Remembering Harry: An Imagined Community?

On child_lit someone noted how extraordinary it was to be part of a world of readers that Saturday, July 21. To be aware that millions all over the world were all reading the same book you were. Incredible …. And so I am now fascinated by the way so many of us are experiencing this particular story. We often read and then extend our readings by talking about a particular book. Sometimes we see a movie of it too. And sometimes we may also read or see interviews with the author about the book. Hear them talk about their books and read from them. But I feel this is somehow different (or maybe just more). To have the story of Harry Potter heightened by Jim Dale, Rupert, Emma, and Daniel; by the online conversations, the release parties, Rowling’s interviews — all of this is turning it into a very interesting new kind of story I think. Does anyone else feel this way or am I just getting carried away?

After writing this in a post to the ccbc-net list serve yesterday I received an interesting email from Marc Aronson who suggested that this was what sociologist Benedict Anderson called the “imagined community.” One compelling example Marc offered was that of large numbers of people reading a particular part of a religious work all over the world at services on a particular holy day. Completely unfamiliar with this idea and curious to see if I could find a bit more about it in terms of books and reading, I did a little looking around and found this article about bloggers being an imagined community and this conference built around the idea, “The notion of the imagined community in our program title, of course, refers to Benedict Anderson’s concept of the nation as a particular kind of imagined community, in which experiences of commonality, and a sense of the self as being part of a wider national community, are to a large extent facilitated by shared practices of reading mass mediated texts.” Unfortunately, I truly don’t have the time to go down this path, but if anyone knows more and/or has some sources to explore, please do provide them in the comments. And, of course, if you just want to weigh in on the idea, please do that too!

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5 responses to “Remembering Harry: An Imagined Community?

  1. Imagined community? I would describe it more as a virtual community. There is nothing imaginary about it. People are communicating in heartfelt ways. But there is also a very REAL community of HP fans, in person, in fact a lot of real communities. Please go to my website (wozabooks.com) and scroll down on the home page to read my article about why I bought HP7 at my local bookstore. Real community is a major reason.
    Amy

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  2. Amy,

    If you read the articles I linked to you’ll get a better sense of Andersen’s ideas and how they can be applied to all sorts of very real communities including virtual ones.

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  3. Pingback: A Library By Any Other Name » Blog Archive » 820.9 Harry Potter: A Second File Folder of Sorts

  4. Some thoughts on “imaginary” and community.

    Several years ago, as we sat down for a Passover Seder, our hostess commented on the connection we were making at that very moment with others in the world, all participating at (more or less) the same time in this ritual meal, reading a shared tho varied text. Her words formed a powerful image in my head, a head prone to look for common threads and community.

    So we had both a real community (those of us gathered in that room), and an imagined one-those other folks breaking matzo all over the globe. There was no “brain meld” with my family in Boston as we read from the Haggadah, but we talked about our meals afterward.

    Not a as mass social phenomenon, for sure.

    Certainly simultaneous readings of religious texts can have a synergistic effect, and even create another “space” (trance states eg.). Mostly I think they reinforce the bonds and shared perceptions that we have with others in that community.

    Most of the time, the community, whether religious practice, work, neighborhood, or political organization. feels very “real”, but it is also imagined; it functions not just by the work that we as individuals put into it, but because we share a presumed common set of values, and of course in many cases, we are following rules. So most of the time we don’t notice its “imaginary” nature.

    Come Harry Potter, or a flight delay, or subways flooding or natural or man-made disasters, and we have a shared experience with others that creates a community outside of our usual borders.

    Cool.

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  5. Okay, another note. Just finished reading more on ccbc.net and am truly amazed/amused at the level of involvement and passion about HPVII, and other books. Reminded me a little of the world of Trekkies.

    It seems that frenzy might be an element in imagined community. Hype, too (someone mentioned Y2K as an example of group focus). What about all those online gamers? If they weren’t so busy playing, they might have a comment or two.

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