Re-Branding A Nation Online : Discourses on Polish Nationalism and Patriotism

Abstract: The aim of this dissertation is two-fold. First, the discussion seeks to understand the concepts of nationalism and patriotism and how they relate to one another. In respect to the more critical literature concerning nationalism, it asks whether these two concepts are as different as is sometimes assumed. Furthermore, by problematizing nation-branding as an “updated” form of nationalism, it seeks to understand whether we are facing the possible emergence of a new type of nationalism. Second, the study endeavors to discursively analyze the ”bottom-up” processes of national reproduction and re-definition in an online, post-socialist context through an empirical examination of the online debate and polemic about the new Polish patriotism.The dissertation argues that approaching nationalism as a broad phenomenon and ideology which operates discursively is helpful for understanding patriotism as an element of the nationalist rhetoric that can be employed to study national unity, sameness, and difference. Emphasizing patriotism within the Central European context as neither an alternative to nor as a type of nationalism may make it possible to explain the popularity and continuous endurance of nationalism and of practices of national identification in different and changing contexts. Instead of facing a new type of nationalism, we can then speak of new forms of engagement which take place in cyberspace that contribute to the process of reproduction of nationalism. The growing field of nation-branding, with both its practical and political implications, is presented as one of the ways in which nationalism is reproduced and maintained as a form of “soft” rather than “hard” power within the global context. The concept of nation re-branding is introduced in order to account for the role that citizens play in the process of nation branding, which has often been neglected in the literature. This concept is utilized to critically examine, understand, and explain the dynamics of nation brand construction and re-definition, with a particular focus on the discursive practices of citizens in cyberspace. It is argued that citizens in the post-socialist countries, including Poland, can engage in the process of nation re-branding online. It is also argued that this process of online nation re-branding may legitimately be regarded as a type of civic practice through which citizens connect with each other and reproduce a form of cultural national intimacy.The results of the analysis of the online empirical material illustrate that nation re-branding is a complex, dynamic, and ambivalent phenomenon. It involves a process of discursive negotiation of nation and of national identity, but also challenges, dismantles, and transforms the national image as it is communicated both internally and externally. This reveals nation re-branding as an element in the post-socialist transformation from a ”nation” to a ”Western,” ”modern,” and ”normal” country in which dealing with an ”old” nation brand is as equally important as the introduction of the new brand. Nationalism does not disappear in the digital age, but rather becomes part of the new way of doing politics online, whereby citizens are potentially granted a form of agency in the democratic process.