Commentary of Feb 15th reading

Posted: February 14, 2012 by shihhsuanchou in Uncategorized

In Celtic Kitsch: Irish-America and Irish Material Culture the author describes how souvenir industry commercialize objects with cultural significances, and able to profit from the Irish Americans. The author is not concerned with authenticity, as he points out its standardization and familiarity that represent culture, thus popular among the diasporic tourists. Rather the author is more interested in what context Kitsch manifest itself and how it’s consumed. The author categorizes such objects base on their “self-conscious location in mobility” from lease mobile to most mobile.

While some scholar argues that tourism is the quest of mankind in search of authenticity, Diasporic tourism is probably more so since people in Diaspora generally have a desire to connect with their imagined homeland. It is therefore ironic that according to the author in order for such commercial products to be Diasporicly significant, they need to be inauthentic. They need to be easily recognizable as representative of the particular culture and the fact that it is consumed out of its supposed context makes it further inauthentic. Yet it is exactly because such products claim tradition and authenticity that people tend to be drawn to them, which in reality makes them not much different with the rest of the tourist industry.

 

In (N)Ostalgie’ for the present: Memory, longing, and East German things the author describes the popularity of former GDR products in modern Eastern Germany. By following the revival, reproduction, commoditization of GDR products and museumfication of GDR daily life the author describes the experience of alienation felt by many Eastern Germans, and the resulting nostalgia of a imagined, idealized past. The author also critiques the identification of “Ostalgie” as “mere nostalgia” by many western Germans as part of the unified Germany national agenda and part of the “politics of significance.”

The author presents an interesting example of how people connect with GDR products because of the centrality of the workplace under the socialist system. The objects became not only symbol of socialist past but also the status of the people as producer of goods. The author also points out that nostalgia is not just a longing and reproduction of the past, but rather a production of a present, a sign of solidarity and collective memory.

 

Both article deals with how mass produced objects came to embody an identity, and both accomplish it by being familiar, being out of their intended context. While GDR products were pointed out as a part of the resistance strategy against the cultural hegemony of the west, I wonder to what extent Celtic Kitsch may also be an attempt of Irish Americans to escape the mainstream American culture. While Berdahl described the intimate relationship between Eastern Germans and the GDR products, I would like to ask what kind of relationship is formed between the Celtic Kirsch objects and the Irish Americans who bought them?

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