Opin vísindi

Purity and Power: The Policy of Purism in Icelandic Nationalism and National Identity

Purity and Power: The Policy of Purism in Icelandic Nationalism and National Identity

Title: Purity and Power: The Policy of Purism in Icelandic Nationalism and National Identity
Author: Þórarinsdóttir, Hallfríður
Date: 1999
Language: English
University/Institute: The New School for Social Research
Subject: Þjóðernisvitund; Þjóðernisstefna; Málnotkun; Mannfræði; Doktorsritgerðir
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11815/2497

Show full item record


This dissertation elucidates the adoption o f the notion o f purity and its central role in the process o f national identity making in Iceland. The purpose of such an examination is to add to anthropology's critical understanding of the joint processes of the production and reproduction symbolic power and national identity making. By tracing these processes historically, I demonstrate how the process o f Icelandic nation making cannot be understood except as a part o f a broader global development as well as a response to it. The dissertation reveals that the notion of purity, while most pronounced in linguistic nationalism is not limited to language. It can rather be seen as a central part o f a larger structure o f secular religion, emerging at time o f disintegration o f old socio-economic structures and securing its position in a world witnessing an increasingly intensified global homogenization on the levels o f economics, politics and social life. Icelandic language purism is only superficially linguistic but profoundly about legitimating the power o f those who possess standard Icelandic. Standard "pure" Icelandic is also a powerful mechanism o f social control serving as a major instrument in the formation and re-formation o f mental structures. Purism, is also central to Icelandic ideas about cultural and racial "origins" as reflected in national defense policies o f the Icelandic culture and nation. I conducted fieldwork in Iceland, focusing especially on the discourse on purity as represented amongst intellectuals, politicians and the general public on the level o f media and state-agencies. Through formal and informal interviews and participant observation at various state institutions (radio, parliament, colleges and university) and textual analysis I discovered increasing tension between the nationalistic notion o f purity and fundamental democratic principles o f the Icelandic nation-state, both o f which can be seen as part o f the globalization process. After revealing increased state-action and financial input to linguistic purity, the dissertation ends by highlighting how the idea of purity has in most recent years been exploited for commercial purposes taking to international marketing of Icelandic food products and o f Iceland as a tourist resort.

Files in this item

This item appears in the following Collection(s)