Cultural Analysis Volume 1, 2000
Bengt Holbek and the Study of Meanings in Fairy Tales
This paper argues that Bengt Holbek's attempt to reduce all "marvelous" elements in fairy tales to real-world referents drastically conceals the dynamics of traditional symbolic representations underlying this narrative genre.
Dominant Discourses of Power Relations and the Melanesian Other: Interpreting the Eroticized, Effeminizing Gaze in National Geographic
This paper analyzes the effeminate and sensual idealization of the Melanesian Other and argues that it is broadly linked to themes in Western cultural history. Race and geopolitics are organizing backdrops for narratives told about the Melanesian Other, and exemplify the "noble savage" theme as fetish. To travel in space is to travel in time. The phantasmagoric presentation of nude Melanesian men and women is for the consumption of Western white readers back home. Immoderate sexuality and the uncontained body of black savages poses a tangible threat to Western male viability in Melanesia. Mourning the passing of traditional Melanesian society and imperialist nostalgia makes racial discrimination appear innocent and pure in National Geographic, which masks the West's involvement with processes of domination. It is an eroticized, effeminizing gaze that reestablishes existing power relations in the imperialist scheme.
The Pleasures of the Ear: Toward an Ethnography of Listening
Collection and research on expressive culture had its beginning in scholars' deep and often emotional and sensory attraction to folk song, narration, and craft. Writing and print were the customary 19th-century media of learning and communicating knowledge, and the growing scholarly habit of screening out emotional vocabulary further impoverished our understanding of the sensory and sensual totality of experience. While students of culture have long since begun to critically examine their fields' legacies, the more intimate, affective linkage between burgeoning scholars and their disciplinary subject has not been fully considered. It is this implicit attraction and its marginalization, if not disappearance from scholarly purview, that contributed to the equal marginalization of sensory experience, affect,and emotion from ethnographic work. To comprehend the marginal place of what I would like to term an "ethnography of listening" (as one example within a larger ethnography of sensory perception), this essay sketches the implications of the successive exclusion of sentimentality and sensuality from scholarship concerned with folklore, before turning to a discussion of why such marginalization is increasingly untenable and how ethnographers are beginning to recover sensuality and corporality as a vital part of understanding expressive culture.
"Young Ned of the Hill" and the Reemergence of the Irish Rapparee: A Textual and Intertextual Analysis
The song "Young Ned of the Hill" by the Pogues resurrects an outlaw hero from Irish folklore and attempts to make sense of contemporary experience by appealing to a meaningful past. Through close attention to text and intertextual references, this article considers why Ned of the Hill has reemerged as a symbolic figure, and what messages are conveyed by the song's representation of the outlaw. In particular, the song may provide commentary on the contemporary political situation in Northern Ireland. In the process of exploring how the song selectively draws from previous discourse, scholarship in folklore and linguistic anthropology help us explore broader issues in interpreting text, context, and tradition.
After the Ball Is Over: Bringing Cinderella Home
Cinderella, a popular children's story, features a woman of ideal proportions elevated to myth. This is not the ubiquitous folktale's nature but derives from mistranslation and application. The contemporary Cinderella's most memorable and crucial features—glass slipper and ugly sisters—have little original relevance; now magic, not maturity, is lauded. Feminist phenomenology reveals Cinderella as a primer for moral and gender role conventions, leeched of race, gender, and class. Sub-textual messages train girls in antisocial behaviors and antipathetic family relations. Despite the almost thoroughly female content of Cinderella, the end-result of this instruction is the eventual absence of female agency and identity.