As the COVID-19 crisis is apparently waning in many parts of the world, many felt that now is the time to attempt to return to that mythical status quo ante, only to find that that was hardly possibly anymore. The world had decided to move on and while some wealthier individuals were busily planning their revenge spending, other ‘bothersome’ events began or continued to take place – the horrible war Vladimir Putin forced upon Ukraine, droughts and floods associated with climate change, staggering inflation rates, and the great resignation, all leading to disruptions in supply chains and companies re-evaluating their business models. If for some years before COVID-19, the term “disruption” had increasingly been validated as something positive, signalling important and welcome (by some) changes to business models due to digital work practices forcibly challenging, changing and subverting traditional ways of doing business, one would be hard pressed to find anybody today to sing disruption’s praises. If proof were needed, these crises convincingly displayed the human and systemic costs of disruption rather than the advantages a few were gaining from their disruptive behaviour.
And yet, change is inevitable and humans are right now forced to learn this lesson once again. In academia, hybrid teaching, online conferences and a general lingering uncertainty have brought about profound changes and left the future rigged with many more questions marks than before. These question marks stretch to cultural studies as well, as (certainty about) a world order unquestioned since WWII has been thoroughly eroded. Catch phrases such as “change through commerce” (or, in German, “Handel durch Wandel”, as it rhymes so well) have been proven unworkable and when even Green Parties have become supporters of armed conflicts and extensions of licences for nuclear power plants, one understands how profound these changes are.
Fortunately, a concentration on cultural practices and theories is able to offer some hope and it is in the spirt of such hope that this issue has been collated. It starts out with a thorough and incisive theoretical discussion of the mutual benefits the bringing together of information theory and Stuart Hall’s communication model affords. In his “Articulation: Individuals to Collectives”, https://doi.org/10.22492/ijcs.7.1.01, Victor Peterson II discusses the ancient philosophical problem of how individuals and society interact with each other. He enlists the help of information theory to demonstrate that Stuart Hall’s work is able to redefine this relationship, and thereby enables individual agency to play a major part in societies’ formation. He then focusses on systemic racism and shows that despite the power of the system, individual interventions can prove to be even more powerful and are able to sway (conscious and subconscious) group beliefs in different directions. This is neither an automatic nor a guaranteed process, but it raises the hope for possible change.
The next two articles, “Assessing Practice Teachers’ Culturally Responsive Teaching: The Role of Gender and Degree Programs in Competence Development”, https://doi.org/10.22492/ijcs.7.1.02, by Manuel E. Caingcoy et al. and “Tikbubulan: Transitions from Folk Song to Creative Dance” by Erwin Oscar P. Ripalda, https://doi.org/10.22492/ijcs.7.1.03, take us to the Philippines and present practical work regarding changes in the teaching of culture. Caingoy et al. describe how teacher training is changing in the Philippines, taking onboard recent theories of cultural studies to refocus and localise classroom discussions on traditional cultures. Their small-scale study elicits a number of important suggestions, but also shows that some issues with gender in teaching would require a closer look, as it seems to suggest that male teachers are still challenged more than their female counterparts in effecting an empathetic classroom teaching atmosphere for the teaching of culture. Further (comparative) research, therefore, seems highly desirable in this area.
Riplada’s “Tikbubulan” might be just such an intervention, as he describes in detail his efforts to conserve traditional Visayan songs by creating a specific dance for them and teaching children to become proud of their cultural heritage. The context for his intervention is the feared loss of much of local traditional folk culture due to the influence of western music, relegating local musical traditions to a very distant second place. It is heartening to see his fervour and desire for the creation of new multimodal cultural applications in order to inspire students not only to embrace their cultural traditions, but enact and combine them with modern-day elements, thereby writing them on.
Shahd Alshammari’s “Life Writing by Kuwaiti Women: Voice and Agency”, https://doi.org/10.22492/ijcs.7.1.04, takes its readers to Kuwait and discusses two texts she describes, following Audre Lorde, as biomythographies. In her texts she laments the fact that in the gulf region, and by extension, in many Arabic countries, women’s autobiographical writing is still stigmatized, and especially so when writing about differently abled women. If their bodies are generally hidden in public, continuing to follow the existing phallogocentric patriarchal system, this is even more the case for women writing about their own differing disabilities. She expertly applies Helene Cixous’ work on female writing as a base for her own Notes on the Flesh, (2017) on living with MS and that of Fejer Almajed, In/Coherence (also 2017), detailing and linguistically and semantically exemplifying the latter’s bouts with mental challenges. Her text is a call to arms for more women to come forward and share their experiences, but also for publishing houses to take up the challenge and publish such work.
Lastly, and perhaps inevitably so, a text contextualizing the Japanese reaction to COVID-19. “Spendemic: Japan’s Marketing of Mythical Creatures and the Business of Selling Hope”, https://doi.org/10.22492/ijcs.7.1.05, by Antonija Cavcic recounts the tale of how many Japanese reverted to a yōkai (mythical being) called アマビエ(Amabié) which resembles a mermaid and traditionally prophesies about either an impending epidemic or an abundant harvest, to come to terms with the COVID-19 epidemic. Amabié offers no explanation, advice or immediate help, but many Japanese believe (a bit) that by recreating manifestations of her image, they can fend off such calamities. In a further step, Cavcic illustrates how this belief is then exploited by businesses to create revenues for themselves, thereby in effect engaging in epidemic profiteering.
On a professional note, IAFOR IJCS has recently been accredited by and listed on the SCOPUS database, a great honour for the journal. The evaluators noted its work towards cultural inclusion and its policy to highlight the diverse work from emerging as well as well-established scholars and its focus on texts from the global south. Those of us involved in putting together the issues will take this honour as further motivation to continue on this path and even intensify our efforts to make IJCS a truly global space for discussing the past, present and futures of cultural production and their important impact on individuals and society at large.
Wishing you much joy in reading this issue!
Editor-in-Chief, IAFOR Journal of Cultural Studies