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SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011

(P212)

Creating nostalgia? Discussing traditionalism in home environments

Location Tower B, Piso 3, Room T12
Date and Start Time 19 Apr, 2011 at 14:30

Convenors

Sophie Elpers (Meertens Institute, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) email
Peter Jan Margry (University of Amsterdam/Meertens Institute, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) email
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Short Abstract

The use of traditionalism as ethnic- or culture-specific style for new designs in everyday life is often perceived as a way of evoking nostalgia. This panel discusses why and how people prefer to live by designing and re-creating their home environment in a traditionalistic manner.

Long Abstract

The panel explores why and how people, in the present and the past, prefer to live by designing and re-creating their home environment in a traditionalistic manner. Why do they apply culture- or ethnic-specific styles for designing homes, house building and arranging countrysides?

Creating new but vernacular or traditionalistic live atmospheres, often still insufficiently described as a mere reaction to supermodernity, globalization and the subjectivation of society, can be found at all societal levels, at home and in neighbourhoods, villages, cities, suburban areas and landscapes. In its visual representation, the phenomenon has been depicted as regionalism when deployed in an interpretative way and it is labelled neo-traditionalism, as a copy-prone and superficial contemporary architectural trend.

The panel does not primarily deal with the design of (neo-)traditionalism or the architectural perspective, but focuses on ethnological questions. The emergence of traditionalism has been related to a great variety of causes, such as feelings of alienation, uncertainty and insecurities, a need for safety, demands of regional and local identities, and perceptions of a romanticized, nostalgic safe past. What are the functions and meanings of traditionalism in home environments? How is traditionalism perceived, appropriated, instrumentalised or altered by the different actors? And, also, how does the interaction between residents, policymakers, authorities (and their laws), and architects and designers work? Is it - and if so, how - related to general processes, for example of identity politics or globalization?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Traditionalism after World War II

Author: Sophie Elpers (Meertens Institute, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences)  email
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Short Abstract

The paper focuses on the region-specific reconstruction of farmhouses in the Netherlands after World War II. It describes and analyses the controversial debate on tradition and modernisation that arose in this context and discusses to what extend the desire for tradition can be ascribed to World War II and the often traumatic experiences of destruction and loss.

Long Abstract

Between 1940 and 1945 more than 8,000 farmhouses sustained extensive war damage in the Netherlands. The paper focuses on the reconstruction of these farmhouses. It describes and analyses the controversial debate on tradition and modernisation that arose in this context. The reconstruction efforts masterminded by the Dutch government were aimed at modernisation. However, the new buildings were given a traditional region-specific appearance following the farmer's and preservationist's demands. The paper discusses to what extend the desire for tradition can be directly ascribed to World War II and the often traumatic experiences of destruction and loss.

'Modern traditionalism'

Author: István Povedák (Hungarian Academy of Sciences / University of Szeged)  email
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Short Abstract

My paper aims to analyze the (neo)traditionalist design in contemporary Hungarian popular culture. The use of ‘traditional folk’ symbols and methods gains increasing popularity in architecture and home environments. Besides decoration this style implies political and religious-like content.

Long Abstract

Hungarian 'neo-traditionalism' has been gaining more and more importance and popularity since the 1989 political changes but the origin of traditional elements in contemporary Hungarian architecture rooted in the early 1980s when Imre Makovecz, the well-know master of organic architecture started to revitalize symbols and elements from Hungarian folk culture in architectural design. While Makovecz was disfavored by the socialist regime before 1989 his works became emblematic symbols of 'neo-traditionalism' after the change of the regime. However contemporary 'neo-traditionalist' design is not the same as it was in the 80s. An integral part of Makovecz's organic architecture was built for the Catholic Church however Contemporary 'neo-traditionalist' architecture is in close connection with certain ideologies such as 'neo-paganism' or eco-village movements. Contemporary 'neo-traditionalist' design is present not only in architectural design (churches, nomadic tents, eco-houses with 'traditional folk symbols'), but has rich variants in home-environments, or this provides a basis for 're-invented and re-interpreted' Hungarian 'folk-style' fashion. The use of 'neo-traditionalist' design clearly shows that this is not only a style for decoration but implies a deeper meaning on identity and is a counter-effect of globalization. My paper tries to introduce and analyze how 'neo-traditionalist' design is present in contemporary Hungarian popular culture and to explain the connection between the style and 'ethno-nationalism' or certain syncrethic NRMs?

From cow to cradle: rustic households and the domestication of modernity

Author: Vintila Mihailescu (National School of Political and Administrative Studies)  email
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Short Abstract

The paper aims to describe and interpret the relatively new "rustic style" emerging in Romanian countryside by which the locals are trying, as they say, to bridge "past and present" and "tradition and modernity" by re-rooting themselves in a "simulacrum" of local tradition.

Long Abstract

The locative momentum that followed the fall of communism in most of the countries was oriented mainly toward Western-like ostentatious buildings. In the countryside, most of the migrants invested their money in "pride households", breaking through with the past and the local and seeking more for "social recognition" (Honeth, 2000) then comfort. Recently, more and more rural inhabitants shift toward an explicit rustic style, trying to bridge, as they say, "past and present" or "tradition and modernity" by re-rooting themselves in some imagined local traditions and explicit aesthetic claims. The peasant household turns thus to a simulacrum (Baudrillard, 1988) of itself that makes sense for its lodgers and expresses a new identity discourse. Based on a case study, the present paper aims to describe these emerging style and practice and to interpret it in its broader historical and socio-cultural context.

Shaping identities and interior design: interpreting Palestinian domestic mythologies

Author: Kobi Peled (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)  email
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Short Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to draw significant insights about contemporary Arab Palestinian Society in Israel from widespread domestic representations of antiquities, particularly objects relating to the bygone rural way of life.

Long Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to draw significant insights about contemporary Arab Palestinian Society in Israel from widespread domestic representations of antiquities, particularly objects relating to the bygone rural way of life.

Paradoxically, symbols of the longing for a lost past are popular with people who did not immigrate, and are prevalent in places where remnants of the past are ubiquitous. Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel yearn for the past, although most of them did not experience life in exile, and despite the fact that many live nearby numerous segments of their past. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to explain this extraordinary sense of antiquarianism.

Fascinating mixtures of local, foreign, authentic and fabricated antiquities will form the raw material of this analysis.

The question of using or avoiding the use of remnants of the past in everyday life will be addressed, as well as noticeable generational distinctions and tensions manifested in the different attitudes towards antiquities. This paper will trace implicit motifs of younger generations in their endeavor to collect and acquire objects that were thrown away by the older generations. By collecting relics of the past in the ruins of their grandfathers' hearthstones they recollect the sentiments represented by these objects, striving to arouse dormant memories.

The role of traditionalism in the presentations of furniture stores

Author: Hester Dibbits (Reinwardt Academy for Cultural Heritage)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper discusses the role of traditionalism in the presentations of furniture stores such as IKEA, Leen Bakker and Morres. These and other furniture stores seem to play in more or less explicit ways with different styles, some more traditional and others more modern. In how far can these styles be labelled as traditionalistic and does this necessarily also imply that these styles should be labelled as regionalistic, or ethnic or culture specific?

Long Abstract

This paper discusses the role of traditionalism in the presentations of furniture stores such as IKEA, Leen Bakker and Morres. These and other furniture stores seem to play in more or less explicit ways with fixed interior styles, some more traditional and others more modern. In how far can these styles be labelled as traditionalistic, and does this necessarily also imply that these styles should be labelled as regionalistic, or ethnic or culture specific?

Discussing the various interior styles presented by contemporary furniture stores, the styles will be confronted with the living room interiors as developped by the successful Dutch marketing-research company Motivaction. Motivaction uses living rooms as illustrations for her mentality-milieus devellopped for the aim of marketing research. What role does tradition, regionalism and ethnicity play in these presentations and in the milieus they are supposed to represent? How does this inform us about the role of traditionalism, regionalism and ethnicity in the world of marketing?

Nostalgia reconsidered: the case of the Swiss chalet

Author: Irene Cieraad (Faculty of Architecture, Delft Technical University)  email
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Short Abstract

Among architects nostalgia is generally considered a regressive emotion exclusively dealing with the past. This paper presents an alternative interpretation in which nostalgia is a directive emotion in re-creating present home-environments or even projecting ideal home situations in the future.

Long Abstract

Collective expressions of nostalgia in the West have been interpreted as signs of societal malaise and escapism, indicative of an ill-feeling for the present. Although the notion of loss, or near loss is also at the root of modern nostalgia it does not lead to mourning, but to glorification instead. Modern nostalgia is presented as a collective celebration of the spirit of a past period or a glorification of a traditional way of life, often on the verge of extinction. As such it does not necessarily refer to a self-experienced past. When the history of western architecture is taken into account there is a wealth of evidence that nostalgic glorification is at the root of western art and culture. The international and bicentennial popularity of the so-called Swiss chalet, from Norway to Northern Spain and from the States to Germany may serve as an example to illustrate my point.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.