Monday, November 21, 2005

Imaginary Homelands

By way of contrast, the websites of governments-in-exile highlight features of the rhetoric of officially sanctioned government websites that are able to lay claim to legitimacy and manifest the ideology of an established nation-state.

For example, there are two sites for the government in exile of Tibet, which are interesting because they have different rhetorical appeals: and The latter was hosted by Cyborganic, a utopian-commercial venture based in San Francisco that was important in the promotion of the Internet lifestyle (including the founding of Wired magazine). Despite its South of Market pedigree, contains the incipient apparatus of a Weberian "virtual state." (See the work of Jane Fountain for more on this term.) On, we even encounter links to three branches of government: the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission, the Assembly of the Tibetan People's Deputies, and the Kashag. The other "official" site,, appeals clearly to outsiders with its navigation bar that emphasizes the Orientalist exoticism of the would-be country (in its "food" and "shops") and concludes with a plea for "How You Can Help Tibet."

One of the remarkable things about countries included in the index of Unrepresented Peoples and Nations, is how low their virtual profile can be, despite the violence and global publicity of relatively recent conflicts. For example, is still being maintained, but the political arm of Biafra, MASSOB, is not. Many of these websites from unrecognized entities do feature a national anthem that blares on the opening page, as does. In contrast, most official government websites consign patriotic music to a more discreetly located link. Perhaps, without access to the cultural capital of national legitimacy, official websites of unofficial states can commit many of the gaffes in this index for creating the world's worst website.

Websites for Hawaiian Sovereignty or California secession also lack many of the features of a government website, despite their aspirations to provide the forum for public policy issues that would launch a virtual state. But such states' rights sites primarily occupy themselves with advocacy and argumentation rather than serve as portals for the specific mechanisms that facilitate the provision of civil services, the development of infrastructure, or other public goods aimed at the target population. Nonetheless, the issue of the distribution of wealth is sometimes discussed at length in seccessionist sites.

(This all assumes that a reasonable person would be persuaded by arguments for self-determination, although Princeton philosopher of international relations Charles Beitz is not.)



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