Culture and Belonging in Divided Societies

Culture and Belonging in Divided Societies: Contestation and Symbolic Landscapes

Edited by Marc Howard Ross
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 312
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    Culture and Belonging in Divided Societies
    Book Description:

    From cartoons of Muhammad in a Danish newspaper to displays of the Confederate battle flag over the South Carolina statehouse, acts of cultural significance have set off political conflicts and sometimes violence. These and other expressions and enactments of culture-whether in music, graffiti, sculpture, flag displays, parades, religious rituals, or film-regularly produce divisive and sometimes prolonged disputes. What is striking about so many of these conflicts is their emotional intensity, despite the fact that in many cases what is at stake is often of little material value. Why do people invest so much emotional energy and resources in such conflicts? What is at stake, and what does winning or losing represent? The answers to these questions explored in Culture and Belonging in Divided Societies view cultural expressions variously as barriers to, or opportunities for, inclusion in a divided society's symbolic landscape and political life. Though little may be at stake materially, deep emotional investment in conflicts over cultural acts can have significant political consequences. At the same time, while cultural issues often exacerbate conflict, new or redefined cultural expressions and enactments can redirect long-standing conflicts in more constructive directions and promote reconciliation in ways that lead to or reinforce formal peace agreements. Encompassing work by a diverse group of scholars of American studies, anthropology, art history, religion, political science, and other fields, Culture and Belonging in Divided Societies addresses the power of cultural expressions and enactments in highly charged settings, exploring when and how changes in a society's symbolic landscape occur and what this tells us about political life in the societies in which they take place.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0350-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Chapter 1 Cultural Contestation and the Symbolic Landscape: Politics by Other Means?
    (pp. 1-24)
    Marc Howard Ross

    Cartoons of Mohammed in a Danish newspaper, the yearly visit of Japan’s prime minister to a Shinto shrine honoring the country’s war dead (including World War II war criminals), displays of the Confederate battle flag over the capitol of South Carolina, and French schoolgirls wearing Islamic headscarves have all set off political conflicts and sometimes violence in recent years. Why is conflict so intense over these cultural expressions? Why do people invest so much emotional energy in these battles? What is at stake in these conflicts and what does winning or losing represent? The answer explored here is that this...

  5. Chapter 2 The Rise and Fall of a Sacred Place: Ayodhya over Three Decades
    (pp. 25-44)
    Richard H. Davis

    On the morning of Wednesday, 6 July 2005, six young men wearing new clothes and new shoes arrived at the Faizabad bus station in eastern Uttar Pradesh.¹ They were pilgrims, they said, and wished to make a tour of the holy places in nearby Ayodhya, the birthplace of the Hindu god Rama. A driver named Rohan Ahmad offered to take them around in his Marshall jeep for a price of Rs 1,300. At Ayodhya, the six young men had the driver stop at a Hindu temple while they went in to seek the god’s blessings. When they returned, one of...

  6. Chapter 3 Social Lives of the Dead: Contestation and Continuities in the Hawaiian Repatriation Context
    (pp. 45-67)
    Greg Johnson

    Western laws frequently reconfigure—if not entirely disfigure—native cultures. To be equally sure, native cultures often have proven remarkably resilient to laws and forces they represent and advance. Though these truisms have been amply attested and analyzed in venerable if now tired ways, I would like to explore a context that exemplifies and illuminates a somewhat different relationship between Western law and native cultures—one where law has, in potent respects, stimulated “traditional” cultural activities, even when these activities take the form of contestation and outright intracultural conflict. I will argue that these conflicts are manifestations of living tradition,...

  7. Chapter 4 Flagging Peace: Struggles over Symbolic Landscape in the New Northern Ireland
    (pp. 68-84)
    Dominic Bryan and Clifford Stevenson

    Half way along the Cave Hill Road in north Belfast is what is locally known as an interface. The junction near the Cave Hill pub demarcates the “loyalist,” Protestant, Westlands Road area from the predominantly Catholic, Irish republican area known as Little America.¹ Three lampposts at the junction each display two flags, the Union Jack and the Ulster flag (a red cross of St. George with a six-pointed star and red hand in the center) to demarcate the boundary. The flags were put up in late June at the start of the marching season, a period of Protestant parading that...

  8. Chapter 5 Conflict Transformation, Cultural Innovation, and Loyalist Identity in Northern Ireland
    (pp. 85-106)
    Lee A. Smithey

    Walking through the streets of loyalist¹ working-class East Belfast or the Shankill Road, one encounters political and cultural expressions ranging from hastily daubed slogans and acronyms of paramilitary organizations to flags, banners, and elaborate wall murals. The murals celebrate historic victories and crises in loyalist mythology, commemorate fallen comrades and neighbors, and valorize paramilitary organizations and local bands. They have become hallmarks of Northern Ireland’s Troubles, and in recent years have become the subject of a growing tourism industry. Scholars have noted the functions murals serve in expressing communal identity and ideology, marking territory, and delivering statements beyond the locale...

  9. Chapter 6 Islamic Headscarves in Public Schools: Explaining France’s Legal Restrictions
    (pp. 107-127)
    Elaine R. Thomas

    In February 2004, the French National Assembly approved a law prohibiting “the wearing of signs or dress by which students conspicuously express a religious affiliation” in the nation’s public schools. While formally applicable to signs of all religions—headscarves, yarmulkes, and overly large crosses are all banned—the law was clearly passed mainly in response to concerns about Muslim students wearing headscarves. The proposed law was drawn, selectively, from the recommendations of a special investigatory commission appointed by President Jacques Chirac in July 2003 to investigate “the application of the principle of secularism in the Republic” and led by immigration...

  10. Chapter 7 Minority Language Policy in France: Jacobinism, Cultural Pluralism, and Ethnoregional Identities
    (pp. 128-150)
    Britt Cartrite

    France has long been seen as an archetype of the nation-state. French identity and French language policies are generally understood as, at least since 1539, tightly intertwined and set France on a path of homogenization. Since the French Revolution, the centralizing and standardizing needs of state required French rejection of subnational identities and, in particular, regional languages. As a result, recent changes in legal policies and, perhaps most interesting, official rhetoric which seem to suggest an acceptance of regional languages are conceptualized as a profound identity shift within France, a contest to redefine the nation that has profound implications for...

  11. Chapter 8 Symbols of Reconciliation or Instruments of Division? A Critical Look at New Monuments in South Africa
    (pp. 151-175)
    Sabine Marschall

    In any new sociopolitical order, memory is called upon to (re)shape identity and the symbolic landscape in the light of new priorities. Institutionalized and officially endorsed in public commemorative monuments, memory is invariably political and tied to the value systems of an imagined community. In the current post-apartheid South African context, commemorative monuments can make previously silenced voices heard; they can be empowering by affirming the identity and restoring the dignity of marginalized groups; they can be important instruments of healing and reconciliation; and they can facilitate an inclusive process of nation-building (Marschall 2003, 2004). But monuments can also be...

  12. Chapter 9 Emerging Multiculturalisms in South African Museum Practice: Some Examples from the Western Cape
    (pp. 176-192)
    Crain Soudien

    After 1994 a number of new museums opened in South Africa, the most significant of which have been the Nelson Mandela Museum in the small Eastern Cape Province town of Mthatha, the Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill at the Fort, both in the country’s financial capital, Johannesburg, and the Robben Island and District Six Museums in Cape Town. Landmark Exhibitions have included the Democracy X Exhibition at the country’s oldest colonial building, the Castle, in Cape Town and the opening of new sites at the Mapungubwe National Park in the Limpopo Province, a province in the northernmost reaches of South...

  13. Chapter 10 Strategies for Transforming and Enlarging South Africa’s Post-Apartheid Symbolic Landscape
    (pp. 193-215)
    Marc Howard Ross

    The settings in which people live communicate many messages about the meaning of the past relevant to the present and future. These messages are inscribed across the symbolic landscape, and even when it is literally set in stone, what is told about the past can be fluid in that what people emphasize, worry about, commemorate, and celebrate shifts to meet changing needs in the present. Popular and scholarly accounts of the past change as particular details are selectively remembered and forgotten, and lessons drawn from the past are selectively emphasized. Often changes in the symbolic landscape occur slowly; occasionally they...

  14. Chapter 11 Invisible House, Invisible Slavery: Struggles of Public History at Independence National Historical Park
    (pp. 216-237)
    Charlene Mires

    For most of two centuries, the southeast corner of Sixth and Market Streets in Philadelphia stirred little public interest, despite its location one block north of Independence Hall, the landmark birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. Along Market Street, a major thoroughfare, eighteenth-century houses gave way to nineteenth-century commercial buildings. When the light industrial zone fell into decay in the twentieth century, entire blocks were leveled to create a vista of landscaped plazas reaching for three blocks north of Independence Hall. The resulting Independence Mall, originally a state park, became the north-south axis of Independence...

  15. Chapter 12 Politicizing Chinese New Year Festivals: Cold War Politics, Transnational Conflicts, and Chinese America
    (pp. 238-258)
    Chiou-Ling Yeh

    In 1978, the year before the United States normalized its relation with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Nationalist flags—the flags of the Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan)—were prominently displayed on the Chinese New Year parade route in San Francisco while its consul general sat on the reviewing stand.¹ Yet things would quickly change one year later. In the year of the normalization, the representative from Taiwan was no longer present while the Nationalist flag would disappear two years later (Hall 1979: 6). Why did parade organizers shift their political expressions in the wake of the change in...

  16. Chapter 13 Paddy, Shylock, and Sambo: Irish, Jewish, and African American Efforts to Ban Racial Ridicule on Stage and Screen
    (pp. 259-280)
    M. Alison Kibler

    In 1910 an editorial in B’nai B’rith News observed: “Now we have a protest against the ‘stage Jew.’ Some time ago a crusade was made against the ‘stage Irishman.’ The colored people have from time to time protested against the ‘stage Negro.’ And Uncle Tom’s Cabin can not to this day ‘show’ in many sections of the South because of the caricature of southern characters.”¹ This description is an apt introduction to the overlapping campaigns against racial ridicule in the early twentieth century. Irish nationalists threw rotten eggs and vegetables at several types of characters on stage—drunken, lascivious Irish...

  17. Epilogue
    (pp. 281-286)
    Edward T. Linenthal

    These rich, evocative essays introduce readers to a dizzying array of case studies in which symbolic and physical ownership of site, story, and identity are up for grabs. We encounter a Hindu temple, the restless bodies of the dead, parades and flags, scarves, language, monuments and museums, historic sites, the stage, and the changing dress of Miss Chinatown USA. A head scarf is as much a site of bitter conflict as an Afrikaner memorial in a transformed South Africa. The use of regional languages can indicate an opening—or closing—of national stories as much as a capacious or limited...

  18. List of Contributors
    (pp. 287-290)
  19. Index
    (pp. 291-295)