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Importance of citizens for building of a new nation brand
29 October 2012
What role do new media play in creating the content of the concept of a nation? Today there’s a great deal of interest in marketing the distinctive character of countries as brands in a global market. The sociologist Magdalena Kania-Lundholm shows that new media can be a positive democratic force when countries undergoing dramatic change seek a new national identity.
Today the concept of nationalism often has negative connotations, as it is associated with extremist groups in society. These groups have appropriated nationalism. At the same time nations are also being treated as brands, entailing that the rhetoric surrounding what the nation is reaches into our daily lives.
“But nationalism is still the strongest form of collective creation of identity in our time”, says Magdalena Kania-Lundholm.
In her dissertation, which she will publicly defend at Uppsala University on 26 October, she starts out with the notion that nationalism is an ideology that is created in everyday life when citizens communicate with each other about how they view their country. In this connection she discusses research on the concept of ‘nation branding’, where the nation is regarded as a brand that citizens can identify with, at the same time as it distinguishes them from other countries.
“This growing form of nation marketing creates coherent images of the nation to attract tourists, foreign capital, and other interested parties”, explains Magdalena Kania-Lundholm.
In her dissertation she uses Poland as an example. Several post-communist and other developing countries that are undergoing a process of transformation are attempting to use nation branding to challenge prevailing negative stereotypes in order to gain advantages in the global market. However, Kania-Lundholm levels criticism against conventional assumptions about nation branding, examining instead citizens’ active participation in debates about the national identity and the national brand. In this context she launches the concept of nation re-branding, which captures how ordinary people negotiate with the elites’ images of the nation.
“Today there is an alternative nation branding by citizens in discussion forums and citizen journalism on the Internet. Thanks to digital media, citizens can participate in the construction of a new national brand in a broader democratic movement”, she says.
Although the dissertation’s empirical material focuses on how Polish citizens participate in the discussion about the national brand, the idea of nation re-branding is applicable in all contexts where a new, attractive, and more positive national identity is at stake, maintains Magdalena Kania-Lundholm.
“This is a dynamic and ambivalent process that treats both the new and the old brand, treating history and the future equally. It affects not only the external image of the nation but also the internal image, that is, how we view ourselves”, she says.