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. 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 (see images below)—are able to explain what gives public 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.
In short, my general intention is to transition from thinking about territorial disputes "in our heads" to how people do politics "in the (everyday) world," and move away from the hegemonic understanding of citizens as simply protesters or consumers within the context of territorial disputes by giving them creative agency through the channel of commodification.