Creative Ethnicity: Symbols and Strategies of Contemporary Ethnic Life

Creative Ethnicity: Symbols and Strategies of Contemporary Ethnic Life

Creative Ethnicity: Symbols and Strategies of Contemporary Ethnic Life

Creative Ethnicity: Symbols and Strategies of Contemporary Ethnic Life

Excerpt

STEPHEN STERN

The subject of Creative Ethnicity is the process by which members of American ethnic groups absorb, invigorate, modify, and transmit folk expressions in a multicultural, pluralistic society. Interaction with members of one's own ethnic group, and response to the cultural values of other groups, lead to the evolution of symbols and strategies that in turn draw on vast and varied cultural resources. Ethnic folklore therefore reflects an entire range of ethnic issues, from the preservation of ethnic communities to the formulation of ethnic identities to the development of ethnic values.

Ethnicity in American society has always been problematic. The uncertainties of life in a multicultural society have been reflected in the folklore of ethnic groups, and these groups have found power and promise in folklore's ability to represent ethnicity imaginatively and to offer new ways of thinking about ethnicity itself. The essays in this volume frequently describe cultural scenes in which ethnics adapt traditional folklore genres to new settings or invent new forms for strategic incorporation into traditional culture. This creative flexibility in many forms of cultural expression suggests that ethnicity is a dynamic and evolving force in American life rather than a conservative grouping of old and outmoded ways.

This is not to say, as Werner Sollors has recently remarked, that ethnicity is a concept invented merely to give the appearance of traditionality. Ethnic cultural resources are often as ingrained in the history and . . .

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