Welcome to IJCS Issue 6.1! The Editorial Team of the issue hopes that the articles contained herein will be as thought-provoking and inspiring as those from previous issues.
Where our last issues were written under the continuing threat of COVID-19, this issue has come together at a time when at least some parts of the world are slowly gaining poise again and hope of the waning of the virus is gaining pace. The big question is of course, what have we learned from this sudden and global rearrangement of life circumstances, oftentimes concomitant with grief, suffering and sorrow? While many are perhaps nostalgically hankering for life to return to a normalcy experienced before the outbreak, it is becoming increasingly clear that life post-COVID will not resemble the times of pre-COVID.
Too much has changed in the meantime: travel cultures have undergone re-evaluation with air travel and cruises not viewed as innocent entertainment anymore, but rather as major contributors to the climate crisis. Some governments are even considering banning short-distance air travel altogether, as the positive climate effects of scaled-down economics became too blatantly obvious to ignore/deny any more.
Another major change has affected the place of science in society. Today, many more people question the legitimacy of science (and, by extension, of governments and the media) and refuse to follow sound advice seen as unproblematic before. It seems that while neighbourly help has boomed during the pandemic, mutual institutional support has rather de- than increased. A case in point was the national scrambling for vaccines in the European Union, with some European ideals quickly and unceremoniously being jettisoned.
This divide was not only evident on an institutional and political level, though; it also engulfed individuals and economic developments. The rich quickly became richer, the stock markets sped up their decoupling from the economy, and those precariously employed were most often the ones stuck in the frontline in the fight against the virus, unable to safely retreat to an oftentimes more comfortable home office or, even better, become a digital nomad and do one’s influencer work from a villa in Bali. Governments spent billions on crisis management and it can be rightly feared that the times of laissez-faire economics will be coming to an end.
There is much to do then, and especially so for cultural studies.
The first essay in this issue, Making Sovereignty Mean Something: Native Nations and Creative Adaptation by Michelle Watts studies the reinvention of First Nation Tribes in the USA. It is based on interviews the author conducted with Native Nations leaders in Alaska and the lower 48 states, and demonstrates how Native Nations adapt to their unique circumstances to make sovereignty meaningful. Many of them are purposefully modernizing by creatively adapting to their circumstances, leveraging economic tools, and integrating their own evolving cultural practices. Watts succinctly argues that while modernization implies following a Western developmental path, purposeful modernization is driven by the choices of the people instead.
The second article by Hwee Ling Perline Siek and Cheng Ean Catherine Lee, is entitled The Influence of National Cultural Attributes on Locally Produced Designs: Case Study of Malaysian Design and analyses design practices in Malaysia. The state of Malaysia is a multicultural state and while there have been majority and majority religion-driven guidelines on national cultural design since the 1970s, actual practice finds the design scene thriving throughout the country. This vibrancy cuts across all areas of design such as comics, animation, commercial advertisements, printed materials and graphics. The study adopts a quantitative research approach with results derived from the content-analysis of 18 Malaysian designs using a visual preference survey by Malaysian experts from the design industry. The results and discussion from this study are then able to shed light on cultural production in multicultural times and are poised to become best practice examples for a more and more globalised society at large.
The next article, Does an Upcycling Kimono Practice Support Recycle-oriented Cultural Sustainability? Japanese College Students’ Perspectives by Minako McCarthy discusses issues with upcycling old kimonos in Japan. Its theme corresponds with the previous article in that design plays an important role in it, a design that is based on modern-day fashion axioms, but that is also aware of recycling issues and cultural heritage themes. As McCarthy clearly demonstrates, just because some traditional clothes have been relegated to hyper-formal events in Japanese society, this does not mean that the heritage transfer involved, for instance the handing down of kimonos from mother to daughter, will necessarily discontinue. Fashion trends can be sustainable and also speak to heritage concerns, if one is so inclined. It seems that many younger and well-educated Japanese women do see this aspect of fashion as well and react positively to it, thereby acting responsibly without neglecting the heritage and elegance of traditional fashion.
Staying in Japan, The Ancestors of a New Society: The Tribes (Buzoku) and their Journey through the Misunderstandings of the Japanese Countercultural Scene by Yaxkin Melchy, tells the story of one part of what is normally referred to as the Hippie movement in Japan during the late 1960s and 1970s. Buzoku, generally translated as The Tribe (or The Tribes), was a transnational collective of artists, poets, and activists, who became one of the most vital Japanese counterculture voices. The author makes it clear that they were at the core of a cultural renewal in Japan, going beyond mere superficial hippie lore and contributing to an overall cross-cultural approach to spirituality and arts.
Finally, Shuk-fan Fanny Wong and Wai-sum Amy Lee’s The Three Epochs of Hong Kong Lolita Subculture: Cultural Hybridization and Identity Construction analyse the female-oriented Lolita subculture phenomenon born around 1990 in Harajuku, Japan and subsequently exported to Hong Kong. They explore this development from a thoroughly postmodern historical and socio-cultural point of view. Based on interviews and material collections, they find that there are three major epochs of Lolita subculture development in Hong Kong and that the Lolita phenomenon has dramatically changed female viewpoints and practices in relation to it and to society at large, subverting the male gaze in the process. The study also indicates that the development of Hong Kong Lolita subculture shows a positive impact of cultural hybridization, creating an imagined community for the participants to share their beliefs and dreams freely.
Happy reading, please stay healthy and enjoy this issue of the IAFOR Journal of Cultural Studies!