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

(P213)

Contemporary appropriations of folk culture

Location Tower B, Piso 3, Room T16
Date and Start Time 19 Apr, 2011 at 11:30

Convenors

Sónia Vespeira de Almeida (CRIA - FCSH - Universidade Nova de Lisboa) email
Vera Marques Alves (Unversidade de Coimbra) email
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Short Abstract

In this panel we appeal to the discussion about the contemporary appropriations and representations of folk culture, focusing on its current political symbolic uses. We want to explore the appropriation strategies taken by different agents in several empirical contexts.

Long Abstract

In this panel we want to discuss the contemporary appropriations and representations of folk culture. After two decades dominated by the ‘invention of tradition’ concept, social sciences are now more interested in the analysis of the creativity and heterogeneity that pervades the demotic manifestations, abandoning the rigid frontiers between authentic and fake, traditional and modern, and rural and urban.

Although questioning the relevance of notions such as folk culture or folk art, anthropology is still focusing on its current political and symbolic uses. In this context, several investigations turn to the multiple ways in which appropriations and re-creation of traditions are taking place, involving a variety of dynamics and agents (intellectuals, activists, entrepreneurs, public entities, craftsmen, consumers, tourists and local communities).

This panel aims to explore this subject from the perspective of the more extended debates that characterize contemporary anthropology – globalization, construction of identities, uses of authenticity, consumption, artistic practices, hybridism, objectification and commoditization of culture and ‘cultural copyright’. We also welcome papers that think about the appropriations of folk culture and folk art through a framework of analysis that only apparently are distant from this theme: the study of primitivism movements and of the multiple meanings of ethnic art in modern society.

Please include in your abstract information about the theoretical framework of the research.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Self-portrait with a keypad: net-lore and memory construction

Author: Daria Radchenko (KB Strelka)  email
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Short Abstract

The paper will discuss the problems of construction of cultural memory in Russian segment of the Internet with means of folklore, as Internet communication produces specific folklore forms and methods of interpreting history of a community.

Long Abstract

Due to a number of factors, the life-cycle of netlore forms is quite short. The process of computer-mediated communication (CMC) produces a variety of texts, still only few of those remain in demand after the peak of their popularity. Moreover, the practice of re-publishing old texts is condemned in most online communities. Nevertheless, despite high speed of text circulation, the Internet communities do not turn down its own past but carefully preserves it. The interest to the history of the Internet as a whole, of various communities, even to the history of individual texts is very common. This interest leads to production of specific "historical" texts, a kind of self-portrait of the first Russian Internet generation; the texts combine documental evidences with mythological assumptions and are often based on archaic folklore models which suit best the purpose of understanding and collating the mosaic reality of the Internet, making some sort of order out of traumatizing chaos. These texts also prove to be a means of building the identity of community and as such, they become messages in the communication with alien groups - including the next generations, since these "historical" texts are to a wide extent a way of constructing memory and the corpus of heritage.

Taming the spider man: from anti-colonial hero to neoliberal icon

Author: Adom Philogene Heron (Sussex University)  email
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Short Abstract

Anancy the spider is a distinctly Caribbean folktale hero. His antics embody a Creole counter-cultural ethic of autonomy & cunning, & can be seen in the 'hustling' practices of informal traders. But in the perplexing neoliberal age of private microfinance, his practices are becoming co-opted & tamed

Long Abstract

Anancy the spider man is a distinctly Creole Caribbean folk-tale hero. Born a deity in West Africa and transformed by 'the middle passage' into the folk tale trickster of Caribbean slaves; he survives to the present day in the popular imagination of the Caribbean and its diaspora. Growing out of the privations of slavery his antics have traditionally embodied an anti-colonial subaltern ethic of autonomy, adaptivity, cunning and intelligence. These 'Anancy tactics' have for centuries underpinned the 'reputation' orientated informal economic activities of market 'higglers', 'hucksters', 'hustlers' and 'middlemen', exchanging goods and services on the margins of the market, outside of the regulatory gaze of Caribbean states. However, in the paradoxical millennial age of private microfinance and the downsizing of state budgets, Anancy tactics are becoming co-opted, captured and tamed to further the elaboration of neoliberal logic into the Caribbean region. Despite their utopian claims, the effects of private microfinance initiatives are ambivalent at best: offering recognition of female higgling, yet indebting and disciplining cultural practices of those they claim to help. However, amidst this perplexing moment of neoliberal contradiction a genuine spirit of subaltern Caribbean autonomy continues to live on.

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Living a ritual: the meaning of Căluş today

Author: Narcisa Alexandra Stiuca (University of Bucharest)  email
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Short Abstract

We will present some observations and analysis taking into consideration both perspectives (inside and outside) emphasizing on the mechanisms of preservation and handing down of Căluş ritual correlated with the actual scientific approach in Romania.

Long Abstract

Since 2005 when The Căluş Ritual was included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, both the academic that studies this cultural phenomenon, and the rural communities that preserve and disseminate it changed their attitude.

After they succeed to persuade the scientists and the performing arts experts about the high age and the magical functions of Calus, the Romanian scholars initiated new research projects which aim to find an answer to the question: "What means this ritual in our days for performers and beneficiaries?"

The bearers of this tradition are aware of the its exceptional universal value and they take pains to confer the brilliancy of an unmistakable identity emblem. To fulfill the ritual and to decipher it means to understand its complex significance based on a mystic relation between the sacred and the profane world, this fact being substantiated by the insiders' attitude.

In the same time, to perceive and to construe the contemporary mutations of this ancient ritual means to analyze it as a dynamic and efficient traditional phenomenon, this attitude typifying the outsiders' intercession.

Our paper aims to present the mood of performers (calusari-dancers) by laying its agonistic features which is essential in the assertion of this male group, and in the same time, to illustrate the acceptance and understanding attitude that human groups - both those from the rural and from the urban space - take during the Pentecost week.

Maracatus and Bumba bois: identity, gender and musical performance

Author: Selma Albernaz (Universidade Federal de Pernambuco)  email
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Short Abstract

This work analyses men and women's ways of access to musical instruments in two Brazilian folklore dances, the bumba meu boi and the maracatu, which are experiencing symbolic re-signification and valorization regarding affirmation practices of regional identities in Brazilian nation.

Long Abstract

Maracatu (Pernambuco) and Bumba meu boi (Maranhão) became both affirmation symbols of regional identity, in a process of symbolic rivalry among agents of political, economical and cultural field. Such dances are perceived locally as traditional (of long term and with the constancy of specific contents) and performed by poor people and with a specific aesthetics (in contrast with mass and erudite cultures). They can be seen under the concept of popular culture. Popular culture allows one to notice the internal dynamics of these parties, the tensions that emerge from the social positions of the agents involved in its valorization and the power differences between them. Also, gender issues emerged when the new meanings of these dances changed the relation between women and men in them. In both dances music is becoming an important mediator to attract people from media classes to these parties, which were once considered as being an event of black and poor people, and therefore (dangerous). Music has an equal or superior value than the dance core, and its recordings extends its enjoyment. Women's access to instruments and music is a source of polemics, and some instrument performances are still forbidden to them, for being associated to power and prestige. The comprehensive gender values are set in motion in order to compose an hierarchy for women's disadvantage.

Challenge and claim the folk culture

Author: Carla Almeida (Universidade Algarve)  email
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Short Abstract

We will try to explain a case study of challenge the model of the folk culture of the Estado Novo. We will used the concepts of tradition/modernity, true / false; folk culture / other cultures; Place / non-place; social imagination

Long Abstract

This paper brings the case study of a village in the Algarve, taking as a "ethnographic place", symbol of folk culture during the Estado Novo.

In recent years ethnographed spaces in the village have been transformed with the incorporation of new elements changing the old meaning. In this sense

the spaces marked by the Estado Novo (New State), as rural, earthy and "traditional" vision, was been open to other events and other uses; open to other appropriations.

These processes are of two kind: musealization of the "folk culture" and the conversion of its spaces into spaces of modernity.

The public spaces were in last years rebuilt by local institutions by "modern" elements. In contrast, the inhabitants have taken the defence of "tradition". The discussion follows the sense of Hobsbawn's tradition: authentic/fake; genuine/ invented.

Tradition became a social instrument with political connotations. In the politics/ technical perspective drawn for the place, "tradition" is seen as a cultural objectification that must the replaced. In contrast, for the majority of the locals, the architectural "modern" have no sense in these places; they maintain the defence of the folk culture, arguing that it is the essence of their identity.

The recent interventions legitimated by the power to built and rebuild, and the chorus of contestation reclaim for the "traditional" order concepts like - "place and "no place" "and "ethnoscape"- are vectors for analysis.

"Slovenia's Living Heritage": "folk" creativity in a glocal context

Author: Ingrid Slavec Gradišnik (ZRC SAZU)  email
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Short Abstract

Among an array of folk culture appropriations in contemporary Slovenia the project Slovenia's Living Heritage is a multifaceted example. The project involves global (Unesco) and local agents (the state, research institutions, individual actors), and it is a good case of issues exposed by this panel.

Long Abstract

In scholarly and public use nowadays folk culture is largely subsumed in the concept of cultural heritage. In order to illustrate how it is handled within contemporary Slovenia, some examples of its applications/reppresentations will be presented. Most of them display a dynamic configuration of multiple agents, interests, and strategies. They reflect an array of legal, academic, economic, ecological arguments and other concerns, or merely the commodification of "folk" items. By referring to these issues they negotiate with heterogeneous social and cultural meanings, from very different power positions, and convey messages about aspired and often marginal identities.

The project "Slovenia's Living Heritage" will be presented as an example par excellence; namely, this project embodies the engagement and expectations of several agents (politicians, researchers, professional cultural heritage guardians, media, performers, and heterogeneous audiences), that are involved in the network of negotiations on the concept of living cultural heritage. The basic issues highlighted regarding this concept refer to who defines it, what basic notions are used (expert, practical, or common knowledge), on whose behalf, and with what interests. Considering that the project is an outgrowth of the 2003 Unesco Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage and is supported by Slovenian legislation and ethnological research, it is a good example of glocal practice and the issues exposed by this panel.

Selling Portuguese folk art: creating meaning and identities through the commerce of crafts

Author: Vera Marques Alves (Unversidade de Coimbra)  email
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Short Abstract

Addressing examples of craft commercialization in contemporary Portugal, this paper will discuss different ways of evaluating the commoditization of folk art, looking at shopkeepers and other entrepreneurs as mediators and constructors of cultural meanings about folk artifacts and folk culture.

Long Abstract

Traditional ethnographic approaches have systematically refused to contemplate folk culture commercialization as anything else but a threat to authentic traditions -- a perspective connected to the nostalgic view of the rural way of life. Later on, particularly through the concept of folklorism, anthropology incorporated the commoditization of tradition in its debates: seen an inseparable feature of contemporary folk culture, commerce was conceived itself as the factor beneath the survival of many forms of rural craft. This time, however, commercialization was associated with other kind of distortion: not as an instrument of falsification of genuine folk traditions, but, on the contrary, as a way of perpetuating the false idea of an immutable folk community, distant from the modern objects brought by technological and economic progress. In a certain way, this theoretical perspective continued to see commerce as a disruptive feature.

Much of the recent anthropological work on folk culture's commoditization still walks on the same ideological paths, failing to address the multiple representational functions of the folk objects in contemporary society. Addressing some examples of craft commercialization in contemporary Portugal, this paper will discuss different ways of evaluating the commoditization of folk art, looking at shopkeepers, entrepreneurs and other agents, as mediators and constructors of cultural meanings about folk artifacts and folk culture. The inspiration for this reflection comes from works of such authors as Nestor Canclini, but above all from the anthropological analysis on ethnic and tourist arts.

Debating the nation in contemporary Portuguese arts

Author: Sónia Vespeira de Almeida (CRIA - FCSH - Universidade Nova de Lisboa)  email
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Short Abstract

In the Portuguese visual arts we can observe a strengthening of debate about the nation, where some features of Portuguese folk culture are convoked. This paper explores the network of intentionalities that underlies this tendency of Portuguese contemporary art.

Long Abstract

In the contemporary world, arts play a very important role in the reconfiguration of local, national and diasporic identities, objectifies power, ideologies and world visions. In the context of globalization, artistic practices appear to vacillate between national visuality and deterritorialised and transcultural forms of art (Garcia Canclini).

Today, in the Portuguese visual arts we can observe a strengthening of debate about the nation, where some features of Portuguese folk culture are convoked. This paper explores the network of intentionalities (A. Gell) that underlies this tendency of Portuguese contemporary art. In a moment of redefinition of national cultures, characterized by the hybridism of the nations (H. Bhabha), it is important to question the relevance of the debate about the national identity.

The empirical corpus used in this paper is the result of several methodological strategies, mainly interviews and documental research.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.