GLOBAL ISSUES, WESTERN FOCI: BANAL OCCIDENTALISM IN A FINNISH NEWSPAPER
Abstract‘The West’ is an imagined community par excellence with a plethora of connotations that often contradict each other. Although it is often not at all certain exactly what the West or things Western refer to, the concepts are used as if there was some distinct cultural reality corresponding to them. Like any other ethnic group, tribe, nation state, or even village, the West is both fantasy and real, a social construction and, to some extent, an observable social formation. The Western world exists because people believe in its unity and share the connotations but also for a more mundane—or banal—reason: because these are constantly expressed in text and speech. This article examines the news texts of Helsingin Sanomat, the leading Finnish daily newspaper, and focuses on what I call banal Occidentalism, the way the West is evoked and reproduced by virtue of repetition of its name and its derivatives. According to the data I have analyzed it seems that the usual building blocks of a community–symbolism, ethnicity, myths, and memories–are not the only way to strengthen a sense of the West’s unity. Like any collective rituals, the product of journalism is partly a communal ceremony with a phatic function in the Malinowskian sense.
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