ⓘ Transculturalism


ⓘ Transculturalism

Transculturalism is defined as "seeing oneself in the other". Transcultural is in turn described as "extending through all human cultures" or "involving, encompassing, or combining elements of more than one culture".


1. Other definitions

In 1940, transculturalism was originally defined by Fernando Ortiz, a Cuban scholar, based on the article Nuestra America 1881 by Jose Marti. From Marti Gras idea, Ortiz thought that transculturalism was the key in legitimizing the boundaries based on past cultural heritages. And that in transculturalism the concept of culture is at the center of the nation-state or the disappearance of the nationstate itself. In this context, German cultural scholar Dagmar Reichardt stresses the didactical relevance of a paradigmatic shift in academia through Transcultural Studies, mainly focusing on the European model of conviviality in a globalized world focusing on French didactics and on Italian culture.

Another source of transculturalism is the work of American and Russian critical thinker Mikhail Epstein, beginning in 1982, and later supported by Ellen Berry, Arianna Dagnino, Slobodanka Vladiv–Glover and others. The theory of transculture is developed in Mikhail Epsteins book After the Future: The Paradoxes of Postmodernism and Contemporary Russian Culture Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1995, 392 pp. and especially in Mikhail Epsteins and Ellen Berrys book Transcultural Experiments: Russian and American Models of Creative Communication. Within a comparative literary context, the theory of the transcultural is further developed by Dagnino in her book Transcultural Writers and Novels in the Age of Global Mobility West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 2015, 240 pp.


2. Characteristics

According to Richard Slimbach, author of The Transcultural Journey, transculturalism is rooted in the pursuit to define shared interests and common values across cultural and national borders. Slimbach further stated that transculturalism can be tested by means of thinking "outside the box of ones motherland" and by "seeing many sides of every question without abandoning conviction, and allowing for a chameleon sense of self without losing ones cultural center".

According to Jeff Lewis, transculturalism is characterised by cultural fluidity and the dynamics of cultural change. Whether by conflict, necessity, revolution or the slow progress of interaction, different groups share their stories, symbols, values, meanings and experiences. This process of sharing and perpetual beaching releases the solidity and stability of culture, creating the condition for transfer and transition. More than simple multiculturalism, which seeks to solidify difference as ontology, transculturalism acknowledges the uneven interspersion of Difference and Sameness. It allows human individuals groups to adapt and adopt new discourses, values, ideas and knowledge systems. It acknowledges that culture is always in a state of flux, and always seeking new terrains of knowing and being.

Transculturalism is the mobilization of the definition of culture through the expression and deployment of new forms of cultural politics. Based on Jeff Lewis’ From Culturalism to Transculturalism, transculturalism is charactized by the following:

  • Transculturalism is deeply suspicious of itself and of all utterances. Its claim to knowledge is always redoubtable, self-reflexive, and self-critical.
  • Transculturalism emphasizes on the problematics of contemporary culture in terms of relationships, meaning-making, and power formation; and the transitory nature of culture as well as its power to transform.
  • Transculturalism locates relationships of power in terms of language and history.
  • Transculturalism can never eschew the force of its own precepts and the dynamic that is culture.
  • Transculturalism does not seek to privilege the semiotic over the material conditions of life, nor vice versa.
  • Transculturalism looks toward the ways in which language wars are historically shaped and conducted.
  • Transculturalism is interested in dissonance, tension, and instability as it is with the stabilizing effects of social conjunction, communalism, and organization; and in the destabilizing effects of non-meaning or meaning atrophy. It is interested in the disintegration of groups, cultures, and power.
  • Transculturalism seeks to illuminate the various gradients of culture and the ways in which social groups create and distribute their meanings; and the ways in which social groups interact and experience tension.
  • Transculturalism accepts that language and materiality continually interact within an unstable locus of specific historical conditions.
  • Transculturalism never sides with one moral perspective over another but endeavors to examine them without ruling out moral relativism or meta-ethical confluence.