By Margar Sleeboom
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Additional resources for Academic Nationalism in China and Japan: Framed in Concepts of Nature, Culture and the Universal (Nissan Institute Routledge Japanese Studies Series)
During that time, the primitive people who were in awe of the giant python began to use it as a tribal totem. Later still, when tribal society entered class society during the Shang and Zhou dynasties, it was only natural that the dragon was mythologized and beautified, especially as chiefs used the dragon as their symbol. Yang can also explain how the dragon could have been found even at the northern latitude of thirty-five to forty degrees. Yang relates that, during the post-glacial period, the sea level was much higher and the whole world plagued by floods.
In this chapter, I discuss the role of academics in the creation of national symbolism. Using some examples of historical and anthropological interpretations of the notion of the dragon, I argue that the cognitive aspect of nationalism is of crucial importance to the efficacy of national symbols. Feeding (on) symbolic power Neither instrumentalist nor functionalist approaches can adequately explain the history of nationhood. On the one hand, the instrumentalist approach cannot account for the force with which nationalism is pursued and ignores the subjective functions of nationalist expression.
A rationalist approach to understanding symbolic manipulation can hardly appreciate the zest with which symbols are presented, and easily passes over the contributions to symbolic life made by those who receive, internalize and alter them as they are applied in day-to-day affairs. The symbolical approach of Mary Douglas argues that highly charged symbols might be emotionally manipulated for political purposes with consequences that pervade everyday life. This also holds for ‘natural symbols’ such as race, blood and kinship (Douglas 1973).