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Authenticity, hybridity, and difference

Debating national identity in twentieth-century Mexico

Wil G. Pansters

This article studies the transformation of the debate about national culture in twentieth-century Mexico by looking at the complex relationship between discourses of authenticity and mestizaje. The article firstly demonstrates how in the first half of the twentieth century, Mexican national identity was constructed out of a state-led program of mestizaje, thereby supposedly giving rise to a new and authentic identity, the mestizo (nation). Secondly, it is argued that the authentication project around mestizaje is riddled with paradoxes that require explanation. Thirdly, the article studies the political dimension of the authenticity discourse and demonstrates how the homogenizing and unifying forces that spring from the process of authentication played an important role in buttressing an authoritarian regime. Fourthly, the article looks at two recent developments: indigenous cultural politics and transnationalism. Here it is shown how discourses of difference, pluralism, and transnationalism are challenging the central tenets of Mexican post-revolutionary national culture and the boundaries of the national Self.

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African Dawn

Keïta Fodéba and the Imagining of National Culture in Guinea

Andrew W. M. Smith

This article addresses the cultural activity of Keïta Fodéba, a popular musician, poet, dramatist, and ultimately prominent member of the independent Guinean government. His experiences during the 1950s refl ect emergent trends during this period of profound negotiation, in which the terms of the “postcolonial” world were established. Fodéba was a formative figure in the emergence of Guinean national culture but also played an important role in providing Guinea’s independence movement with a renewed impetus beyond Marxist ideology and demands for political equality. Using archival material that reveals French metropolitan fears about his activities, one gains insight into the networks of anticolonial activism with which he engaged. Following Fodéba, from his triumph on Broadway to his death at Camp Boiro, gives new perspectives on his challenging work and off ers greater insight into the transfers and negotiations between metropole, colony, and beyond that characterized the decolonization process.

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Pentecostalism and 'National Culture'

A Dialogue between Brazilian Social Sciences and the Anthropology of Christianity

Cecília L. Mariz and Roberta B.C. Campos

This article aims to show how the hegemonic interpretation of Pentecos- talism in Brazil has difficulty recognizing changes caused by these churches to 'local' cultures. We argue that this tendency can be explained by a widespread adherence to structuralist theories of society combined with an unwillingness to accept the reimag- ining of a national culture historically built up by Brazilian social science. We suggest that the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God has been the Pentecostal church most studied by Brazilian researchers because it provides a powerful means to indicate the strength of 'Brazilian culture'. Through our analysis of more recent studies, we point out the salience of these debates to wider questions relating to the emergent anthropology of Christianity, concluding that since neither discontinuities nor continuities can be denied in the field, the focus on one or the other dimension should be seen as a methodological choice rather than an orientation specifically arising from empirical observation.

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Jan Baetens

'National' culture, one that is linked to the daily perception of cultural artefacts and inevitably affected by the context of globalisation, can be considered through the optic of Belgian comics. And although Belgian national culture escapes easy characterisation, it can at least be explored from three different angles. Firstly, Flemish comics will be discussed in terms of the Flemish way of 'doing comics' or, more broadly, anti-Belgicism, in terms of both political subtext and language issues. Secondly, francophone Belgian comics can be approached as an example of cultural blindness, marked by 'evasion' or the playing-down of Belgian specificity in broad cultural as well as more precise linguistic terms. Drawing upon the works of Deleuze and Guattari, these examples can then be used as an outline for a framework of broader analysis regarding national cultures in peripheral situations.

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Susanne Grindel

Taking as its starting point the current debate over the significance of history in the National Curriculum for England, this article examines the place of the country's colonial past in its national culture of memory. In the context of debates about educational policy and the politics of memory concerning Britain's colonial heritage, the author focuses on the transmission and interpretation of this heritage via school history textbooks, which play a key role in the politics of memory. This medium offers insight into transformations of the country's colonial experience that have taken place since the end of the British Empire. School textbooks do not create and establish these transformations in isolation from other arenas of discourse about the culture of memory by reinventing the nation. Instead, they reflect, as part of the national culture of memory, the uncertainties and insecurities emerging from the end of empire and the decolonization of the British nation's historical narrative.

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A FRENCH PARADOX?

Toward an Explanation of Inconsistencies between Framing and Policies

Henri Bergeron, Patrick Castel and Abigail C. Saguy

The French news media has framed “obesity” largely as a product of corporate greed and social inequality. Yet, France has—like other nations including the United States—adopted policies that focus on changing individual-level behavior. This article identifies several factors—including food industry lobbying, the Ministry of Agriculture’s rivalry with the Ministry of Health and alliance with the food industry, and competition with other policy goals—that favored the development of individual-level policy approaches to obesity in France at the expense of social-structural ones. This case points to the need to more systematically document inconsistencies and consistencies between social problem framing and policies. It also shows that national culture is multivalent and internally contradictory, fueling political and social struggles over which version of national culture will prevail at any given moment.

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Ian Fairweather

The advent of the postcolonial era was heralded by the emergence of new nation states from the territories of the colonial powers. These new states inherited a model of nationhood that emerged in Europe in the seventeenth century, in which the nation is presented as a symbolic community creating powerful allegiances to a cultural ideal. For the culturally diverse nations that emerged with the end of colonialism, this ideal of identification between the political nation state and a ‘national culture’ has always been problematic. Increasingly, the same is true in the metropoles themselves, as the postcolonial breaking down of barriers leads them to become ever more multicultural.

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European Bodies?

Class and Gender Dynamics among EU Civil Servants in Brussels

Paweł Lewicki

Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork between 2007 and 2011 in Brussels, this article shows how visual markers, class distinctions and classification of gender performances come together to create a ‘Euroclass’ among European civil servants. These markings, distinctions and classifications are denoted on bodily hexis and body performance and evoke stereotypes and essentialised representations of national cultures. However, after the enlargements of the EU in 2004 and 2007 they also reveal a postcolonial and imperial dynamic that perpetuates the division into ‘old’ and ‘new’ Europe and enables people from old member states to emerge as a different class that holds its cultural power firm in a dense political environment permeated by networks.

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René, Ginette, Louise et les autres

nostalgie et authenticité dans la chanson néo-réaliste

Barbara Lebrun

France's retro rock music (chanson néo-réaliste) of the 1990s and 2000s favors acoustic music and "old-fashioned" instruments such as the accordion in order to reject today's fascination with novelty and consumerism. In doing so, this music genre looks back to pre-war France and rehabilitates an all-white national culture that is problematically nostalgic, in a similar fashion to the film Amélie. This article explores the ways in which chanson néo-réaliste still manages to forge a sense of protest identity in contemporary France, while engaging in apparently reactionary tactics. The specificities of this music genre are explored through an analysis of the lyrics, music, iconography and performance of, primarily, the group Têtes Raides, while contrasting their nostalgia of "protest" with that of the more commercially successful genre of variétés.

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Conceptions of Nation and Ethnicity in Swedish Children's Films

The Case of Kidz in da Hood (Förortsungar, 2006)

Anders Wilhelm Åberg

Swedish children's films frequently deal with issues of nation and ethnicity, specifically with “Swedishness”. This may be most obvious in films based on the works of Astrid Lindgren, which abound with nostalgic images of the national culture and landscape. However, films about contemporary Sweden, such as Kidz in da Hood (Förortsungar, 2006) address these issues too. Kidz in da Hood is about children in the ethnically diverse suburbs of Stockholm and it tells the story of a young fugitive, Amina, who is cared for by a young bohemian musician. It is, interestingly, a remake of one of the first Swedish children's films, Guttersnipes (Rännstensungar, 1944). In this article I argue that Kidz in da Hood is a contradictory piece, in the sense that it both celebrates and disavows “Swedishness”, as it substitutes the class conict of Guttersnipes for ethnic conflict.