The Road Not Taken

UPDATE: If you’ve come to this post looking for information about content analysis, you might be better served looking here, where I’ve written up a more detailed and logical post.

I have been doing some considerable reading for the last fortnight and I came across one text that has thrown me a bit. The problem is the author writes quite strongly that national identity is “a conceptual chimera not worthy of serious analytical pursuit. It is a concept that is theoretically vapid while also lacking clear empirical referents” (Malesevic 2011: 272-73). Which is fine, as everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, after reading and re-reading this essay, I agree. Which leaves me in a bad position given one of my research questions is “How is American national identity constructed in The Simpsons?”

So, I compared the arguments of this new work with Benedict Anderson’s ideas and found that they’re not incompatible inasmuch as Anderson talks about the construction of nationalism, not the construction of national identity. It also cleared up something I had struggled with about Anderson’s work and that was that he didn’t say much of what tied people to nations. He mostly concentrated on finding why nation and nationalism came to be rather than what they are.

So, where does this leave me?

Well, I’ve re-written some of the draft and altered one of the research questions. On the whole, I think it makes the arguments stronger, makes the use of content analysis easier and more relevant, and narrows the focus of the thesis a little more (because I can avoid questions of whether the characters see themselves as American or whatever, and just focus on how they are positioned).

I hope, however, that I don’t look back forlornly on the decision as Robert Frost’s famous poem would have me do:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Malesevic, S. (2011). The chimera of national identity. Nations and Nationalism, 17(2), 272-290. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8129.2010.00479.x

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