Usable Pasts: Traditions and Group Expressions in North America

Usable Pasts: Traditions and Group Expressions in North America

Usable Pasts: Traditions and Group Expressions in North America

Usable Pasts: Traditions and Group Expressions in North America

Synopsis

In Usable Pasts, fourteen authors examine the manipulation of traditional expressions among a variety of groups from the United States and Canada: the development of a pictorial style by Navajo weavers in response to traders, Mexican American responses to the appropriation of traditional foods by Anglos, the expressive forms of communication that engender and sustain a sense of community in an African American women's social club and among elderly Yiddish folksingers in Miami Beach, the incorporation of mass media images into the "C&Ts" (customs and traditions) of a Boy Scout troop, the changing meaning of their defining Exodus-like migration to Mormons, Newfoundlanders' appropriation through the rum-drinking ritual called the Schreech-In of outsiders' stereotypes, outsiders' imposition of the once-despised lobster as the emblem of Maine, the contest over Texas's heroic Alamo legend and its departures from historical fact, and how yellow ribbons were transformed from an image in a pop song to a national symbol of "resolve."

Excerpt

Tad Tuleja

In a justly influential book published in 1983, Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger coined the phrase “invention of tradition” to describe the appearance within modern states of novel, symbolic, generally normative behaviors that served to “establish continuity with a suitable historical past.” Such invented traditions, they claimed, responded to rapid social repatterning by fixing some areas of social life as comfortingly “invariant.” Thus “customary traditional practices” were revived, and new ones devised, to provide a refuge from the dizzying pace of modern life.

Because Hobsbawm and Ranger were interested in how British colonialism managed transactions of symbolic capital, they depicted tradition invention as primarily a “top down” or nationalizing phenomenon, an elite practice designed to bring homogeneity and continuity to imperial disparateness. “Traditions are commonly relied upon,” Michael Kammen has observed, “by those who possess the power to achieve an illusion of social consensus, [invoking] the legitimacy of an artificially constructed past in order to buttress presentist assumptions and the authority of a regime.” Hence the political and social conservativeness of new traditions—amply demonstrated by . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.