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The New Imagined Community

Global Media and the Construction of National and Muslim Identities of Migrants

Uriya Shavit is a fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies and teaches Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University. He specializes in the study of Muslim minorities in Europe and of democratic discourses in Arab societies. He is the author of Dawn of an Old Era: The Imaginary Revolution in the Middle East (2003) and The Wars of Democracy: The West and the Arabs from the Fall of Communism to the War in Iraq (2008, both in Hebrew). He is also the author of several articles on Islam in the West and democracy Arab conceptualization of Western democracy.

Advanced media technologies – satellite technology and the Internet – have transformed immigrants’ relations with their sending and receiving societies. In the first part of the book – “Imagining Nation States from Afar” – Uriya Shavit extends Benedict Anderson’s model of the nation as an imagined community. Discussion focuses on how immigrants are enabled to imagine their native national communities from afar, almost as if they never left their homelands. As a result, new typologies of migrants are created, such as the passive trans-national. A comprehensive analytic framework for the role of advanced media technologies in fostering relations between immigrants and their national communities of origin is presented. In addition the author explores, through biographical research with immigrants of diverse nationalities, the spectrum of responses imagination of national communities from afar invokes among different types of immigrants (the sojourner, the member of an ethnic community and the long-distance national).

The second part of the book – “Imagining the Muslim Nation from Afar” – is an exploration of how Muslim-Arab religious scholars, envisioning the rise of a global Muslim nation, have developed over the past thirty years a theory that tasks Muslims living in the West with specific duties within the framework of their anticipated global Muslim nation. These Muslim-Arab religious scholars and other advocates were quick to discover the merits of advanced media technologies in enhancing their vision of global Islam. The author’s biographical field research was conducted with devout Muslims who migrated from Arab countries in five mosques in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. His research illustrates how the proliferation of this global Muslim media plays an increasingly important – albeit limited – role in shaping the identity of Muslim immigrants. These specific challenges to the foundations of the modern liberal nation state are ripe for discussion given the world-wide concern over immigration and its consequences.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-328-7
Hardback Price: £49.95 / $74.95
Release Date: September 2009
Page Extent / Format: 256 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No




Part One Imagination from Afar — The Nation-State
1 The Territorial Dimension of Modern National Imageries

2 National Imageries and Modern Migration

3 Imagination from Afar: Internet, Satellite Television and Migration

4 Imagining the Homeland from Afar
Summary of Part One

Part Two Imagination from Afar — The Muslim Nation
5 Constructing the Identity of Muslim Immigrants
in the West: The Theoretical Makings of an Imagined
Global Nation

6 Global Media for a Global Nation: Advanced Technologies in the Service of the Ummah

7 The Muslim Nation: European and German Contexts

8 Imagining the Muslim Nation from Afar

Summary of Part Two


An extremely interesting, important and innovative contribution for the understanding of a major new phenomena in the contemporary scene – namely the crystallization, especially through the electronic media, of a new type of collective identity – of a new translocal Muslim diasporic imagined community.
Prof. S.N. Eisenstadt, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Van Leer Institute

Uriya Shavit has assembled a thought-provoking and fascinating study of how migrants and their descendants re-imagine their ethnic and religious communities in the diaspora. His examination of the use of new media – from satellite television to internet news sites – unpacks complex processes of identity construction, and his field interviews are a valuable resource for understanding contemporary integration processes. Highly recommended for anyone interested in contemporary Muslim politics and the fostering of a transnational Umma in Europe.
Jonathan Laurence, Boston College

Uriya Shavit’s book is a timely and very interesting contribution, exploring issues of national identities and ‘Muslim’ affiliation for migrants in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, in a nuanced and thoughtful way. Shavit's particular focus is the role of new technologies, specifically satellite television and the internet, in potentially enabling the growth and maintenance of ‘national identities’, whether from their country of origin, or a global Ummah identity, amongst migrant communities. In doing so, he provides detailed factual discussion of the growth both of satellite channels aimed at migrant communities in Germany generally, and of the various Islamic channels and websites aimed specifically at propagating various strands of Islamic teaching to the wider world. This is presented within a clear analytical framework, whereby Shavit extends Benedict Anderson's concept of the nation as an ‘imagined community’ to the influence of these new technologies, which have the potential to allow individual migrants a ‘real time’, continued involvement in their imagined ‘nation’ without having to make renewed contact either with that nation in its physical form or with other local migrants of the same background. This new reality is explored through sensitive presentation of biographical field research that explored individuals’ use of new technology and its contribution to how they understood their identity, whether national or Islamic. This data in Part 1 clearly illustrates the extent to which the belief that new technology creates one ‘global village’ undifferentiated by nationality or ethnicity was misplaced; instead, this evidence indicates that it has enabled the maintenance of a series of national villages no longer restricted to their physical locations. Shavit's data suggest that this development presents a real challenge for national cohesion in multicultural societies, negatively impacting on migrants’ language acquisition and local involvement. Having said that, these impacts seem particularly problematic for first generation migrants who are already economically and socially marginalized, suggesting that strategies to address that marginalization are vital. Similarly, the locally born children of these migrants have far less interest in, and experience fewer tensions concerning, the identity issues presented through these technologies.
... This is an absorbing and topical book that deserves a wide audience.
Paul Thomas, School of Education and Professional Development, University of Huddersfield, UK, writing in National Identities journal

Countering the popular assumption that satellite television and the internet are turning the world into one global village where national identities erode, Shavit argues that the technology in fact creates a world where instruments essential to the infusion and endurance of national sentiments are extended outside national boundaries, so the imagination of the nation can be nearly as vivid in exile as at home. He considers such topics as the territorial dimension of modern national imageries, national imageries and modern migration, and imagining the homeland from afar. Then he turns to his case study – the Muslim immigrants in the West, advanced technologies in the service of the ummah, European and German contexts of the Muslim nation, and imagining the Muslim nation from afar.
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