Still Buzzing 20150123 Transculturality and Translatability

I have been wondering how to translate our beloved concept of Transuclturality into Chinese. After discussing with a Professor focusing on Sinology, and getting even more confusion and a sentence our of a devoted Sinologist (“But YOU ARE Chinese! You should have a better idea of creating a new name for our new concept than I could!”), I grew more desperate than ever. How to introduce transculturality and transcultural studies to China, if we don’t even have a proper, and better classy and elegant name for it? (Ok I am a perfectionist!) Anything I can say in Chinese, which are in fact able to describe transcultruality include:

万物有同有异,它求同存异。

万物亦动亦静,它由动观静。

Wuxi-China

These mean the following:

Everything in this world has similarities and differences. It searches for the similarities among the differences.

Everything in this world is still and also in motion. It observes the motion through the still.

Well, translation can be a hardcore work. This is already the best I can do, for now.

Buzzing 20150118: Othering and Study of Materiality

Life of the Objects and The Silent Story-Teller

Objects are born as an “empty space” (according to Pinney). Any discussion on an object must associate with cultural interactions and must not end on an object-level. The notion of separating object and the meaning given to it, as I understand, serves as a precondition of art historian/anthropological research on materiality.

Besides, the original idea for the creation of an object already prepares a certain purpose for it, thus a meaning is given to this object before its creation. Eventually the “empty space” is appropriate only for describing the material(s) before the moment when the idea comes about, not after the creation of the object.

Speyer01

Therefore, born with a meaning, an object is endowed a life by “othering” of human’s natural, self-reflection. The fact is, more than we expect, objects do work not only as an “other”, but also as ourselves. The point for writing biography of an object is to tell stories of the people who create it, pass it on, receive it, and more. Every person appears in the life of an object leaves trace of himself on it, seeable or not. Men make objects to feel subjectivity, and label objects with meaning so that the same objects could be seen, from “the other”‘s point of view, as indicators of themselves. Some agents are visible in the story, some are not. Finally, the materiality exceeds the mere concrete form of itself and serves as a carrier of history, with a life that given by the people around it, becoming a story-teller of cultural interactions.

Aachen-Nacht

Most of objects with historical stories to tell we saw today outlive people of their own time. “The other could speak” is not a simple personification.

Buzzing Buzzing…20150116 Time to Socialise?

Perception of Time
Is it really like we always say, today in this capitalist world, we are so occupied that don’t have time to socialise, don’t have time to leisure. What has changed in our life comparing to hundreds years ago? Has humans’ perception of time changed?

In the era of internet, do we have more time to social or less? If we should call communicating with others online as being socialising?

Using internet contains always, and only information input and/or output. News reading, movie/video watching are mostly input process. Writing Emails is counted as the newest form of writing letters. Writing instant messages can happen at the same time when you do other things or a single thing you do. You can also writing messages with several people at the same time. People can group chat. Isn’t it “hanging out”? Some video chatting with friends and families for hours, or watching the same TV programs while skypping, just like they are “hanging out” and spending time with them. Can’t all of these activities be consider as “socialising”?

Has internet changed the meaning of “social”?
If one talks about “social space”, most young people today would instantly think of the virtual social space. “Social networks” as they call it. On Google plus, one can add friends’ accounts into his own “circle”, and then one can see if they are online, if so, ask them if they want to “hang out”.

i think, whether or not an activity can be called socialising should be defined by how the participants feel, instead of how it looks like, how “weird” it might be. Feeling is always a tricky and unrecognised way to define and to measure. But isn’t it an ultimate criteria or everything we do? Maybe this is a possible topic for sociologists and phycologists, to find out how we can develop a system to measure if we are “feeling” ourselves socialising, as if we can’t tell by ourselves.

Coming back to perception of time, I believe, if we modern humans carefully count how much time we devoted into professional tasks or studies, the truth is, not so much as we imagined. Working from 9 to 17 is 8 hours in total. If 8 hours sleeping time not calculated, we still have 8 hours to do whatever we can and want — socialising, meditating, eating (for some who say them being too busy to eat), exercising, and reading and writing.

But why don’t we feel the 8 hours? Comparing to Bengali men sitting everyday 5 hours together and chatting, we live in a seemingly much stressful way.

In fact, we still have the 8 hours, but we only have them as small pieces, instead of hours of time chunk as people have living in pre-modernity.

Urbanisation of cities make people spend more and more time on transportation. So much junk and useless information on the internet and television distract us every day for one or two ours. involuntarily and voluntarily we give away so much time a day. And still feeling lack of time.

We are living in a completely different world than our ancestors. They faced big chunk of time a day, from dawn to dawn. Later, specialisation of labour re-decided the world’s resource distribution; while for individuals, specialising certain activities and distributing them into small sections of time is a favoured way to solve this problem.

Buzzing 20150108: The Unchallengeable Freedom of Speech

What happened in Paris at Charlie Hebdo is an absolutely horrible terrorist attack. Violence is a brutal way to defend Islamic holiness. The al-Qaida terrorist cell in Yemen, according to British media, is involved. This bloody attack has been condemned by the international. Not only the western media is reporting the ruthless murder, they are somehow also conveying additional sentiments to the public. Something provocative, radical, hateful, and worse.

By reading through Weibo feed, I noticed Chinese people’s attitude towards Islam. Some show their fury and some show their fear. What is even more shocking to me is that, some well-educated and renowned journalists/writers, who advocate for well-spread western values (democracy, human right, equality and freedom), all voicing from the same and only term “press freedom”, as the same in almost all western media. Not ANYTHING ELSE. Is this really only another tragic conflict of terrorism and freedom of speech? In China, people never say ill of the dead. (逝者為大) Because they are, well, dead already. What’s the point to talk about if there’s anything that they have done are questionable. But it seems that, since I have devoted to train myself as a qualified journalist from western training, I should of course take the responsibility to tell THE TRUTH, of mine, which is to say of their misbehaviour.

pencils symbol

Have Islam ever enjoyed sarcasm on their holiness?

No.

Why not?

Modern Communist-trained Chinese people all know the following: I won’t offend others, if they don’t offend me; if they do, I will offend them too. (人不犯我,我不犯人;人若犯我,我必犯人。) The words from Mao has become a principle of Chinese diplomatic behaviour. The West has tried for many decades to understand it, and tried to deal with the Communist China.

The West are quick learners in terms of dealing with China. However, dealing with Islam from the beginning of seventh century, the West seems to hardly learned. Learning not how to submit, but to understand, and further, respect, if possible.

If someone has fatal allergy to nuts, another person, who’s playful and is aware of this person’s condition, comes and gives him a nut to eat. He would be furious and think if this guy is trying to kill him and “better kill him before he manages to kill me with nuts”…

image of islam in the west

What can be laughed about, and what should remain serious? Is there a limit of this so-called “absolute and holy” freedom of speech?

BUZZING 20150103: “Networks” or “Flows”?

Networks or Flows?

I loved using the term “cultural flow.” In fact, I have been using it during my whole studying time. I liked it simply because it matches with how I understand the dynamics of cultures works. Today I was pointed out, that the shortages of this word “flow” are subtle but to some extent, also obvious.

When describing a cultural phenomenal movement as a “flow”, it implies that the process resembles to liquid motion, without obstacles. While if there are two similar motions of the same object, the two processes are also implied being even, which, in reality, is always not the case. Vasquez makes this quite clear in the text “Studying Religion in Motion: A Networks Approach.”

Hyperball

Instead of using “flow’, Vasquez prefers “network”, which successfully avoids anti-structuralism conveyed by the metaphor of liquidity. Networks of cultures (and in this study, religions) demonstrate better and more structural system which we can still hope to study the complex dynamics  of cultures.

But I have a further question: if the “network” is also a metaphor (comes from already applied fields of social and natural sciences), then is it also necessary to analogise the formation and construction process of this network/networks?

nln-network-map

The introduction of the concept of osmosis within the system is a very smart move: the network in the context of biology is also capable of containing metaphor of “flow”. And osmosis also conveys the fact of selectiveness in the transmission and transferring procedure.

Still, I don’t think the limitation of the term “flow” when it is used in the context of cultures and their motions so problematic. The imagination of “flow”‘s non-obstacleness based on, well, imagination. While the word itself does contain “smoothness” and “continuity”, it does not convey the evenness of the quality and speed if there’s another similar flow. As blood in veins, obstacles can always be there, various with levels; thus the motions can be slow and fast. The fact is, when power comes in, unevenness of the cultural zones provides exactly what needed to create cultural flow. It can be stopped, but will always have the tendency to continue, as long as the unevenness exists.