Folklore and Modernity
The 21st century is marked by a profound contradiction. On one hand, connectivity and integration are on the rise: constantly evolving technologies and economic models of global consumption, as well as instant and ubiquitous access to information. On the other hand, old empires and federations are fading away, while subcultures and particularisms are rapidly emerging, proclaiming their distinction. The global paradox is also present for the individual, caught between homogeneity and plurality. The self and the other – collective and personal imagination – are also evolving: the way people look at each other, interact and recognise themselves is in transformation.
Identity is the first victim of the crisis of our society. The individualism of modern times has triggered a return to collective rituals as the only “place” where a shared identity can be reasserted: festivals and traditions are experiences where the crisis of post-modern society is overcome. My ongoing project is research into the social function of rituals in the context of a contemporary identity crisis.
Rituals and traditions connect the present to the past, the individual to a community. They represent a moral and intellectual thread that link together new generations to the old. By replicating the same ancient symbols, rituals express the desire for a sense of collective belonging of the individual within a society. They are far more than simple religious expression, as for centuries they have played, and continue to play, an important role in the process of defining and maintaining individual and collective identities. It is the fascination of the eternal return, the magical power of visual memory; tradition conceived as something which is transmitted whilst being continuously betrayed and renewed. In the language of tradition, history and imagination overlap, while the ghosts of origins are represented in the elementary and auratic form of the root – both individual and collective.