Reinhard Johler

‘Hibridismus’. Istria, Folklore Studies (‘Volkskunde’) and Cultural Theory

Istrien, die Volkskunde und die Kulturtheorie


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In contemporary Folklore Studies (‘Volkskunde’) / European Ethnology / Cultural Anthropology a constructivist, processual and praxeological concept of culture is dominating. Culture is understood as a dynamic and hybrid structure constituted only by a variety of mixtures and intersections. Such ‘cultures of hybridity’ are not only seen as typical of globalized societies that are marked by migrations, but they are meanwhile considered to be characteristic of life in the global present in general. Hybridization (or related concepts such as creolization, transculturization) has thus – and this can be said without doubt – become a key concept for cultural studies (‘Kulturwissenschaften’). The concept of hybridity has been developed in post-colonial studies mainly to investigate extra-European societies. Its use in Europe – e.g. in cultural studies – has brought about impressive results in recent years, but does also increasingly evoke critique. Why – it is asked – is hybridity ‘good to think’, when is the concept helpful und when is it misleading? In this discussion, however, it is largely overlooked that the concept of cultural hybridization in Europe – specifically in Istria – has already been empirically observed and to some extent also theoretically elaborated as ‘Hibridismus’ by linguists and ethnographers in the late 19th Century. That this happened in Istria is no accident, since the peninsula in its history as well as in the present has always been fought over: Istria is either considered as a nationally contested border area or a place of intermingling cultures. Moreover, discourses about national purity and cultural hybridity exist and have always exited at the same time in Istria. With due regard to Austrian Folklore Studies this article pursues this early and genuine study of cultural hybridization and answers the question why these considerations have been neglected in the further theory development of the discipline.

Istria, Austria-Hungary, cultural hybridity, purity, history of Volkskunde, empires versus nation-states, theory of culture

APA citation
Johler R. (2012). „Hibridismus“: Istrien, die Volkskunde und die Kulturtheorie. Zeitschrift für Volkskunde, 108(1), 1-21.