Accepted Paper:

Cognition, emotion, and the dynamic structures of national identity  


Sven Ismer (FU Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

A theory about connecting lines between collective emotions, football, and the construction and reinforcement of national identity will be presented and an approach to explore these assumptions in provided exemplary data is outlined.

Paper long abstract:

"How do people become national?" once was asked by Catherine Verdery. I will offer an answer to this question by connecting classic trains of thought like Emile Durkheims notion of collective effervescence instigated in rituals with contemporary debates in cognitive sociology in a first step. Within the second part I will propose a frame to analyse relevant data against the outlined theoretical background.

I will argue that football is central for the dynamic reproduction of national identity in Germany in two ways. On the one hand it provides possibilities to experience collective emotions of belonging which authenticate the imagined community of the nation in a very basic sense. On the other hand the state of high emotional arousal promotes an atmosphere in which information about the in-group as well as the out-group is more likely to become a shared meaning.

TV-coverage about big football tournaments provide a rich database to analyse these shared meanings and in so doing, expose the dynamic structures of national identity. Examples from the FIFA World Cup 2006 in Germany - a tournament which was said to have caused lasting effects on German national identity - will be used to reveal the underlying media-based ritual structures as well as the resulting `mindscape┬┤ (Zerubavel) of national identity.

Panel P323
Spaces, memories, history, identity