versions 124; basic premise 122–3; comparison with The Sound of Music 123; contradictions in plot 124; reception in Argentina 122–4; as telenovela 123; see also La Niņera; Mama × 2 Naranja y Media (Telefé) 125 the nation: cultural conceptions 2–3; definition 2; as modern construct 80
national culture, role of in fostering a sense of national identity 2 national flags, research on the relationship between national identity and 8 national identity: common enemy and 90; ideological roots 133; non-elite actors’ role in construction of 167; role of sport and the mass media in inculcation of 5–6 National Identity, Popular Culture and Everyday Life (Edensor) 7 nationalism: corporate expressions of 20–1; in the everyday 80–1; and gender 81–4; inherent dynamic tension 21; as meaningful idiom in everyday life 54; media and 133–5; operation of in liberal democratic countries 20; as a product of representation 133–4; rise of 3; role of cultural conceptions of the nation 2 Nationalism and Modernism (Smith) 5 nationalism studies, domination of social sciences 9 nation branding 96, 142–3, 146 nation building 5, 10, 62 nationhood: deployment and manipulation by ordinary people 81; everyday nationhood 6–8, 12, 81, 168; objective marks of 116; as products of cultural and political practices 75 Neofolk: connection with ideology 51; festivals 48; the genre 38–41; pagan themes 48–9; poetics, pathways, and politics of neofolkish nationalism 41–9; and the post-war ‘roots revival’ 39; related genres 10, 39, 41; spatial dynamics 47 Neofolk and Folk Metal: challenge to the status quo 54; fascist imagery 52; geographic connections 46–8; international appeal 53; mapping 40; northern Europe’s domination 41; and pan-European transnationalism 49–54, 55; political ambiguity 53–4; prominent bands 42–3; Roman themes 44; stylistic and linguistic content 46; thematic content 43–5, 52; traditional instrumentation 38, 40–1, 46, 54 neoliberalism 30, 32, 50, 52 Netherlands 48 new metal 41 news media, research on the relationship between national identity and 8 Nieguth, T. 12 Night Profound 53 La Niņera (Telefé) 11, 124
178 Index niqab 24 “No Aphrodisiac” (The Whitlams) 102 Noland, T. 19 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) 23 northern Europe, domination of the Neofolk and Folk Metal scene 41 Norway 48; Neofolk and Folk Metal bands 41 nostalgia 30, 38, 139 nostalgic conservatism 21 Notwendfeuer (Darkwood) 53 Oasis 102 Offspring 102 :Of The Wand & The Moon: 52 Olympic games, and the dissemination of nationalism 1 Ormaechea, L. 120 paganism 39–40, 46, 48–9, 52–4 Pagnoni Berns, F. G. 11 Pakistan 11; female education and the future of the Pakistani nation 89–91; gender equality in citizenship 91–3; military coup 84; women and gender in 84–7; women’s activism 86–7; see also Burka Avenger Palmer, T.S. 23 Papá es un Idolo (Jusid) 125 Papá se volvió Loco (Ledo) 125 Paris 48 participation: affect theory and 145–6; circulation and 138, 146; as component of social imaginary 141–2; significance in affective economy of nationalism 140–1 Le Parti des Européens 51 patriotism 28, 30, 116, 136, 140 Peña, Florencia 125 Los Pérez García 119 Peron, Isabel 119 Peron, Juan Domingo 119, 128 Phillips, J. 11 Pink Floyd 52 Plūdons, Vilis 44 Pocock, J.G.A. 160 political messaging, in Burka Avenger 88 Pollard, M. 104 popular culture: as form of banal nationalism 123, 127; importance in nationalism discourse 167–8; influence over how individuals perceive
178 themselves 1; lack of attention to in nationalism scholarship 2, 5; transnationalist 37 populism 143–5 ‘positive othering’ 48 postage stamps, research on the relationship between national identity and 8 poverty and inequality, feminization and racialization of in Canada 31 Povinelli, E.A. 136–8 Powderfinger 102 “Pretty Fly for a White Guy” (Offspring) 102 Primordial 40–1, 43–4, 47–8 print capitalism 3, 8, 134, 146 propaganda 52, 86, 121, 145 quotidian literature on nationalism: everyday discourse 9; politics of Firefly and 167; relationship between national identity, communication, and the news media 8; sports analysis 8–9; themes 8–9 race, American national identity and 160 Radical Traditionalism (RT) 10, 51–3, 55 Rashid, Aaron Haroon 87–8 Reagan, Ronald 30 The Real Matilda (Dixon) 99 religion: as marker of American national identity 160; as marker of Argentinian national identity 117 representation, nationalism as a product of 133–4 residential schools 22 Restaurant Brands International 10, 28–9 Rice, Condoleezza 27 Richards, F. 97 The Rick Mercer Report (CBC) 139 Riley, E. 106 rise of nationalism 3 Rocha, C. 128 Roman Empire 44 ‘roots revival’ 39 Roseanne (ABC) 122, 130 Rouquié, A. 119, 128 Roy, S. 143 “Royals” (Lorde) 104 Saleh, L. 11 Samaris 38 same-sex marriage, legalization in Argentina 128
179 Sanchez, J. 157 Sarlos, E. 106 Saunders, R.A. 10 Scaddan, Chris 106–7 Schengen Accord 49 Scherer, J. 29 Schildkraut, D.J. 160 Scholl, Sophie 52 science fiction, advocation of liberty 157 secession 2 Segura, G.M. 160 Seigworth, G. 136 Senātus Populusque Rōmānus (SPQR) 44 Serenity (Joss Whedon) 153, 157 “Sex on Fire” (Kings of Leon) 102 Shaheed, F. 85–6 “Shake it Off” (Swift) 97, 104 Shaman 41 Shaw, P. 97 Shekhovtsov, A. 39, 41, 49 Sheppard, O. 52 She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (Ford) 162 “Shir Ha-Reut (The Song of Friendship)” (Gouri & Argov) 68 Shouse, E. 136 Sig:Ar:Tyr 43 Skey, M. 9 Skyforger 44 Smith, A.D. 2, 4 Smith, R.M. 160 social sciences, domination of nationalism studies 9 “Somebody I Used to Know” (Gotye) 102, 104 Son de Diez (Canal 13) 121 Sony Pictures Entertainment 125 Spain 97 Spiderbait 102 sport, literature on the link between nationalism and 8–9 Spotify 97 Spracklen, K. 41 spreadable media 138 Stagecoach (Ford) 161 Starsky and Hutch (ABC) 121 Stasiulis, D. 24 stateless nations 20–2 state profiling, on the Canada–US Border 23 state symbols, research on the relationship between national identity and 8 Steir-Livny, L. 10–11, 63, 71 stereotyping 24, 27, 64, 69, 74, 118
Stocker, B. 157 Stoddard, W.H. 157 Straughn, J.B. 160 Straw, W. 137 Strmiska, M. 46 Sumiala, J. 136–7 surveillance 138 Sutherland, C. 97 Sutherland, S. 156 Swan, S. 156 Swift, Taylor 11, 97, 104–5 Switzerland 46 Taliban 88–90 Tassa, Dudu 73 Tate, E. 157 #Tay4Hottest100 campaign 97, 109 Telefé 115–16, 121–2, 124–5 telenovela, as form of banal nationalism 123 Tenhi 41, 44 Thatcher, Margaret 30 “These Days” (Powderfinger) 102 This Hour Has 22 Minutes (CBC) 139 Thomas, M. 141 The Three Stooges (ABC) 121–2 “Thrift Shop” (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis) 104 Throbbing Gristle 39 Tim Hortons 10; American takeover 28; Canada’s national imaginary and 24–9; characteristics of “the Tim Hortons voter” 29; community-oriented good works 26; Condoleezza Rice visit 27; differing English and French marketing strategies 25–7; and “double double” phrasing 20; grand opening ceremony 19; increasing association with Canadian identity 26; Indigenous acceptance of the franchise 20; influence and reputation 27; marketing in Quebec 26; opening of first donut shop 24; outlet in Afghanistan 27, 31; pan-class appropriateness 24; place of in Harperstyle conservatism 29–32; and the power of popular culture and iconography 32; Scott Feschuk’s satirical pronouncement on iconic national status 28; susceptibility to a mythic and nostalgic conservatism 21; “True Stories” advertisements 26–7, 29; use of temporary foreign workers 31 Tim Hortons Children Foundation 26
180 Index Tolkien, J.R.R. 55 Tomlinson, G. 46 Toor, S. 86 To the Nameless Dead (Primordial) 44 transnationalism 10, 37, 53–5, 135 Los Tres Berretines (1933) 118 triple j: and Australian identity 102; demographic shift 104; gender bias of listenership 104; launch and identity 101; Sarlos’s proposal for quotas on 107; see also Hottest 100 Trudeau, Justin 24, 31 Trudeau, Pierre 140–1 Trump, Donald J. 143–5 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada 22 turbo folk 97 Turisas 41 Turner, Frederick Jackson 99 TYR: Myth-Culture-Tradition (journal) 51 United States: the American Revolution and 159; Latin American immigration 160; Trump’s campaign and presidency 143–5 unwaved flags, as symbol of the nation 81 Valaskivi, K. 136–7 van Elferen, I. 39 The Velvet Underground 39 Vietnam, participation in public events in 141 Volcic, Z. 96 Volksgeist 39
180 The Wall (Pink Floyd) 52 Walpurgisnacht 48 Ward, Russell 99, 109 Webb, P. 48, 53 Wellman, C.H. 2 Wendy’s 28 West, E. 12 Westergaard, M. 45 Whedon, Joss 12, 153, 155, 157, 161, 164; see also Firefly whiteness, neofolk’s fascination with 38 The Whitlams 102 Williams, R. 136 Willinger, M. 50 “Wonderwall” (Oasis) 102 Wonder Woman (ABC/CBS) 121 Wood, G.S. 160 ‘Your Gaulish War’ (Eluveitie) 43 Yousafzai, Malala 88 Yrigoyen, Hipolito 128 Yugoslavia 97; participation in public events in 141 Yuval-Davis, N. 10, 24 Zafar, Ali 87 Zaguri, Maor 61, 72 Zaguri Empire (Hot Cable TV) 10, 61; memory of the holocaust 69–74; popularity and viewing figures 69; theme and characters 69 Zia ul-Haq 84–7 Zina Ordinance 85–7 “Zombie” (Cranberries) 105