Is it Natural?

Posted by: | March 23, 2009 | Comments Off on Is it Natural?

Hybridity…is it really that natural? From a biological perspective hybridity is commonly a result of human manipulation of genetics – cross-breeding… borne from hyperactive imaginations of scientists with too much time granted to them or childhood desires to fulfill and realize all those creatures that are harvested in magical bedtime stories. Some popular (and scholarly) sources claim that the seeming ‘realness’ of those creatures with their vibrant coats of fur, and eloquent animalistic chatter was probably due to (forceful) milk consumption before the settling into a peaceful slumber. Either way, hybridity is essentially just another fabrication, rarely “authentic” in the natural world. This ‘authenticity’ is mentioned in Canclini’s exerpts within the context of modernity, where modernity enthusiastically asserts itself as the silent genius puppeteering behind the scenes, dictating the progression of popular culture and the stamina of its authenticity and ingenuity. Canclini reveals that “modernizers draw the moral that their interest in the advances and promises of history justifies their hegemonic position: meanwhile the backwardness of the popular classes condemns them to subalternity” (146), and almost as an afterthought states how hegemony is a “constructed character” (146). In the ‘Staging of the Popular’, Canclini relates Folklore with Authenticity as though they were long lost blood relatives subconsciously channeling each other’s life paths only to have a fateful reunion by happenstance on a glorious autumn day. Where Folklore subconsciously channels authenticity (within the discourse of the popular) and can only be preserved by allowing modernity dictate its development. Evidence of these relations is witnessed in the way that “Folklore… is almost always a melancholic attempt at subtracting the popular from the massive reorganization of society, fixing it in artisanal forms of production and communication, and guarding it as an imaginary reserve of nationalist political discourses.” (151) whereby communication (in this case) represents the modern (communication being the brainchild of technology which happens to be THE right hand man of Modernity). The notion that modernity, despite being construed as damaging folklore and what is considered ‘authentic’, is the automobile of choice for the transportation of folk/authenticity into the future is one full of complexities that cause the uprising of questions-galore. It acknowledges the dependence of certain elements of folklore on modernity in order to make them popular enough to be granted exclusive rights to conservation, consequently resulting in immortality. The interdependence seems to rely on the dynamics between institutionilized views of the popular (i.e. media, basically the mediums of communication) in the creation of the ‘hybrid’ form of the folklore where only certain elements of the original or authentic folk have been conserved, and then incorporated with other characteristics to guarantee survival. Cue Questions: Can folklore hybrids which are appraised by the media (popularity points!) be considered authentic? Who or what decides the elements that gain special priviledges to being cryonically preserved in time? How come folklore has to be sugar-coated by modernity in order ensure its own survival? Maybe some questions can be answered Clancini himself who states that “popular condition – [is] dedicated to the oppositions between isolated subalterns and dominating cosmopolitans” (172) and, “with the artistic and the artisanal being included in mass processes of message circulation, their sources of appropriation of images and forms and their channels of distribution and audiences tend to coincide, ” (175): both quotations address the power relations involved in the creation of folklore hybrids which please the masses, henceforth becoming elements of popular culture. To add more complications, Canclini introduces: the concept of a “culture industry” (186), the possibility of “mass culture [as] the great competitor of folklore” (187) and another shade of the ‘popular’ where
“the popular designates the positions of certain actors, which situate them against the hegemonic group and not always in the form of confrontations” (203). All this within the two chapters that have no trace whatsoever of “Hybrid” within their titles. As interest wanes, fatigue emerges and a hint of boredom makes a cameo appearance, only to be refuted by complete annoyance at Canclini for first of all playing with my feelings and secondly not creating a pefectly bundled definition of the “Theories of Mixture III: Hybridity” with trimmings that would challenge even Martha Stewart’s expertise in the Domestic, Canclini decides to explain hybridization as “the breakup and mixing of the collections that used to organize cultural systems, the deterritorialization of symbolic processes, and the expansion of impure genres” (207). He also lets me in on his grand secret of appearing to be cultured (and becoming a bonafide people magnet), leaning over my shoulder and wisely gazing down upon my naivety in a way eeriely reminiscent of Marlon Brando, he huskily recounts “to be cultured in a modern city consists in knowing how to distinguish between what is purchased for use, what is commemorated and what is enjoyed symbolically” (221) that “the notion of an authentic culture as an autonomous internally coherent universe is no longer sustainable” (232), sensing my confusion in dissapointment (a confusion which I was trying to fool him – and myself – into thinking that it was reverence), he jauntily limps away mumbling a barely audible and impacting proverb, “today all cultures are border cultures” (261).


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