Benedict Richard O'Gorman Anderson (August 26, 1936 – December 13, 2015) was a Chinese
-born Anglo-Irish political scientist
who lived and taught in the United States. Anderson is best known for his 1983 book ''Imagined Communities
'', which explored the origins of nationalism
. A polyglot with an interest in southeast Asia, he was the Aaron L. Binenkorb Professor Emeritus
of International Studies, Government & Asian Studies at Cornell University
. His work on the "Cornell Paper
", which debunked the official story of Indonesia
's 30 September Movement
and the subsequent anti-Communist purges of 1965–1966
, led to his expulsion from that country. Benedict Anderson was the elder brother of the historian Perry Anderson
Anderson was born on August 26, 1936, in Kunming
, China, to an Anglo-Irish father and English mother.
His father, James Carew O'Gorman Anderson, was an official with Chinese Maritime Customs
The family descended from the Anderson family
of Ardbrake, Bothriphnie
, Scotland, who settled in Ireland in the early 1700s.
Anderson's maternal grandfather Trevor Bigham
was the Deputy Commissioner
of the Metropolitan Police
from 1914 to 1931. One of Anderson's grandmothers, Lady Frances O'Gorman, belonged to the Gaelic Mac Gormáin clan
of County Clare
and was the daughter of the Irish Home Rule MP
Major Purcell O'Gorman.
Major Purcell O'Gorman was in turn the son of Nicholas Purcell O'Gorman who had been involved with the Republican Society of United Irishmen
during the 1798 Rising
, later becoming Secretary of the Catholic Association
in the 1820s. Benedict Anderson took his middle names from the cousin of Major Purcell O'Gorman, Richard O'Gorman, who was one of the leaders of the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848
California, Ireland and Cambridge
Anderson's family moved to California
in 1941 to avoid the invading Japanese during the Second Sino-Japanese War
and then to Ireland
He studied at Eton College
, where he won the Newcastle Scholarship
, and went on to attend King's College, Cambridge
. While at Cambridge, he became an anti-imperialist during the Suez Crisis
, which influenced his later work as a Marxist
Southeast Asia studies
He earned a classics degree from Cambridge in 1957 before attending Cornell University
, where he concentrated on Indonesia
as a research interest and in 1967 received his Ph.D. in government studies.
His doctoral advisor at Cornell was Southeast Asian scholar George Kahin
following the September 1965 coup attempt
that led to Suharto
taking power in Indonesia disillusioned Anderson, who wrote that it "felt like discovering that a loved one is a murderer".
Therefore, while Anderson was still a graduate student at Cornell, he anonymously co-wrote the "Cornell Paper
" with Ruth T. McVey that debunked the official Indonesian government accounts of the abortive coup of the 30 September Movement
and the subsequent anti-Communist purges of 1965–66
The "Cornell Paper" was widely disseminated by Indonesian dissidents.
One of two foreign witnesses at the show trial
of Communist Party of Indonesia
general secretary Sudisman
in 1971, Anderson published a translated version of the latter's unsuccessful testimony.
As a result of his actions, Anderson was in 1972 expelled from Indonesia and banned from reentering, a restriction that lasted until 1998 when Suharto resigned to be replaced by B.J. Habibie
Anderson was fluent in many languages relevant to his Southeast Asian field, including Indonesian
, as well as the major European languages.
After the American experience in the Vietnam War
and the subsequent wars between Communist nations such as the Cambodian–Vietnamese War
and the Sino-Vietnamese War
, he began studying the origins of nationalism while continuing his previous work on the relationship between language and power.
Anderson is best known for his 1983 book ''Imagined Communities
'', in which he described the major factors contributing to the emergence of nationalism
in the world during the past three centuries.
Anderson defined a nation as "an imagined political community hat is
imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign".
[Anderson, Benedict. ''Imagined Communities'', p. 6. ]
(See below for a more extensive discussion.)
Anderson was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
in 1994. In 1998, Anderson's return trip to Indonesia was sponsored by the Indonesian ''Tempo''
publication, and he gave a public speech in which he criticized the Indonesia opposition for "its timidity and historical amnesia—especially with regard to the massacres of 1965–1966".
He taught at Cornell until his retirement in 2002, when he became a professor emeritus
of International Studies.
After his retirement, he spent most of his time traveling throughout South East Asia. Anderson died in Batu, Malang
, Indonesia, in his sleep on December 13, 2015. According to close friend Tariq Ali
, Anderson died of heart failure.
He had been in the middle of translating his memoir, ''A Life Beyond Boundaries,'' from Japanese to English, and was survived by two adopted sons of Indonesian origin.
Anderson is best known for his 1983 book, ''Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism'', in which he examined how nationalism led to the creation of nations, or as the title puts it, imagined communities.
In this case, an "imagined community
" does not mean that a national community is fake, but rather refers to Anderson's position that any community so large that its members do not know each another on a face-to-face basis must be imagined to some degree.
According to Anderson, previous Marxist and liberal
thinkers did not fully appreciate nationalism's power, writing in his book that "Unlike most other isms, nationalism has never produced its own grand thinkers: no Hobbeses
Anderson begins his work by bringing up three paradoxes of nationalism that he would address in the work:
# Nationalism is a recent and modern creation despite nations being thought of by most people as old and timeless;
# Nationalism is universal in that every individual belongs to a nation, yet each nation is supposedly completely distinct from every other nation;
# Nationalism is an idea so influential that people will die for their nations, yet at the same time an idea difficult to define.
In Anderson's theory of nationalism, the phenomenon only came about as people began rejecting three key beliefs about their society:
# That certain languages such as Latin
were superior to others in respect to access to universal truths;
# That divine right to rule
was granted to the rulers of society, usually monarchs
, and was a natural basis for organizing society;
# That the origins of the world and the origins of humankind were the same.
Anderson argued that the prerequisites for the rejection of these beliefs began in Western Europe through the numerous factors that led to the Age of Enlightenment
, such as the power of economics, the scientific revolution
, and the advent of improvements in communication brought about by the invention of the printing press
under a system of capitalism
(or as Anderson calls it, print capitalism
Anderson's view of nationalism places the roots of the notion of "nation" at the end of the 18th century when a replacement system began, not in Europe, but in the Western Hemisphere, when countries such as Brazil
, the United States
, and the newly freed Spanish colonies became the first to develop a national consciousness
Therefore, in contrast to other thinkers such as Ernest Gellner
, who considered the spread of nationalism in connection with industrialism
in Western Europe
, and Elie Kedourie
, who construed nationalism as a European phenomenon carried around the world by colonization,
Anderson sees the European nation state
as a response to the rise of nationalism in the European diaspora beyond the oceans, especially in the Western Hemisphere, which was then retransmitted to Africa and Asia through colonization.
Anderson considers nation state building as an imitative and transportable action, in which new political entities were copying the model of the nation state.
As Anderson sees it, the large cluster of political entities that sprang up in North America and South America between 1778 and 1838, almost all of which self-consciously defined themselves as nations, were historically the first such states to emerge and therefore inevitably provided the first real model of what such states should look like.
According to Anderson, this phenomenon led to the rise of nations: communities that were limited by their borders and were sovereign
Anderson conceived nationalism as having come about in different "waves."
Nationalism and print
Like other thinkers such as Marshall McLuhan
in his ''The Gutenberg Galaxy
'', of particular importance to Anderson's theory on nationalism is his stress on the role of printed literature and its dissemination.
Thinkers like McLuhan, Elizabeth Eisenstein
, and Anderson did not believe that nationalism came about because of a vaguely-defined "European" way of thinking, but because of the social, economic, and cultural practices associated with the rise of the printing press and the mass reproduction of printed material.
According to Anderson, "the revolutionary vernacularizing thrust of capitalism" was central to the creation of imagined communities, as the mass mechanical reproduction of printed works united people that would otherwise have found it difficult to imagine themselves as part of the same community, mainly because of extreme linguistic differences.
With the advent of the printing press, languages became more stable and certain dialects became "languages of power" (such as the Queen's English
in the United Kingdom) that were inherently more prestigious than sub-regional vernacular dialects.
Print capitalism also meant a culture in which people were required to be socialized as part of a literate culture, in which the standardized language of their nation became both the language of printed material and education for the masses.
Fellow nationalism scholar Steven Kemper
described the role of print technology in Anderson's theory as "makng
possible for enormous numbers of people to know of one another indirectly, for the printing press bec
e the middleman to the imagination of the community." Kemper also stated that for Anderson the "very existence and regularity of newspapers caused readers, and thus citizens-in-the-making, to imagine themselves residing in a common time and place, united by a print language with a league of anonymous equals."
Therefore, for Anderson, the rise of print technology was essential to create the "deep horizontal comradeship" that despite its socially constructed origins, was also genuine and deep-seated, explaining why nationalism can drive people to fight, die, and kill for their countries.
Anderson also studied how the 19th century European dynasties that represented retention of power over huge polyglot domains, underwent naturalization at the same time as they developed programs of official nationalism in a process that he called the "willed merger of nation and dynastic empire". Anderson considered the empire as solely a pre-modern, "dynastic realm" and focused his attention on the official nationalism in multiethnic empires (e.g. the Russian Official Nationality
), programs that he described as "reactionary, secondary modelling". Whereas previously, the legitimacy of European dynasties had nothing to do with nationalness, Anderson argued that after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian
, and Russian
empires in the aftermath of World War I
, the nation-state superseded the empire as the norm in international affairs, as demonstrated by how delegates from the imperial powers in the post-war League of Nations
were careful to present themselves as national delegates instead of imperial ones.
In a statistical overview derived from writings by and about Benedict Anderson, OCLC
encompasses roughly 100+ works in 400+ publications in 20+ languages and 7,500+ library holdings.
* ''Some Aspects of Indonesian Politics under the Japanese Occupation: 1944–1945'' (1961)
* ''Mythology and the Tolerance of the Javanese'' (1965)
* ''Java in a Time of Revolution; Occupation and Resistance, 1944–1946'' (1972)
* With Ruth T. McVey.
* "Withdrawal Symptoms" (1976), his most influential work in Thailand,
* ''Religion and Social Ethos in Indonesia'' (1977)
* ''Interpreting Indonesian Politics: Thirteen Contributions to the Debate'' (1982)
* ''Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism
'' (1983; second edition, 1991 and later printings)
*''In the Mirror: Literature and Politics in Siam in the American Era'' (1985)
* ''Language and Power: Exploring Political Cultures in Indonesia'' (1990)
* ''The Spectre of Comparisons: Nationalism, Southeast Asia, and the World'' (1998)
* ''Violence and the State in Suharto's Indonesia'' (2001)
* ''Western Nationalism and Eastern Nationalism: Is there a difference that matters?'' (2001)
* ''Debating World Literature'' (2004)
* ''Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination'' (2005)
* ''Why Counting Counts: A Study of Forms of Consciousness and Problems of Language in Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo'' (2008)
*''The Fate of Rural Hell: Asceticism and Desire in Buddhist Thailand'' (2012)
* ''A Life Beyond Boundaries: A Memoir'' (2016)
* Association for Asian Studies
(AAS), 1998 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies.
* Guggenheim Fellowship
, 1982 for work in political science.
* Fukuoka Prize
, 2000 Academic Prize.
* Social Science Research Council
, 2011 Albert O. Hirschman Prize.
* Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia
, Economic and Social Science Prize at the 1st Annual Asia Cosmopolitan Awards
"When the virtual becomes real" National Institute for Research Advancement
"I like nationalism's utopian elements,"University of Oslo
"Interview with Benedict Anderson"Invisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture
Spring 2009. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
An excerpt from ''Imagined Communities'' (1983).
* about "Imagined communities" and Indonesia (In mijn vaders huis, 1994). While the preamble is in Dutch, the interview is in English with Dutch subtitles.
Interviews with Anderson
A Talk with Benedict Anderson, (Spring 1996).
Interview with Benedict Anderson by William Seaman ''ZMagazine'' (December 1996).
Interview with Anderson
''Invisible Culture'' (Spring 2009).
Articles by Anderson
by Anderson, (May 11, 2001).
Anderson on Anti-Americanisms, a book review in ''BOOKFORUM'', (December/January 2005).
In the NLR
"Petruk Dadi Ratu"
New Left Review article on Indonesia G30S Coup D'État, (May–June 2010).
Archive of articles
written by Anderson in the ''New Left Review'' (1986-2016) (requires subscription from some articles).
University of Oslo (2005).
of ''Under Three Flags'' by Meredith L. Weiss (February 13, 2006).
Category:American political scientists
Category:Cornell University alumni
Category:Cornell University faculty
Category:Scholars of nationalism
Category:Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Category:Alumni of King's College, Cambridge
Category:People educated at Eton College
Category:Irish emigrants to the United States
Category:People from Kunming
Category:Historians of Southeast Asia
Category:Writers from Yunnan
Category:Educators from Yunnan