Folk culture versus Modernity

Posted by: | March 3, 2009 | Comments Off on Folk culture versus Modernity

Okay, so I got home from school last night only to find that my internet wasn’t working. I swear! It won’t get fixed until Thursday now, so I’m submitting this from campus. A day late, but here it is:

The readings for this week are both very interesting, long, but interesting.

The text from Campbell was the easier to read, but still very dense and informative. The split between muralism and the state in post-revolutionary Mexico period seems like a logical development to me. Art is experience: “The murals make us remember our experiences together, how we built all of this ourselves, and all the troubles we had.” When your troubles are your leadership, your art is going to show that, and official sponsorship becomes official oppression. Campbell goes much deeper than this though. His analysis of the shift and its implications is complex, insightful, and extremely interesting. I wouldn’t have understood half this at the beginning of the semester. I couldn’t possibly write about the whole text (and I loved it all), so I’ll just make one interesting remark. We talked about resignification in class as a form of popular resistance to state or commercial culture. I thought it was interesting when Campbell shows how the state can also use resignification, best exemplified by some of the public images he presents at the very beginning of his introduction. As a result, he says, the mural form becomes “occupied territory.” An excellent way of putting it!

The second reading, by Taussig, took me some getting used to. But once I understood his writing style everything started making much more sense and the reading more enjoyable. I’ll be honest, though, I haven’t quite finished reading all of it; it will get done tonight. Taussig and Campbell’s writings are in many ways similar but in others very different. Taussig writes in a narrative, almost like a travel log or something. As a result, his goal is not so much an in-depth analysis of the processes involved in the creation of culture, but to paint a picture of a culture. The picture he paints, however, is not so unlike Campbell. The state, for instance, is ever-present and powerful. Also, there is a noticeable relationship between the folk and the state or the folk and modernity. Taussig frequently stresses a not so level interaction between the developed and the developing worlds. “Oil out. Cars, ammo, and videos in,” he repeats. He shows us world of remote villages and superstitious people linked to modern urban society by the “no-man’s land of the highway.” I like the writing and found the content engaging, but my ability to extract what I know is there is limited, so I’m looking forward to discussing this in class.


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