Flexibility in culture What is flexibility and it’s nuances? Is it a adaption, a pulsation? Is it a permanent, irreversible change? I was searching for a ‘cultural contour’ or ‘border space’ where the traditional cultural image is challenged. My hypothesis is that this space keeps the culture with both vibrant and protective mechanisms. I think the elements within this space are easily changable and adaptable to reactions of outer or inner changes. One might say that this zone ‘fill up’ the in between space, between the indside and the outside. It is indeed also a creative sphere. It forms tradtional cultural values as more accesible and visible to the outside, as reinterpretations of traditional cultural values. This space also carries a potent field of feelings. The flexibility and the protecting maintenance of the contour are controlled within the register of subjective feelings and opinions of the Sami people. In this border zone one also get aware of what distinguishes me from you. You can place yourself inside of what you recognize something else from outside you. In this way it is a zone of differences, exclusion and inclusion. I have in this diagram distinguished that 1) individual reinterpretations or experimentings are pushing this contour 2) provocations from ‘outside’ impact the ‘body of the culture’. These provocations tend to collect strong reactions from within the culture. To look upon the cultural definition as a whole one could acknowledge it as a more ‘stable cultural definition’ that individs can acknowledge themselve a part of/inside of, and that has sort of a consensus. At the same time, within this ‘more fixed image’ the individual interpretations of the shareholders of the culture constantly challenges this view, and those are the ones that define themselves inside of or outside of. This view is challenged by influences in each of the shareholder’s lives.
Extracts from Ethnic Groups and Boundaries by Fredrik Barth “First, it is clear that boundaries persist despite a flow of personnel across them. In other words, categorical ethnic distinctions do not depend on an absence of mobility, contact and information, but do entail social processes of exclusion and incorporation whereby discrete categories are maintained despite changing participation and membership in the course of individual life histories. Secondly, one finds that stable, persisting, and often vitally important social relations are maintained across such boundaries, and are frequently based precisely on the dichotomized ethnic statuses. In other words, ethnic distinctions do not depend on an absence of social interaction and acceptance, but are quite to the contrary often the very foundations on which embracing social systems are built. Interaction in such a social system does not lead to its liquidation through change and acculturation; cultural differences can persist despite inter-ethnic contact and interdependence.” “The critical focus of investigation from this point of view becomes the ethnic boundary that defines the group, not the cultural stuff that it encloses. The boundaries to which we must give our attention are of course social boundaries, though they may have territorial counterparts. If a group maintains its identity when members interact with others, this entails criteria for determining membership and ways of signalling membership and exclusion.” “We can best analyse the interconnection by looking at the agents of change: what strategies are open and attractive to them, and what are the organizational implications of different choices on their part?” “(i) they may attempt to pass and become incorporated in the pre-established industrial society and cultural group; (ü) they may accept a `minority’ status, accommodate to and seek to reduce their minority disabilities by encapsulating all cultural differentiae in sectors of non-articulation,.... (iii) they may choose to emphasize ethnic identity, using it to develop new positions and patterns to organize activities in those sectors formerly not found in their society, or inadequately developed for the new purposes.”