EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010


Commodification of indigenous cultures

Location Arts Classhall C
Date and Start Time 25 Aug, 2010 at 11:30


Dmitry Arzyutov (KTH Royal Institute of Technology) email
Ekaterina Kapustina (Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera)) email
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Long Abstract

The contemporary global market involves not only megalopolises and city dwellers, but also rural regions of different countries, where people create their own contribution to market with new kinds of goods and services using native cultural patterns. For instance, there is a process of transformation of shamanism and other traditional rituals into a kind of marketable product or good among different indigenous peoples of Siberia. Subsequently these goods go to the global market and become its object (proper). In other words, this is a process of "comodification of culture".

We invite participants to discuss the following topics in our workshop:

1. The market as place (factor) in the construction of new cultural values;

2. Commodification of cultures in terms of the integration of indigenous peoples in a cosmopolitan world.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.


Commodification of traditional knowledge, local subjectivities, and changing social networks: evidence from rural peripheries in Europe

Author: Cristina Papa (University of Perugia)  email
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Long Abstract

For different reasons, the crisis of economic productivity and significance in many rural areas at the peripheries of Europe is also often accompanied by practices and politics of valorisation, preservation, and management of local traditional cultural heritage in order to customize it to global market requirements. Based on fieldwork in peripherial rural areas mainly in Central Italy, I will analyze how these processes at the one hand are widely instrumental to the rules imposed through market mechanisms, reducing dramatically the autonomy of local subjectivities. On the other hand, I will show how these strategies of commodification and marketing of culture are leading to deep transformations in the social structure of rural places, creating new opportunities through alliances with external agents, new nets of exchange that require new competences within complex networks of collaboration. Therefore, these processes lead to complex dynamics of integration into an increasing connected world.

Ecotourism or culture for sale: constructing the 'European indigenous people'

Author: Ramona Velea (Universita degli Studi di Trieste)  email
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Long Abstract

For the past few decades we have been facing a general interest for authentic culture and unspoiled nature. Like never before a constant request to conserve these two elements developed in the consciousness of policy makers and social actors.

Buzz words like genuine culture and tradition pushed western tourism to exotic places or rural areas, in search of pristine nature and culture. It seems like the "good indigenous savage" is meant to give us the solution for our modernity crisis.

In the paper I will analyze ecotourism practices that link western Europe to eastern Europe, namely Albania, as a way to experience false pristine realities, working under the framework of culture commodification through marketing strategies .

I will show how the economic and political backwardness of a community can lead to the construction of the image of "European indigenous people", in discourses promoted by tourism projects.

Kubachi and Harbuk: two destinies of traditional craft

Author: Ekaterina Kapustina (Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera))  email
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Long Abstract

In Dagestan republic there are villages which associate with glorious past of Dagestan as the center of handicraft. Kubachi is a center of jeweller's art, Harbuk is famous by its armoire and gun masters. Kubachi remain to be a leader in Dagestan silver jewelry, even when state industrial complex closed in early 1990-es. "Kubachinian silver" become a All-Russian brand. Harbuk today has the opposite situation with its craft. The craft is still alive, the two thirds of men can make knives, some of them are able to do guns and sabers and decorate it with special Harbuk design. But in the entire famous village there is none of craftsmen who have a license to do cold steel (not to say about guns). How one village became to be a center of modern Caucasus jewelry while in another village it is prohibited to be engaged in the traditional craft?

Designer of 'Indigineity Factory': anthropologists role in Altai culture commodification

Author: Dmitry Arzyutov (KTH Royal Institute of Technology)  email
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Long Abstract

For the period of Altai ethnographic studies in Soviet literature the image of Altai culture was constructed. Post-soviet social and religious movements used soviet ethnographic knowledge for make symbols and markers of their identity. These symbols and markers go beyond local economies and join in global world. The symbols turned to commodity oriented to outside consumers (generally tourists). This commodification appears as a background of new indigenous mythological creating and culture revising. One part of culture becomes relatively "closed" for outsiders (e.g., modern religious movement Ak-Jaŋ, White Faith) when others - on the contrary - are practiced as elements of "bazaar economy" (according to Geertz). In my paper I am going to discuss the role of anthropologists (ethnographers) in the commodification process of Altai culture.

Tourists' accounts of local dwellers' (im)mobilities

Author: Anna Horolets (University of Warsaw)  email
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Long Abstract

By taking the ethnographic case of young educated Polish tourists travelling to the former Soviet Union, I would like to address the question of how mobility of local dwellers is constructed in travel narratives. Are local dwellers presented as mobile or immobile? What types of local dwellers' mobility are exposed in tourists' accounts and what types are backgrounded? What are the economic, geographic and cultural patterns of local dwellers' mobilities in the accounts? Are local dwellers' mobilities evaluated and on what grounds (morality, aesthetics etc.)? Do tourists construct hierarchies of mobilities? Do they compare their own mobility to local dwellers' mobility? The aim of the paper is to unravel how (im)mobility (as practice and as metaphor) is involved in the construction of new concepts of Self and the Other. The tourists' accounts will be analyzed in the context of post-socialist transition and Europeanization.

Global culture and local arenas: cultural power regimes of the authentic

Author: Thomas Fillitz (University of Vienna)  email
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Long Abstract

"African cultures have been deprived of their authentic traditions!" claimed an Ivoirian artists to me.

Appadurai argues that globalization enhances imagination for all social actors - and in doing so, they should rely on all cultural traditions of the globe, and not feel restricted by state powers to specific local ones. A reaction to today's mass culture, actually, are intensified ideas of and longings for authentic, rooted traditions (forms of behaviour, ritual activities, or material culture).

In this paper, I argue that images of the authentic and of the global are not in opposition to each other: both are produced within one imaginative process. My argument will be based on research on the art biennale of Dakar, Dak'Art. The question I shall deal with may be formulated as following: how can such an arena for contemporary (global) art constitute itself as characteristically rooted in the metropole Dakar?

600 years of crisis: conquest and market

Author: Enrique Hugo García Valencia (Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia)  email
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Long Abstract

Mexican Indians have endured uninterrupted crises from the XVIth Centruy up to now. I will center this paper on the use of "curve weaving" a weaving technique known in XVth century and modern times.

The hardships of the Spanish conquest meant, at a certain point, a shortage of fabrics and weavers required to produce paintings needed to exhibit rights, which would allow some Indians to claim land and privileges from the Spanish. Some used their old garments as canvases to paint on them. A handful of these lienzos, have survived to the present time.

In modern times, Indians produce pieces of garment, a large quantity of which are intended for the market..

These are Indian strategies to cope with crisis. They recycle garments, and they adjust to the demands of the market through innovation, design, new raw materials, native workshops and native entrepreneurship.

Cosmopolitan savages: the challenging art of selling African culture to tourists

Author: Vanessa Wijngaarden (University of Johannesburg)  email
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Long Abstract

African cultural tourism is expanding, thriving on the idea that this is the moment to explore the last people untouched by civilization. At the same time, globalization has given indigenous peoples worldwide a growing opportunity to take the exploitation of the image that exists of them into their own hands. Regarded as ultimate 'noble savages' since colonial times, Maasai of the Mara area have become quite successful. When tourists visit, they hide their mobile phones between folds of their traditional dress, and stage 'authentic' performances as advertised on their websites. Other ethnic groups, as Taita living near Tsavo, have not been able to fit themselves into the historical and current imaginations which seem necessary to make African people into marketable objects of tourism. Comparing both Kenyan cases, I aim to show what effects tourism related commodifications and transactions have upon local people's conceptualizations of their culture and images of themselves.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.