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German Media and National Identity By Sanna Inthorn

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German Media and National Identity


What is a nation and what makes national identity? While academic debate grapples with the complexity of these questions, popular culture offers ready-made, seemingly simple answers to those in search of a national self. In the world of online chats and commercial or private Internet sites, we can find many a guide on what it means to be French, German, or English, for example. Popular with many creators of personal homepages seems to be the “Top 10 Reasons for Being…” list, which identifies all that is good about having a particular nationality.1 The top 10 reasons for being French, so it seems, include the benefits of “sounding gay” when speaking fast, a diet of “insect food like snails and frog legs”, and the chance of “surrendering early” in a war. Benefits of being English appear to include having won “two World Wars and one World Cup”, “Union Jack underpants”, and not “being Welsh”.

These examples tell us that national identity is essentially relational (Woodward, 1997, p. 12). It is based on difference and establishes a dichotomy of in-groups and out-groups: Being English means not being Welsh, and it also means not being French. This difference is often marked symbolically (Woodward), be it, for example, through Union Jack underwear or the assertion of differences in national diet.