Selfies, Sovereignty, And The Nation-State:‘Into The Modern World’

This talk will focus on the “Making of the Nation” as both concept and permanent exhibition, especially the exhibition’s gallery that provides an introspective narrative of the twentieth century Icelandic experience—“Into the Modern World.” I examine how this gallery mobilizes objects and stories to speak to and extend the practices of modernity that inform the realization of the contemporary nation-state and its processes of self-representation. Popular photo technologies are a key component of this realization, and they undergo a transformative shift in the early twentieth century. Photo booths, like the Photomaton on display, help routinize self-imagining, creating a circulation of national and individual selves. I understand self-representation here as both a political concept and one of cultural performance, an entangled intersection of politics and poetics. One approach I bring to this analysis is a focus on cultural and political sovereignty. I pay particular attention to how nations and national imaginings are often called into being in advance of nation-states, and how nation-states draw from established national discourses in forming both national and contingent international identities.

John Bodinger is an associate professor of anthropology and Chair of the Sociology & Anthropology Department at Susquehanna University, where he directs the Museum Studies and Diversity Studies Programs. In 2017 he was a Fulbright Arctic Research Fellow at the University of Iceland. His research interests include tourism; questions of identity, representation, and Native American sovereignty; and how such issues are engaged in contemporary museum, casino, touristic, and photographic practice. He is the author of Casino and Museum: Mashantucket Pequot Representation; his articles and reviews have appeared in Museum & Society, Museum Anthropology, Visual Anthropology Review, Museum Anthropology Review, Ethnohistory, American Indian Culture and Research Journal, Tribal Government Gaming, and the Journal of Anthropological Research.