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Innovation in Tradition / Bernhard Tschofen / THE TRADITION OF INNOVATION: CONSIDERATIONS ON IRREGULAR MODERNITY AS THE RULE OF EVERYDAY CULTURE

02 11th, 2016

Symposium: Innovation in Tradition

Bernhard Tschofen

Institut für Sozialanthropologie & Empirische Kulturwissenschaft, Institute of Popular Culture Studies, University of Zürich

In contrast to the historical study of art and technology, and also to much of the research done in cultural history, the traditions of ethnographic research have for quite some time paid little attention to the subject of innovation. According to the ethnographic focus on premodernity and concepts of culture, which emphasise static living conditions, the field has largely understood technological and social change as entities that ultimately threaten social orders and prolonged continuities. It was not until the second half of the 20th century, when those rural societies, which had been the primary focus of ethnography, were permeated with technical-industrial ways of life, that the field began to concern itself with innovation. In turn, it was discovered that receptivity to the new often served the very continuity, which it had been feared would be destabilised. At the same time, the renowned concept, “Invention of Tradition”, (Hobsbawm/Ranger) not only questioned aging terms of traditionality, but it also redefined the relationship between tradition and novelty. It was from this point on that notions of nonsynchronism and the recognition of differing modernities became common sense in the fields of cultural studies and anthropology.

The presentation will outline the genesis and analytical potential of the terms, “tradition” and “innovation” in regard to their relationship to one another, from a cultural studies perspective. Based on examples from research on region and culture, particular attention will be paid to perspectives that couple technology and the everyday. Last but not least, the intersections of architecture, culture, and society will be highlighted, and the methodological need for interdisciplinary research on innovation will be explored. In other words, how may the intrinsic logic of action in everyday culture, which is permeated by technology and media, be understood? And how can the co-constructive principles of a late modern knowledge-based society approach research and its application?

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