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SIEF2013 11th Congress: Tartu, Estonia.
30 June - 4 July, 2013

SIEF2013: Circulation

Tartu, Estonia; 30th June - 4th July

(P40)

Intolerable! The circulation of issues and arguments in historical and contemporary debates on contested ethnic caricatures and rituals

Location Ülikooli 16, 104
Date and Start Time 02 July, 2013 at 14:45

Convenors

John Helsloot (Meertens Institute) email
Dagnoslaw Demski (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences) email
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Short Abstract

This panel seeks to contribute to a more general, theoretical understanding of the circulation of issues and arguments in historical and contemporary debates on contested ethnic caricatures and rituals.

Long Abstract

Both in recent and in historical times, many controversies have arisen on the admissibility of stereotyped caricatures and of certain ritual practices. Caricatures in various forms like making fun and mocking the other referred to as undesirable, in the past were necessary part of keeping the other in the proper place, it was a tool of maintaining social order justified by hierarchy and society. On the other hand they could play with the forbidden and unmentionable. Some former easy targets (ethnic and occupational groups, betrayal, women, etc.), have become restricted in character now. Similarly, in the field of immaterial cultural heritage, the moral and legal justification of clothing styles, ritually prescribed ways of butchering, circumcision, the presence of stereotyped others in rituals or commemorations, the use of animals in rituals, are at issue. These debates play a role in identity politics, creating and reinforcing the boundaries between ethnic insiders and outsiders. From a historical perspective, what seems intolerable now, was used freely in other times. What provokes this change of perspective? What yardsticks, human rights, 'tradition', are invoked by contestants to try to decide these issues? 
This panel welcomes papers, both theoretical reflections and empirical case studies, addressing these kind of controversies in the field of caricatures or ritual. Presenters are invited to contribute to a more general, theoretical understanding of these conflicts. 


This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Intolerable! The circulation of issues and arguments in historical and contemporary debates on contested ethnic caricatures

Authors: Dagnoslaw Demski (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences)  email
John Helsloot (Meertens Institute)  email

Short Abstract

A theoretical and empirical introduction to the circulation of issues and arguments on contested ethnic representations. What makes some themes acceptable in one historical context, and contested in another?

Long Abstract

Both in recent and in historical times, many controversies have arisen on the admissibility of stereotyped caricatures and of certain ritual practices. Caricatures in various forms like making fun and mocking the other referred to as undesirable, in the past were necessary part of keeping the other in the proper place, it was a tool of maintaining social order justified by hierarchy and society. On the other hand they could play with the forbidden and unmentionable. Some former easy targets (ethnic and occupational groups, betrayal, women, etc.), have become restricted in character now. These debates play a role in identity politics, creating and reinforcing the boundaries between ethnic insiders and outsiders. From a historical perspective, what seems intolerable now, was used freely in other times. What provokes this change of perspective? What human rights, 'tradition', are invoked by contestants to try to decide these issues?

Intolerable! The circulation of issues and arguments in historical and contemporary debates on contested ritual

Authors: John Helsloot (Meertens Institute)  email
Dagnoslaw Demski (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences)  email

Short Abstract

This paper gives a theoretical and empirical introduction to the theme of the panel: the circulation of issues and arguments in historical and contemporary debates on contested ethnic caricatures and rituals.

Long Abstract

Both in recent and in historical times, many controversies have arisen on the admissibility of stereotyped caricatures and of certain ritual practices.

This second part of the introduction focuses on controversies in the field of immaterial cultural heritage (e.g. the moral and legal justification of clothing styles, ritually prescribed ways of butchering, circumcision, the presence of stereotyped others in rituals or commemorations (e.g. of World War II), the use of animals in rituals, are at issue. These debates play a role in identity politics, creating and reinforcing the boundaries between ethnic insiders and outsiders. What yardsticks, human rights, 'tradition', are invoked by contestants to try to decide these issues?

"Spirit possession" and modernity

Author: William Sax (South Asia Institute, Heidlberg)  email

Short Abstract

Why do modernizing people look down on "spirit possession"? Why do they stigmatize it as pre-modern and "backward"? In this paper I address this question from a broad sociological perspective, as well as from an ethnographic perspective based on my research in the Western Himalayas.

Long Abstract

Throughout the world, high-status groups create and perpetuate their status by strictly controlling their forms of movement, particularly those of their women. Examples include forms of dance in Indonesian Kratons, controversies attending the introduction of the Waltz in Europe, the difference between highland and lowland dance in Sri Lanka, the forms of possession in a West Himalayan village, academic processions vs carnival processions: the list goes on and on. All these examples contrast a high-status group with restricted forms of movement with a low status-group whose characteristic forms of dance, procession, ritual, and so forth are seen as wild, primitive, hyper-sexual, and so on. This observation is supported by the influential writings of Norbert Elias, Michel Foucault, and Charles Taylor, whose historical analyses show that negative judgments of possession are also characteristic of the modern (or modernizing) subject. In this chapter, I document a similar process, based on my own ethnographic research in the Western Himalayas, arguing that the rejection of possession and its associated rituals has more to do with claims about social identity than with theologically- or ideologically-motivated action.

Intolerable others: Estonian ethnic caricatures after the Second World War

Author: Liisi Laineste (Estonian Literary Museum)  email

Short Abstract

The presentation will address the portrayal of the political and ethnic Other. The satirical weekly Pikker presents the material for the analysis. Censorship and other aspects of the historical and cultural context will be taken into account in the study which aims at pinpointing the politics of othering.

Long Abstract

The presentation will address the portrayal of the political and ethnic Other, considering a case when these two categories were closely intertwined, as was the case in totalitarian Estonia after the Second World War. The satirical journal Pikker (particularly the mid-1950s, published as a weekly paper) presents the material for the current analysis. The selected time frame includes a historically very inconstant period, both politically and economically, which makes it a hotbed for all kinds of stereotypes of the Other to arise. The strict insitutionalised censorship also affected the images that were published at that time. All these aspects will be taken into consideration in the study which aims at pinpointing the politics of othering, strongly embedded in its historical and cultural context.

Some "Slovenian" way of humor

Author: Jerneja Vrabič (ZRC SAZU)  email

Short Abstract

The humorous and mocking songs/caricatures/films/ect. mainly arise as replay on everyday situations. Are observed stereotypes really tipical Slovenian or are they known worldwide?

Long Abstract

"What seems intolerable nowadays, was freely used in the past" can be reinterpreted as "what seems intolerable for one, is normal for the others". The humorous and mocking songs/caricatures/films/ect. mainly arise as replay on everyday situations. It is a game of stereotypes. Humor is frequently shared during periods of crisis and can be therefore convinient theme in this particular time.

I would like to take a closer look to the Janez Burgers' short film On the Sunny Side of the Alps (2007; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RC6vhtdNs_g) and on the Slovenian popular duet Slon in Sadez ([Elephant and Fruit]; 2001-) . One of their song dealing with situation when Slovenia become a member of Nato. The music video was performed only once, then it was restricted.

Arising questions are: What marks the song/film as funny and mocking one? Is it a content, performer/author, audience or even the place? Can we find some stereotypes only in Slovenian territory or are they spread all over the world?

By the way: for the (folk) songs from the past we can mainly observe only content - analysis of a group of humorous and mocking folk songs from Strekelj's collection (1895-1923) shows that there are cloths and food or eating habits mentioned in the lyrics which are not characteristic for the people of the 'lower class' to whom scholars mainly ascribed the folk song, and are making them funny.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.