The ‘everyday’ of banal nationalism – ordinary people’s views on Italy and Italian

2015-09-04T15:35:37Z (GMT) by Marco Antonsich
In 1995, Banal Nationalism set a new way to study nationhood. Away from the traditional concern with its historical origins (‘when’) and its substantialist features (‘what’), Banal Nationalism offered a systematic analysis of its reproduction (‘how’). Informed by social and discursive psychology, Billig pointed to the role played by familiar, unremarkable ‘little words’ (deixis) to explain the persistence and pervasiveness of the idea of a world divided into nations. The present article aims to expand Billig's seminal study on the reproduction of nationalism, by incorporating an ‘everyday nationhood’ perspective, which attends more closely to human agency and contextual interaction. To give empirical substance to this move, the article relies on photo-elicitation group discussions and written essays collected in a vocational school in Milan, Italy, among an ethno-culturally diverse sample. By bringing the voices of people in as active producers of national meanings, the article offers a more complex picture of a world banally divided into nations. Both a national ‘we’ and a national ‘here’ emerge in fact as socio-spatially differentiated, fragmented and articulated at a plurality of scales, thus defying the logical linearity of banal nationalism, which unwittingly reproduces nations as singular, internally homogenous discursive entities. The article concludes by arguing for the need to complement the banal with the everyday in order to more fully capture processes of national reproduction in contexts of increasing ethno-cultural diversity.