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Response 1 - Banal Nationalism


Dear Alan,

Thanks for setting off the project with a fun task. ‘Banal Nationalism’ is a topic that we had many conversations about, often as a way to confront or interrogate our different cultural backgrounds. The first instance where I can recall encountering the term, was when I described a scene to you from an episode of ‘The Killing’ (Danish TV-series from 2007) where the young students (in gymnasium or high school age 15-18) are having a party, drinking alcohol and being explicitly sexually frivolous, hosted by their school. ‘Banal nationalism’ was your comment when I matter-of-factly described the scenario of drunken teenagers dancing and kissing with their teacher watching over them in the background. We then had a long discussion about Michael Billing’s term ‘banal nationalism’.

In the same way that I didn’t consider the scene in ‘The Killing’ -described above- unusual behaviour, Task 1 reminded me that banal nationalism is practically invisible to the native. Danish traditions, rituals and etiquette are innate to me because I was brought up with them. I have become aware of the Danish flag waving on garden flag poles and I now also notice how young Danes’ use offensive English vocabulary, in a benign way, and that this is widely accepted on public radio and TV. The task became an invitation to shift my own viewpoint from native to foreigner/newcomer and begin to notice situations in my daily life that give substance to our identity as ‘Danes’. What are the ordinary items or expressions or behaviour that contribute to the texture of Danish-ness but goes unnoticed by its natives? Leaving my bike unlocked at the train station may be one of them. Not noticing a young girl in a short skirt changing her tights in the central aisle of a train may be another. Lighting candles to create a sense of ‘hygge’ (cosiness) when guests are visiting could also be one. I am sure you will be also be able to contribute with many more examples.

Here is my video response.

See here for next task.