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Introduction

  • Claire Sponsler
Chapter

Abstract

One of the most important claims of late-twentieth-century social theory and cultural history has been that cultures and their creations are not fixed or unchanging, but rather are constantly in flux. Within the disciplines of anthropology, literary and cultural study, theatre history, and postcolonial studies, among others, recent scholarship has begun to explore the ways in which cultures constitute themselves and are in turn constituted by constantly shifting contexts, cultural interactions, and redrawn borders.1 Whether we are talking about people, cultures, political ideas, films, novels, songs, or plays, social groups and their cultural productions have been shown to be remarkably hard to fence in, keep at home, or “possess” once and for all. Instead, both people and their cultures circulate freely throughout the global village, cropping up in sometimes surprising places and changing shape in unexpected ways. As theory and practice have begun to recognize just how much cultures have to be captured in motion, studies of cross-cultural exchanges have become increasingly crucial, if not particularly easy to undertake. Indeed, one current preoccupation of cultural studies is with how to come to understand both the persistence and the importance of this flow of cultures, peoples, and ideas across the borders that themselves are the product of conceptual and ideological as much as geographic strategies of containment.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    For a few representative studies, see Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994)Google Scholar
  2. James Clifford, Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997)Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    Robert C. Holub, Reception Theory: A Critical Introduction (London: Methuen, 1984) provides a succinct introduction to the chief theorists and concerns of reception theory.Google Scholar
  4. The classic study remains Hans Robert Jauss, Toward an Aesthetic of Reception, trans. Timothy Bahti (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    A useful discussion of de Certeau’s theories of consumption can be found in Mark Poster, “The Question of Agency: Michel de Certeau and the History of Consumerism,” Diacritics 22, 2 (1992): 94–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 4.
    Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven F. Randall (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984); the quotation is from xii.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Claire Sponsler and Xiaomei Chen 2000

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  • Claire Sponsler

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