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Belgian comics and constructing Belgian national identity

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Nicholas T.
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  1. Introduction.
  2. Smith's civic model of nation.
    1. The essence of the civic model of a nation.
    2. The legal-political community.
    3. Preventing conflicts between the regions and communities.
    4. A measure of common values and traditions among the population.
  3. Belgian national identity.
    1. Federalism, democracy and cooperation.
    2. Comics and Belgian culture.
    3. Comics: a powerful means of expression.
    4. Influence on popular culture and identity of all ages.
  4. Belgian comic strips.
    1. Hector Malot's Sans Famille.
    2. Tintin and Herge.
    3. Serious comics that deal with mature topics.
    4. The comic Spirou.
    5. The cartoon periodical Pilote.
  5. Conclusion.
  6. Bibliography.

Belgium is a unique country that uses a federal solution to construct a civic nation from two competing ethnic and cultural identities. In the north is the Flemish region, in the south, Wallonia, and in the middle, the capitol and mainly French speaking, city of Brussels. There is also a small German-speaking region in the east. These regions are divided along linguistic and cultural differences, but are united under one state. Talks of the country breaking up are not uncommon, but hardly ever get anywhere. Neither of the two communities would be willing to give up Brussels, which can be classified as neither Flemish nor Walloon. Much of the cultural differences between the two regions are exaggerated by politicians. For almost 200 days last year, the political tension was so high that the national government could not reach a consensus, and it was unsure who would govern the country. Despite these ethno-linguistic boundaries, there is a movement for Belgian nationalism, as shown when many citizens flew the Belgian flag during the past political crisis.

[...] In the age of mass communication, they give Belgian culture a clear and distinctive voice that reaches vast numbers of people? (Screech, 206). Bibliography Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism. Revised Edition, London: Verso Claeys, P.H., E. De Graeve-Lismont, and N. Loeb-Mayer. European or National? The 1979 Election in Belgium. Brussels: University of Brussels Deprez, Kas, and Louis Vos. Nationalism in Belgium. New York: St. Martin's Press Erk, Jan. "Sub-state nationalism and the left?right divide: critical junctures in the formation of nationalist labour movements in Belgium." Nations and Nationalism 11(2005): 551-570. [...]


[...] The comic first appeared in a Belgian newspaper in 1929, and became a huge success: the circulation of the newspaper quadrupled when Tintin appeared in it (Goddin, 119). In 1946 Tintin got his own weekly magazine, Le journal de Tintin in French and Kuifje in Dutch. The magazine specialized in realistic comics in the style of Tintin, and published many famous series such as Blake and Mortimer, Alix, and of course Tintin. At its most popular, it circulated 600,000 copies a week in Belgium, France and Holland (Goddin, 257). Tintin and Hergé gave bande dessinées a distinct franco-belgian identity and paved the way for many Belgian artists. [...]


[...] In October 1989, in a building by famous Belgian Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta, the Belgian Center for Comic Strip Art (CBBD) opened in the presence of the King and Queen, symbolizing the role bande dessinée played in constructing a Belgian identity. The CBBD has also sponsored the creation of 35 outdoor murals scattered around center city Brussels depicting various Belgian comic strip characters. Belgium awards grants to authors and publishers in an effort to further ?cultural production, conceptions of national prestige, and to the general health of the economy governmental funding is also linked to issues of cohabilitation between different linguistic and ethnic communities,? (McKinney, 14) namely the Walloons and the Flemish. [...]

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