Asia from the Sign’s Eye View: Imaginability, Scalability, and Revitalizability: Part B

Author: Josh Babcock, Kenzell Huggin, Jay Schutte, Moodjalin Sudcharoen (University Of Chicago)
Speaker: Josh Babcock, Kenzell Huggin, Jay Schutte, Moodjalin Sudcharoen
Topic: Linguistic Anthropology
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 Colloquium Session

Panel Abstract

In an “anthropological spirit,” Benedict Anderson proposed the now-famous definition of nation as “an imagined political community—and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign” (2006[1983]:5–6). This panel seeks to further the spirit of his analysis by taking linguistic anthropology’s “sign’s eye view” (Silverstein 2004:631) to examine the contemporary semiotic production of “nation” in Asia. Instead of treating Imagined Communities as a universal thesis, participants in this panel read this book as offering three insights into the cultural phenomenology of nationalism (to varying degrees of explicitness): a recognition of specific semiotic technologies that index the nation in modern societies; sites of participatory ritual incorporation into the nation-state form through; and the historical context of movements for “self-determination,” especially in Asia. In addition to these frequently discussed aspects of the work, panelists reconsider the centrality of Asia, especially Southeast and East Asia, in Anderson’s account. Inspired by new situations in these areas and the post-cold-war possibility of “Asia as Method” (Chen 2010), together, they ask: how can the semiotic analysis of emergent images, ideologies, contexts, communications, technologies, and theories, continue to reformulate our understandings of nation-formation; post-colonial- and post-imperial narration; and revitalization of tradition in contemporary Asia? And through the intellectual exchange in the form of colloquia, in particular, we hope to further our reflection on the (semiotic) imaginability, scalability, and revitalizability of Asia or its heterogeneous components.


Anderson, Benedict 2006[1983] Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.

Chen, Kuan-Hsing 2010 Asia as Method: Toward Deimperialization. Durham: Duke University Press.
Silverstein, Michael 2004 ‘Cultural’ Concepts and the Language‐Culture Nexus. Current Anthropology 45 (5): 621–52.