Aarhus Universitetsforlag

Tradition and Agency

Tracing cultural continuity and invention

A part of the subject area

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355 pages ill.
ISBN 87 7934 138 1

Edited by

With contributions by
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About the book

Tradition helps ensure continuity and stability in human affairs, signifying both the handing down of cultural heritage from one generation to the next, and the particular customs, beliefs and rituals being handed down. In the social sciences, tradition has been a central concept from the very start.

Yet - to update the old quip about nostalgia - tradition is not what it used to be. Twenty years ago, Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger helped revolutionize the understanding of tradition in anthropology, history and sociology, stimulating an enormous amount of research on invented and imagined traditions.

However, most of this research has focussed on the cultural dynamics of specific local innovations and reactions to global developments.

The present anthology seeks to highlight instead just how widespread the invention and revival of traditions is. The individual chapters feature a fascinating series of case studies from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Australia, and Europe, while the editors provide an overview of how the various discussions address the larger questions of cultural continuity, agency and the use of cultural resources.

Press reviews

Benedict Scambary The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology

"Tradition and Agency: Tracing Cultural Continuity and Invention is an important and multilayered contribution to the literatur on tradition. It reasserts, mostly, the centrality of local agency in the imagination and invention of tradition while building on earlier contributions that focused on the role of imperialism and nationalism."

Robert Tonkinson Ethnos

"Tradition and Agency is without a doubt a strong addition to the literature on the politics of tradition, and a fine companion piece for the editors' earlier Folk special edition."

Lamont Lindstrom Anthropological Forum

"This volume celebrates the purposeful celebration of tradition to cultivate village, ethnic and national identities, to stake land claims, to shore up authority or to sell art in a globalised market. The book's cover features a brilliant color painting by Papua New Guinea artist Mathias Kauage. The artist - the agent - imagines and inherits tradition: Kauagepaints one of his gaudy airplanes, carrying pilot and passengers decked out in 'flash' customary garb, whose flight trajectory across the land traces both continuity and invention."

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