Enlisting culture in the service of commercial or political interests inevitably leads to a simplification and standardization of form. This article addresses the tensions between these standardizing processes and discourses of cultural authenticity, raising questions concerning copyright to cultural products and, more widely, the economics of cultural tradition. Empirically, the article is a study of the Norwegian bunad, a folk dress which exists in numerous regional varieties and carries a profound symbolic significance as a marker of regional and national identity. However, the authenticity of particular bunads or other folk costumes is often hotly contested. At the same time, entrepreneurs have begun to produce bunads in low-cost countries, thereby violating a principle considered by many as sacred, that bunads should be sewn by local women. The article reveals what is at stake for the various actors involved, and suggests some comparisons.
Norwegian folk costumes and cultural capital
Thomas Hylland Eriksen
Political and Academic Agendas
Thomas Hylland Eriksen
Since the early 1960s, Scandinavian anthropologists have made considerable contributions to the study of ethnicity, an early high point having been reached with the 1967 Wenner-Gren conference leading to the publication of Ethnic Groups and Boundaries in 1969. Later Scandinavian research on ethnicity and social identification more generally has been varied and rich, covering all continents and many kinds of majority/minority relations. However, over the last twenty years, anthropologists have increasingly focused on the study of the relationship between immigrant minorities and the majorities in their own countries. There are some significant general differences between ethnicity research overseas and at home, shedding light on the theoretical constructions of anthropology as well as the 'double hermeneutics' between social research and society. It can be argued that anthropology at home shares characteristics with both European ethnology (with its traditional nation-building agenda) and with sociology (which, in Scandinavia, is almost tantamount to the sympathetic study of the welfare state), adding a diluted normative relativism associated with the political views of the academic middle class (to which the anthropologists themselves, incidentally, belong). The article reflects on the consequences of embroilment in domestic politics for anthropological theory, using the experiences of overseas ethnicity research as a contrast to ethnicity research at home, where anthropologists have been forced, or enabled, to go public with their work.
Sarah J. Mahler, Jeffrey A. Sluka, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Charlotte Loris-Rodionoff and Katherine Swancutt
Christian Krohn-Hansen, Making New York Dominican: Small Business, Politics, and Everyday Life (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), 312 pp. ISBN 9780812244618.
David Pedersen, American Value: Migrants, Money, and Meaning in El Salvador and the United States (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 304 pp. ISBN 9780226653396.
Simon Harrison, Dark Trophies: Hunting and the Enemy Body in Modern War (New York: Berghahn Books, 2012), 196 pp. ISBN 9780857454980.
Christoph Wulf, Anthropology: A Continental Perspective, trans. Deirdre Winter, Elizabeth Hamilton, Margitta Rouse, and Richard J. Rouse (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 408 pp. ISBN 9780226925066.
Peter Geschiere, Witchcraft, Intimacy, and Trust: Africa in Comparison (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 328 pp. ISBN 9780226047614.
Rane Willerslev, On the Run in Siberia, trans. Coilín ÓhAiseadha (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), 216 pp. ISBN 9780816676279.
Catherine Alexander, Veronica E. Aplenc, August Carbonella, Zaindi Choltaev, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Paola Filippucci, Christian Giordano, Caroline Humphrey, Deema Kaneff, Alexander D. King, Silke von Lewinski, Michaela Pohl, Hermann Rebel and Zala Volčič
Biographical notes on contributors