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Tradition & Agency (Hardback)

Tracing Cultural Continuity & Invention

Imprint: Aarhus University Press
Pages: 355
ISBN: 9788779341388
Published: 20th December 2004
Casemate UK Academic

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Tradition helps to 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 showed in The Invention of Tradition how new governments acquire legitimacy and status by creating "traditional" ceremonies and identities. Their work helped revolutionise 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. In the postscript, Terence Ranger offers a complementary perspective by tracing the effects of nationalism, imperialism and globalised exchange on tradition.

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