The time of the Nation: National Reproduction Beyond Representation

Wednesday, 23 March 2022, 5pm, HS 1

Ass.Prof. Dr. Nelli Piattoeva, Tampere University, Finland

In his classical book “Imagined Communities” Benedict Anderson identified how that imagined, territorially bounded community is produced in and with the help of ordering time. The community as a sociological organism moves through homogeneous, empty time structured by synchronized national clocks and calendars. It produces a “community in anonymity” by both representational and performative means. In Anderson’s original example, the novel and the newspaper played a dual role: they communicated particular representations of the nation, and enabled a steady, anonymous activity distributed in the bounded space of the nation-state.

The lecture is focused on the latter mechanism of national reproduction, that is, on how the nation is performed in educational settings beyond channeling a set of standardized representations. My interest is in the anonymity and simultaneity produced by institutionalized schedules, routines, rhythms and synchronicities of national, mandatory school examinations. I propose that the nation is made not just of what we collectively know or believe (and take for granted), but how the national habitus is shaped collectively by state-solicited temporal orders. In the world where other spaces of national temporal reproduction are becoming increasingly fragmented, such as national print media, television, leisure or work life, compulsory education system in general and national assessments in particular might offer rare occasions of engendering shared structures of experience through temporal prescription. This approach helps to understand how the nation continues to operate as an endemic condition beneath the surface, underpinning the national social order.