Book Project: Commodification, or the 'Business of Nationalism'
There is nothing inherently appealing about territorial sovereignty. Even if territorial disputes galvanize emotions such as nationalism, interest must be earned rather than assumed. The necessity of problematizing public interest is magnified when we accept the reality that territorial sovereignty is always competing for public’s attention against other more pressing everyday priorities as that of jobs, health, and public safety. While public interest does typically spike after an exogenous incident surrounding a disputed territory, it also quickly fizzles, which indicates its ephemeral quality. The commodification of nationalism or the businesses surrounding territorial sovereignty in the marketplace—think, food and drinks that popularize the name of the contentious territory—are able to explain what gives interest its permanency. By making territoriality a party of everyday life, commodification effectively makes territoriality everyone’s business.
By applying the argument to the region of Northeast Asia and its ongoing territorial disputes, I am able to: 1) highlight the importance of (everyday) microfoundations of nationalism; 2) reinforce the agency (and the actors) behind the politicization of territory (rather than attributing the tensions to 'history' in its abstract entirety), and; 3) also demonstrate how the state actually modulates activities of commodification, which goes against the orthodoxy that the state would fully endorse any activity that contributes to an official state policy or position.
*I use trademarks- the number of applications by individuals that explicitly incorporate the name of a contentious territory in its business or product-to gauge the rough scope of the activities of commodification. Figure 1 below captures the nationalist market for mainland China.