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Title: Magic in the Social Construction of the Past
Authors: Kajfosz, Jan
Keywords: social memory; semiotics; connotation; cognitive anthropology; cognitive sociology; magic; magic thinking; ethnoepistemology; anthropology of borders; performative magic; border; Teschen Silesia; Cieszyn Silesia; symbolic interactionism; sociology of knowledge; anthropology of knowledge; social constructionism; nationalism; social construction; symbolic violence; self-identity; past
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Polskie Towarzystwo Socjologiczne
Citation: Polish Sociological Review, 2013, nr 3, s. 351-367
Abstract: The aim of the paper is to consider such ethnolinguistic categories as magic, connotation, and cognitive blending as possible keys to the following questions: How is it possible that we can perfectly adopt different representations of the past and internalize them as our past? How can we reconcile different representations of the past and how is it possible that diverse representations of the past merge in one social memory? Such amalgamations of various forms of representations and diverse scales of objectification can be clarified by means of the theory of magic, by means of the law of resemblance, and the law of contiguity. Such considerations are supported here by empirical study of the construction of social memories in Teschen Silesia. In this text I will consider the origin of the criteria a person uses to select and evaluate narratives about the past. I intend to look at the social transmission of narratives about the past from the perspective of phenomenology and semiotics. The essence of the phenomenological approach to a text is reflected in the etymology of the term—the verb φαανεσθαι, whose Polish equivalent means to appear, to show oneself to someone. Such a perspective is characterized, inter alia, by a suspension of the automatic question as to which texts referring to the past, in social circulation, are true and which untrue. For the social anthropologist, what is more important is how a given text comes to be experienced by its recipient—a potential future transmitter—as true or untrue. In short: how is the truth of a text constituted in experience? The basic advantage of the phenomenological approach to constructing the past is that all analyses begin with the first person 'I': from a reflexive consideration of the way we ourselves experience one content or another. This method, drawn from the work of Edmund Husserl, was grafted onto the social sciences by Alfred Schütz, and was also used with success by Peter L. Berger, Thomas Luckmann, Clifford Geertz, and many others. Here I will be analyzing my own methods of viewing narratives about the past produced by various entities or institutions and I will try to determine how far they accord with the standards of retrospection in Teschen Silesia. I am referring to standards of spontaneously legitimizing and delegitimizing images of the past, which, on account of their cognitive and social bases, are common to entities (persons) regardless of their preferred vision of the past or choices of self-identity.
ISSN: 1231-1413
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