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Situating banal nationalism, the culture wars, and civil religion: governing localized geographies of national identity in Indiana

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Various material forms of national identity have become ubiquitous features of the post-9/11 American cultural landscape. This research specifically examines the ‘In God We Trust’ (IGWT) license plate in the state of Indiana as a material expression and territorialized form of national identity. While conceptually anchored in banal nationalism research, exploring the spatial patterns of adoption or non-adoption of IGWT license plates by Indiana residents is only possible through situating this research through the mediating lens of the culture wars and civil religion. Although the IGWT license plate project legislatively materialized through the localized spatial networks of non-state actors in the context of a new and conservative state–citizen relationship firmly anchored in the culture wars, adoption behavior is also mediated through the much broader influence of civil religion. We conduct a quantitative analysis to determine license plate spatial distribution by county, but more importantly to explore the sociodemographic dimensions of IGWT license plate adoption and non-adoption. While our results generally mirror the sociodemographic findings of social issue-based electoral geography, the imbrication of banal nationalism, the culture wars, and civil religion as materially expressed by the IGWT license plate yields an ideologically different and broader dynamic when compared to culture wars defined by national identity.
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Keywords: banal nationalism; civil religion; culturas gobernantes; culture wars; cultures gouvernantes; governing cultures; guerras culturales; guerres de culture; identidad nacional; identité nationale; nacionalismo banal; national identity; nationalisme banal; religion civique; religión cívica

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography,Ball State University, Muncie,IN,47306, USA

Publication date: 01 February 2012

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