How can we change the narrative? What would happen if your purpose was oriented toward cultural sustainability instead of commerce?
SXSW is a huge convention of tech innovators. Valerie Casey was named a “Guru” of the year by Fortune magazine, a “Hero of the Environment” by Time magazine, and a “Master of Design” by Fast Company. She was also selected as one of the “World’s Most Influential Designers” by BusinessWeek.
I want to share a thoughtful blog by a grad student at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, Nicholas Merkelson. The blog, Culture in Peril, posted about Goucher’s program. What it is about:
This blog serves as your source of the most up-to-date information and news about humankind’s shared cultural heritage. Culture in Peril will point followers towards the latest reports of heritage issues in the world today and provide insight into why and how these issues are–and must be–a concern to every individual.
Irrespective of age, gender, race, religion, or beliefs, human beings are linked by a common heritage and cultural legacy. The aim of Culture in Peril is thus to explain why damage to and destruction of cultural property (both tangible and intangible) affects us all. It is an underlying premise of Culture in Peril that the loss of this shared heritage is, ultimately, a serious hindrance to the mutual understanding and acceptance of world cultures.
In my last installment of this blog, I spoke of New Zealand as a “small but important” Pacific country. I had a couple of aspects of that country in mind: the fact that New Zealand is an important destination for Pacific peoples in an era when climate change is disrupting and marginalizing regional cultures, and also because New Zealand is the site of what can be seen as a profound example of cultural recovery as witnessed in what many observers see as an inspiring reemergence and revitalization of Maori language and culture. In this entry (and on my way to returning to my original topic of “Imagining Equity”) I’d like to talk about one extraordinary initiative that contributed to this shining beacon of cultural sustainability.
In 1952, various political and cultural visionaries instituted a publication, “Te Ao Hou” (“The New World”) [see http://teaohou.natlib.govt.nz/journals/teaohou/index.html]. This new magazine was to be a “marae on paper.” Literally the marae is the courtyard in the middle of a Maori village, but figuratively it is the center of culture — the “meeting place,” but even more importantly, it is the sacred place where local Maori culture is practiced, implemented, learnt and passed on.
Metaphorically recreating this sacred space in the highly visible and accessible realm of print publication was a brilliant innovation on traditional culture, and an excellent example of what I call “cultural documentation as an instrument of sustainability.” Te Ao Hou was a precursor to contemporary language recovery (Kohanga Reo, etc.) and Maori education models (Kura Kaupapa Maori), and paved the way for a host of powerful cultural movements, aimed not only at cultural preservation, but also culture sustenance and health.
The genesis of Te Ao Hou also provides us a model, a terminology, and the beginning of a method for framing and implementing our aspirations — a language to facilitate our imaginings.
The first editor of Te Ao Hou was an anthropologist named Eric Schwimmer. In subsequent years, Schwimmer (who is Quebecois) has gone on to theorize various notions of diversity and cultural “health” that are germane to our discussion of cultural sustainability, and he has coined a useful term, “anthropotechniques,” for our efforts.
In a 2003 article, “National Minorities: Will, Desire and Optimal Homeostasis: a Reflection on Biculturalism in New Zealand, Spain, Quebec and Elsewhere” (Anthropologie et Société 27, no. 3 (2003): 155-84), Schwimmer proposes a model of “optimal homeostasis” in which the interests of the nation-state are balanced, or merged with the interests of what he calls “national minorities” and localities. This ongoing process takes place in the ethnographic present. [This article is only available in French — excerpts that follow here are my translation].
He explores “bi-culturalism” as practiced in New Zealand, Spain and Canada and the development of intermediary structures that enable dialogue between factions in contestation for resources, recognition, legitimation, etc. His approach can be seen as a kind of a de-centering of the core in a core-periphery binary.
As I see it, the most salient feature of Schwimmer’s analysis for developing our notion of “cultural sustainability” is that his model and the anthropotechniques that he proposes neatly frame some of the tasks at hand — we desire to reconcile diverse identities in a way that enables peoples within a bounded political area (the nation-state) to aspire to a common national identity and, at the same time, retain their separate, intermediate identities and allegiances as national and local minorities — their “ethnicity,” as it were.
Schwimmer’s approach merges with ours because he acknowledges and emphasizes the agency, the mana (in Maori, “pride,” “self respect,” “stature,” “status,” that “certain something,” etc. — see Mauss, etc.) of ethnic groups by speaking of them as “nations” or “national minorities.” He locates them globally and demonstrates the significance of their active global performance — cultural “value” on a global scale — as a factor in their local/national negotiations: “The position occupied by the dominated nation, even within the nation-state, will be determined by its prestige in the global scheme. Its historic [traditional] values — mobilised, transformed, decolonised — will be appear in each effective advance…” (Schwimmer 2003: 156).
As a practical matter, negotiated coexistence between cultural and political factions is a desirable solution to resolution of differences. However negotiation and legislation are not enough if the various parties are not on a convergent path — “…it remains difficult to establish an ‘optimal homeostasis’ between populations where there are major (cultural, historic, linguistic, ideologic) differences” (ibid.). So one of the aims of our endeavor is to seek convergent understandings and to build shared symbol sets.
There are also useful ideas here for reconciling tension between grassroots movements and policy oriented approaches. For Schwimmer, “complicity” — i.e., shared ends and overlapping agendas — connotes partnership in a mutually beneficial convergence of fundamental values between the dominant culture, (represented by the state), and those on the “periphery.” The structural elements of identity formations — the imposition of categories via laws and geopolitical boundaries matter, but they will not function effectively without the cooperation of people, “For despite legislative instruments, such a system will not function well if there is not a convergence of fundamental values among its members. This convergence isn’t given but can be developed gradually if the State succeeds in creating community institutions, perceived by the peripheral nations as favorable to coexistence. In the contrary case, despite all negotiations, the peripheries will find themselves increasingly uncomfortable within their dominant Sates” (ibid.: 157).
What emerges is the sense that negotiated coexistence (and “optimal homeostasis”) requires a coming together that, if successful, results in the construction of a new, joint identity — a national identity — which would allow for a “plurality of modes of belonging” (ibid.). Such a national identity accommodates people with different attitudes and cultural orientations to be comfortable — it allows them to wear (and to celebrate) their various individual and corporate identities without excessive conflict, fracture or disjuncture.
So, for my original concern with documentation, and particularly film, as an instrument of cultural sustainability, the construction of this “plurality of modes” in the “group mind” begins with the Imagining of Equity in public discourse. An important part of this “imagining,” is an embodied motion — from the realm of the unspoken to the adjacent domain of the performed — witnessed, experienced, and presented in the documentary form. Of course we now have a whole range of challenging new media opportunities for us to build “space” for traditional “places.”
In my next entry, I will return to some of the more colorful aspects of my New Zealand experience…
This comes from the remarkable organization Survival International .
USDA published a notice of $5 million in grant funds available through the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) in today’s March 1 edition of the Federal Register. NSAC and the Wallace Center developed this program and NSAC championed it in the 2002 Farm Bill.
For more information, go here: http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/farmers-market-grant-opportunity-announced/
Come to our information session on Saturday, March 13, from 2-4 p.m. in Buchner Hall in the Alumnae/i House on campus. Meet faculty and program staff, speak with other prospective students, and get a feeling for our campus.
We hope you will join us for an informal and fun gathering to meet the faculty and staff of Goucher’s Masters in Cultural Sustainability program!
WHEN: March 13, 2010, from 2 – 4 p.m.
WHAT: Information session for the Masters’ in Cultural Sustainability – light snacks and beverages (and great conversation!)
WHERE: Buchner Hall in the Alumnae/i House on the campus of Goucher College in Towson, MD
Click here for directions to Goucher.
Click here for a campus map.
Alumnae/i House is 1 on the campus map. Parking is available on the main campus parking lot (V – visitor parking). Take the second left past the gatehouse (7 on the campus map).
RSVP now to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-697-4646 to let us know you’re coming.
We look forward to seeing you on the 13th!
Some of you may well be interested in this post on The Green Economy Post:
Culture and Local Governance / Culture et Gouvernance Locale is now accepting manuscript submissions for its ‘Culture and Sustainable Communities’ special issue to be published in September 2010. Papers are invited across a broad range of theory and practice of cultural sustainability planning within the municipal context. Potential themes include, but are not limited to, case studies of municipalities that incorporate culture within sustainability planning, new strategic approaches and frameworks of incorporating culture within sustainability initiatives, theoretical examinations and adaptation of cultural considerations within the sustainability paradigm, and the interplay between diversity and sustainability in municipal cultural plans.
The submission deadline for this special issue is May 1, 2010.
Interesting job announcement:
Assistant Programme Specialist
Intangible Cultural Heritage Section, Division of Cultural Objects and
Intangible Heritage, Culture Sector
3 April 2010
Under the authority of the Chief of Section of Intangible Cultural
Heritage and the supervision of the Chief of the Evaluation Unit, the
incumbent will assist in the coordination, development, management and
evaluation of activities and projects related to intangible cultural
heritage (“ICH”), in particular in the framework of the implementation
of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural
I hope Jeff Gillenwater will forgive me for quoting a snippet from his groundwork paper from his Intro to Cultural Sustainability course:
The neighborhood’s tradition is not defined by the use of specific time appropriate tool sets or materials but by the creative, skillful use of tools and materials within the context of contemporary circumstance, whether that use occurred 150 years ago or yesterday.
This is a pretty brilliant thing to say, I think.
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Goucher's Master of Arts in Cultural Sustainability is a completely unique new program. We teach our students how to work closely with individuals and communities to identify, protect, and enhance their important traditions, their ways of life, their cherished spaces, and their vital relationships to each other and the world.