The Semiotics of Nation Branding: Toward an Analysis of Post-Nationalism?
Supplementary Issue of Signs and Society (University of Chicago Press), Winter 2016
Call date: March 1, 2014
Guest editor: Alfonso Del Percio (University of St. Gallen)
In modernism, nationalism provided the condition of possibility for the hegemonization of industrial capitalism (Bauman and Briggs 2003). Late capitalism, however, has dramatically affected the way governments (and other economic actors) invest in the production of discourses on the nation and its identity (Billig 1995; Duchêne and Heller, eds. 2012). In this political-economic environment, capital, products, individuals, and semiotic resources circulate across national economies. No longer restricted to specific national locations, production and consumption change according to the needs, interests and desires of the markets and its actors; and a new form of a transnational market has emerged, bringing states and their territories into competition (Harvey 2005). In this post-national framework, the competitiveness of nation-states is dependent on their distinctiveness in the international markets (Heller 2011), and so governments invest in the “branding” of their difference. Socio-cultural ideologies of the nation facilitate a discursive construction of a nation-state as unique, special, and desirable (Comaroff and Comaroff 2009; Kaneva, ed. 2012).
This promotional investment in nationalism needs to be understood in the framework of a governmental practice generally called “nation branding.” This is a marketing strategy aiming to discursively transform a nation into a commodity that can be branded, thereby successfully positioning it within the international markets. As such, nation branding is a metasemiotic practice that creates value in forging—through the staging of semiotic resources that index an ideology of “national identity”—affective meaning (feelings of exoticism, internationalism, innovation, integrity, reliability, stability, etc.), which a branding discourse then projects onto the promoted nation (Nakassis 2012).
This supplementary issue will analyze ways in which semiotic resources (such as texts, images, symbols, cultural artifacts, flags, songs, buildings, events, etc.) enable the staging of a nation in the context of such branding practices. We especially invite papers discussing which semiotic resources used to index a nation are considered to be appropriate, and for which markets. Further, papers will investigate how the image of a nation is invented, controlled, and enacted in these processes and will examine who (individuals, communities and/or institutions) is legitimatized to brand a nation in a certain way and for whom. This supplementary issue will discuss the methodological implications and challenges posed when analyzing branding practices, especially in terms of how we, as analysts, can grasp the production, circulation, and consumption of nation branding practices across time and space. How can we analyze the “decontextualization,” “entextualization,” and “recontextualization” (Silverstein and Urban, eds. 1996) of modernist discourses on the nation in a post-national political-economic context? Finally, with that in mind, this issue will explore how and under which conditions such post-national branding discourses have (or do not have) consequences on the (re)imagination of nationhood and on the relations of difference and inequality implied.
If you wish to contribute to this supplementary issue of Signs and Society, please submit an abstract of500 words, with a full title and list of key references, to Alfonso Del Percio at email@example.com no later than June 1, 2014.
For general questions about Signs and Society please contact the Editor-in-Chief, Richard J. Parmentier at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bauman, Richard, and Charles Briggs. 2003. Voices of Modernity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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