Engaging with Interactions: Traditions as Context-Bound Articulations

Elfriede Hermann
Interactions, Changing Contexts, Shifting Meanings The meanings ascribed to cultural traditions constantly shift in the course of interactions between people and their ideas, actions, and objects. They are always articulated from specific perspectives that social actors have staked out within historically developed interconnectivities and multifaceted power relations. Being formed and expressed in relation to particular circumstances, they can be said to articulate the specific contexts in
more » ... ic contexts in which interactions take place. Thus, cultural traditions can be seen as context-bound articulations. The chapters in this volume examine various interactions within various changing contexts. We scrutinize social interactions to imagine how these played out in the past and still do so today, turning our attention to the specific meanings that social actors give under certain circumstances to their own actions, objects, and ideas and to the material and immaterial manifestations of others. We also look at structural interactions of cultural orders, with a view to the context-sensitive meanings resulting from these. Focusing on these multivalent interactions, we gain far-reaching insight into how cultural traditions change through time. It is via interactions between social actors that new ideas, practices, and materials are adopted from others and reconceptualized from within the cultural repertoire of one's own group. And it is via interactions with the products of social activities that these products change-and their meanings along with them. Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin has drawn attention to this dynamic when speaking of how we see objects acquired during James Cook's voyages that are now part of the Cook / Forster Collection at the Georg August University of Göttingen: [O]ur point of view changes with every new epoch, and the significance of the objects has also changed for the members of the cultures from which they originated. The objects as such are therefore not merely objects in themselves as we perceive them, because perception is dependent not only on the individual, but also on the particular time and culture in which the individual lives. In this way, the objects continuously "change" as well. (Hauser-Schäublin 1998: 11) Hermann | 15