Banal nationalism

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The Pledge of Allegiance in the United States is one of the most overt forms of banal nationalism – most are less obvious.[citation needed]

Banal nationalism refers to the everyday representations of the nation which build a shared sense of national belonging amongst humans. The term is derived from Michael Billig's 1995 book of the same name[1] and is intended to be understood critically. The concept has been highly influential, particularly within the discipline of political geography, with continued academic interest since its publication in the 1990s.[2] Today the term is used primarily in academic discussion of identity formation and geopolitics.

Examples of banal nationalism include the use of flags in everyday contexts, sporting events, national songs, symbols on money,[3] popular expressions and turns of phrase, patriotic clubs, the use of implied togetherness in the national press, for example, the use of terms such as the prime minister, the weather, our team, and divisions into "domestic" and "international" news. Many of these symbols are most effective because of their constant repetition, and almost subliminal nature. Banal nationalism is often created via state institutions such as schools.[4]

Michael Billig's primary purpose in coining the term was to clearly differentiate everyday, endemic nationalism from extremist variants. He argued that the academic and journalistic focus on extreme nationalists, independence movements, and xenophobes in the 1980s and 1990s obscured the modern strength and the most common strain of contemporary nationalism, by implying that it was a fringe ideology.[2] He noted the almost unspoken assumption of the utmost importance of the nation in political discourse of the time, for example in the calls to protect Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War, or the Falkland Islands in 1982. He argues that the "hidden" nature of modern nationalism makes it a very powerful ideology, partially because it remains largely unexamined and unchallenged, yet remains the basis for powerful political movements, and most political violence in the world today. Banal nationalism should not be thought of as a weak form of nationalism, but the basis for "dangerous nationalisms"[5] However, in earlier times calls to the "nation" were not as important, when religion, monarchy or family might have been invoked more successfully to mobilize action. He also uses the concept to dispute post-modernist claims that the nation-state is in decline, noting particularly the continued hegemonic power of American nationalism.



  1. ^ Boczkowski 1999, pp. 93, 105.
  2. ^ a b Koch & Paasi 2016.
  3. ^ Penrose 2011.
  4. ^ Piller, Ingrid (2017). "The Banal Nationalism of Intercultural Communication Advice". Language on the Move. ISSN 2203-5001. Retrieved 10 June 2018. 
  5. ^ Wade, Lisa (2014). "Banal Nationalism". Sociological Images. The Society Pages. Retrieved 10 June 2018. 


Boczkowski, Pablo J. (1999). "Mutual Shaping of Users and Technologies in a National Virtual Community". Journal of Communication. 49 (2): 86–108. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.1999.tb02795.x. ISSN 1460-2466. 
Koch, Natalie; Paasi, Anssi (2016). "Banal Nationalism 20 Years on: Re-Thinking, Re-Formulating and Re-Contextualizing the Concept". Political Geography. 54: 1–6. doi:10.1016/j.polgeo.2016.06.002. 
Penrose, Jan (2011). "Designing the Nation: Banknotes, Banal Nationalism and Alternative Conceptions of the State". Political Geography. 30 (8): 429–440. doi:10.1016/j.polgeo.2011.09.007. 

Further reading[edit]

Billig, Michael (1995). Banal Nationalism. London: Sage Publications. 
Skey, Michael (2009). "The National in Everyday Life: A Critical Engagement with Michael Billig's Thesis of Banal Nationalism". The Sociological Review. 57 (2): 331–346. doi:10.1111/j.1467-954X.2009.01832.x. ISSN 1467-954X. 

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