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Meeting Benedict Anderson 
13th-Apr-2013 07:51 pm
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O once asked me who I was a fan of. It was smart of him to ask. :) I realized it was the first time I seriously considered the idea of fangirling for anyone. But that is another story.

I should have told him I was a fan of Benedict Anderson, the one who imagined Imagined Communities, the phrase that has lived on in my memory for the last eight years. His book of the same title captured my imagination as a cynical eighteen year old and I use the phrase every chance I get which isn't very often but useful, always, when I think about love of country.

What exactly did he say? Here was his idea of a nation:

“I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion... Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity or genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined.... Finally, [the nation] is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately, it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willing to die for such limited imaginings.”

Anderson underscores an obvious point: that a populace is loyal to their motherland because in the minds of each lives the image of their communion, and with this imagination the populace is willing to die for their motherland if need be even though they are unable to meet most of their fellow members. The only bond they have with every single person of the population is the imagination of their kinship mostly because they live in a shared space and they have collective memories.

Needless to say, my eighteen year old self was blown away. :) I carried his words in my cynical heart, and I believe it was because of his book (and Rizal's) that I eventually nurtured my love for this country.

I never thought I would meet this man at that time, it was enough for me to have come across such powerful ideas in my P-tang I-a 100 class in my third year in college.

Fast forward to day 70 of 2013 and I find myself attending a forum my grad school jointly organized with other UP departments. A Conversation with Benedict Anderson was a momentous event, at least, for the geek/Gabriela in me. Funny how I was able to attend: first because I was invited :) by Asian Center and because my boss knows him personally. Ben Anderson was actually the THESIS ADVISER of my boss when he was studying as a Phd student in Cornell University. So I told the boss I was a fan, that I read his book in college and so on. The boss was mildly surprised.

The forum was arranged as a panel interview - professors of the Asian Center asked him many interesting questions on binary or even multiple nationalisms (as experienced by diasporic individuals), on the many similarities that the Philippines shared with Latin America more than its Southeast Asian neighbors among others. It was just too bad that he spoke so softly and the audio failed to magnify his voice.

That was the first "meet and greet" I have ever attended as a fan. And I wasn't the only fangirl/boy, of course. All of us waited patiently in line for his signature and the shortest/longest conversation we will ever have with him. When my turn came, I told him my nickname. "Coco Martin?" Hahaha. I get that a lot. And I know why he knows all about Coco Martin. "Isn't this a name for boys?" "For girls, also." :)))

I want to hang this on a frame.

Anvil ran out of copies of Imagined Communities, I only have a photocopy. What they had at the event was Under Three Flags which I bought for a discounted price and which eventually inspired the essay I submitted for my PS201 class. Yes, I take note of the small coincidences. :)

... and a lifetime.Fangirl for a day

I thank the Universe for this day. I was one happy fangirl that morning.

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