Popular Culture as Folk Culture

Posted by: | February 3, 2009 | Comments Off on Popular Culture as Folk Culture

I still do not fully understand what Popular Culture is. I could probably explain it to another university student, but I cannot imagine trying to explain it to myself as if I were 8. My economics teacher said that “if you can explain the stuff we are learning to your little sister then that means you understand it.” That makes sense because then you would have to be concise, clear and accurate. For an economics theory that is important, but for defining what popular culture is, it is a bit more complicated. Popular Culture, as we have now examined in our class, is very complex as it is continuously evolving through different changes and influences like economic, political and social ones (.i.e. modernity, capitalism, the Spanish Conquest…) therefore it’s hard to define what such a broad concept is when it encompasses so much history and has gone through so many changes. I find it interesting to track the changes of popular culture, for instances the popular expressions or styles among teenagers. Even more interesting and pertinent is learning how these popular expressions and other forms of popular culture came about.
Learning the roots of popular culture is perhaps why we started this weeks readings by examining Popular Culture as Folk Culture. Taking a deeper look at how popular culture was in the past. The word “Folk” as I remember learning in class, comes from the German word “Volk” which means “people” and what does this have to do with anything? Well when I think of Folk I imagine a people of the past, the people who are like the pioneers, the locals, the traditional people, the common people, the ones who emphasize the transmission of cultural heritage through oral transmission. The folk are the carriers of customs, beliefs, arts and thus culture. Therefore where else to begin to understand of popular culture than by reading the legends of the folk, the people, the carriers of culture?

After reading the Pongo’s Dream by Jose Maria Arguedas I can imagine myself having the same laugh even if I had read it when it was first written as I did this weekend. It is a timeless fable. What I mean when I say timeless is that it touches on the very human emotions and behaviours that have existed ever since humans existed and so it does not matter when you read this story in time, you can relate to it in some way. Personally I like the way it was written. After all the cruelty that the serf went through the best part was when the Saint said “Now, lick each other’s bodies slowly, for all eternity.” YES i thought, justice has been served. Other than my own enjoyment of the fable, it does have a moral message to it that I think is a commonality of most legends. I could say that, even in the other legends that we read this week, that their main purpose was to pass on a moral message in order to preserve culture or at least some of its core values. Overall I think it did a good job at that. We can see even today with folk music and other folk stories how popular they still are. We are still able read and listen to them as they are still part of popular culture today.


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