Arbitrary and Consequential

512px-Bratislava_New_Year_FireworksRecognizing the variety of calendars around the world, and thus the different occasions for marking a new year, illustrates the arbitrariness of time and our systems of marking time, which Russell McCutcheon has highlighted recently (here and here). In the context of South Asia, for example, many communities have new year commemorations at different times, primarily based on regional calendars. Continue reading “Arbitrary and Consequential”

Bayart on Strategic Syncretism

edgebayart“While British colonial administrators fabricated ‘Indianness’, Hindu intellectuals were formulating Hinduness by resorting to ‘strategic syncretism’. According to Christophe Jaffrelot, this involved ‘structuring one’s identity in opposition to the Other by assimilating the latter’s prestigious and efficacious cultural characteristics’: ‘The appearance of an exogenous threat awakened in the Hindu majority a feeling of vulnerability, and even an inferiority complex, that justified a reform of Hinduism borrowing from the aggressor its strong points, under the cover of a return to the sources of a prestigious Vedic Golden Age that was largely reinvented but whose “xenology” remained active’.*…  In short, the reinterpretation of India’s ‘Hindu’ past by the nationalists and their instrumentalisation of ‘tradition’ for militant political purposes have for nearly a century sustained a political identity unprecedented in the cultural landscape of the sub-continent, by incorporating foreign representations into Hinduism — e.g., egalitarian individualism, proselytisation, ecclesiastical structures — and by seeking to ‘homogenise in order to create a nation, a society that is characterised by extreme differentiation’.** On the Indian political chessboard, the celebration of a golden Vedic age is a mere fig-leaf concealing modernity, like the versions of African ‘authenticity’ that developed in the wake of the colonial invention of tradition…” (37-38)

* Christophe Jaffrelot, Les Nationalistes hindous (Paris: Presses de la Foundation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, 1993, p. 24, 41).

** Ibid., 83-4.

 [This is one of an ongoing series of posts, quoting from Bayart’s The Illusion of Cultural Identity, that further documents the theoretical basis
on which Culture on the Edge is working.]

The Latest Fad?

edgehairDid you catch this news story now making the rounds? It’s on a charter school in Oklahoma that apparently disagreed with a parent over what counts as a “proper” hairstyle. As reported by the local media:

Officials from Deborah Brown Community School in Tulsa declined speak to the station on camera, but the school policy states that “hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros, mohawks, and other faddish styles are unacceptable.”

KOKI reported that the “school feels that could distract from the respectful and serious atmosphere it strives for.” Continue reading “The Latest Fad?”

“It’s Sort of Traditional, I Guess…”

grillingA former student posted a great clip from the old “Leave it to Beaver” show (1957-1963), in which dad explains to Wally the facts of life, at least when it comes to cooking outdoors. Continue reading ““It’s Sort of Traditional, I Guess…””

On Tradition

edgetraditionBut she doesn’t seem to be at anything like a wedding or a graduation now; instead, she seems to be out shopping or walking in New York City.

When is an innovation too innovative?

Watch the video, “Modern Takes on Tradition,” here.

Everything Old is New Again

Did you see this article posted at National Public Radio’s site? The Facebook post about the audio story read:

Picture 1

 

Sometimes the only option that remains in the endless effort to maintain relevance in a changing world is to resuscitate something old, such that reviving a style once judged outdated can, ironically, be seen as innovative.

Cherry Pickers

On the weekend a Facebook friend posted a link to an interesting blog post on contests over modern Jewish identity. It opened as follows:

edgecherrypicking Continue reading “Cherry Pickers”