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Author Topic: Does anyone else have issues with tribalism?  (Read 4351 times)

Materialist

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Does anyone else have issues with tribalism?
« on: August 25, 2014, 08:31:23 pm »
For those of you who don't know what the term means, "tribalism" refers to the current within Neo-paganism that claims that in order to understand gods and practice religion properly the "culture" (often invented by the founder) must be adopted to some degree.

First issue: being able to pick one's culture, invent it, and adopt a new ethnic identity. This is another manifestation of white privilege, as I learned from reading "Dealing with Race, Ethnicity, and Whiteness in constructing the Ethnic Folkway of Germanic Heathenry" by Jennifer Snook http://citations.allacademic.com//meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/2/3/8/8/4/pages238849/p238849-1.php. From page 14: "Because whites are unconstrained by the politics and visibility of race, they are free to choose from multicultural symbols and practices." With great privilege comes  the greater responsibility of not using it.

Second issue: European culture (artificial or not) being presented as universal. Well, to be blunt, only a white person could come up with something so color and culture blind. Not to mention the fact it completely ignores the history of imperialism and how problematic westernization has been for non-European cultures.

Third issue: though the CR and Gaol Naofa FAQs discuss the evils of cultural appropriation, the authors don't seem to realize that assuming someone else's culture, and even ethnic identity (including extinct ones)  when one has not been born to it or chosen to become a citizen of the country where it's native, is the most egregious form of c.a. that I can imagine.

Fourth issue: But-its-my-cultural-heritage! People. Maybe if you're an immigrant, or your family is, and you were raised in an immigrant community-you have some right to a European cultural heritage. But coming from the perspective of a person whose grandparents got off the boat at a one-muddy-path village called Jamestown, and I'll be blunt again, one's "European cultural heritage" ended when your ancestors decided to emigrate. We need to start calling it what it is-national heritage, because it belongs to the people who live in the country where the stuff happened. Faint if you must.

Fifth issue: the surviving Indo-European pagan religions (all Indo-Iranian [the Dharma of Sanatana, Buddha, Jaina, and non-racialist Mazdayasna]) do not require converts to adopt aspects of an Indo-Iranian ethnic group. The only thing they require to practice the religion is..........brace for it...............practicing the religion. Shocking, I know. No folk customs? No ethnic clothing/sports/cuisine/music/dances/art? No nothing? How do you live?! Some of you may exclaim. By grounding my religion in my own culture and family traditions. Which directly leads to-

Sixth issue: the CR and Gaol Naofa FAQs also talk about "westerners" (a.k.a. P.o.W.? [people of whiteness]) being  rootless (read: ethnicless read: pretty sure they're talkin' 'bout white people now) and not being raised in a culture. How is that even physically possible? Are we alien pod people? Needless to say, this kind of attitude leads to the kinds of cultural appropriation they protest.

Seventh issue: The Usonan Person's Burden. Sometimes the chatter about preserving European folk customs, when coming from my fellow Usonans, sounds paternalistic, like we need to preserve European ethnic groups from their own cultural evolution-which is none of our business, I might add.

A recent thread on how illogical folkism is reminded me that tribalism, considered the midpoint between the folkists and the complete universalism of Indo-Iranian religions, is also a little illogical. Especially when coming from U.S. citizens. Has anyone else noticed these issues? Is it possible for Neo-paganism to grow beyond them?

Juniperberry

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Re: Does anyone else have issues with tribalism?
« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2014, 09:57:26 pm »
Quote from: Materialist;157097
For those of you who don't know what the term means, "tribalism" refers to the current within Neo-paganism that claims that in order to understand gods and practice religion properly the "culture" (often invented by the founder) must be adopted to some degree.

?

I always thought "tribalism" was about recognizing your local culture and environmental influences and adapting a religion around that, similar to tribes in the past.

For example, tribalism heathenry to me would be my own brand of Arizona worship with my family, friends and local community that I deal with here.


Quote
First issue: being able to pick one's culture, invent it, and adopt a new ethnic identity. This is another manifestation of white privilege, as I learned from reading "Dealing with Race, Ethnicity, and Whiteness in constructing the Ethnic Folkway of Germanic Heathenry" by Jennifer Snook http://citations.allacademic.com//meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/2/3/8/8/4/pages238849/p238849-1.php. From page 14: "Because whites are unconstrained by the politics and visibility of race, they are free to choose from multicultural symbols and practices." With great privilege comes  the greater responsibility of not using it.

And I also thought there was a difference between Folkway heathenry and tribal heathenry.

Quote
Second issue: European culture (artificial or not) being presented as universal. Well, to be blunt, only a white person could come up with something so color and culture blind. Not to mention the fact it completely ignores the history of imperialism and how problematic westernization has been for non-European cultures.

Again, I thought that tribalism addressed this issue of universalism by accepting that it isn't a monoculture but various individual tribal  cultures.

Quote
Third issue: though the CR and Gaol Naofa FAQs discuss the evils of cultural appropriation, the authors don't seem to realize that assuming someone else's culture, and even ethnic identity (including extinct ones)  when one has not been born to it or chosen to become a citizen of the country where it's native, is the most egregious form of c.a. that I can imagine.

Fourth issue: But-its-my-cultural-heritage! People. Maybe if you're an immigrant, or your family is, and you were raised in an immigrant community-you have some right to a European cultural heritage. But coming from the perspective of a person whose grandparents got off the boat at a one-muddy-path village called Jamestown, and I'll be blunt again, one's "European cultural heritage" ended when your ancestors decided to emigrate. We need to start calling it what it is-national heritage, because it belongs to the people who live in the country where the stuff happened. Faint if you must.

This I agree with. I'd always felt uncomfortable as a heathen with my husband being a German citizen.


Quote
A recent thread on how illogical folkism is reminded me that tribalism, considered the midpoint between the folkists and the complete universalism of Indo-Iranian religions, is also a little illogical. Especially when coming from U.S. citizens. Has anyone else noticed these issues? Is it possible for Neo-paganism to grow beyond them?

I'm really, really loving the talks about defining USonian, Canadian, etc forms of heathenry rather than fetishizing European culture.

Interesting topic. (My questions were all sincere and not sarcastic, btw. ;) )
« Last Edit: August 25, 2014, 09:57:46 pm by Juniperberry »
The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. [...] The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe. 10 years at most.--Elon Musk

I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence," [Bill] Gates wrote. "First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don\'t understand why some people are not concerned."

Faemon

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Re: Does anyone else have issues with tribalism?
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2014, 12:04:21 am »
Quote from: Materialist;157097
For those of you who don't know what the term means, "tribalism" refers to the current within Neo-paganism that claims that in order to understand gods and practice religion properly the "culture" (often invented by the founder) must be adopted to some degree.

I sort of get it. There's the idea that a belief system can't just be removed from the context of the culture in which it was practiced, and if you're reconstructing a practice then the particulars of how it was done in the past is pretty much all that an aspiring practitioner has got to go by.

Religious practices are part of a culture, and a culture is part of religious practice. Something like the spread of Islam from the Middle East to Southeast Asia has, from what I've seen, created a hugely different culture between Java and Afghanistan, yes--but, I frankly think that happened by people not thinking about it, and while ignorance does as much damage as malice, to these particular issues now more people are thinking about it and seeing all these complicated currents...of which religion and culture often meet in estuary, so I can't jive with your simple answer of grounding your religion in your family and culture; if it works for you, then it works. Kudos. With me and mine, though, it doesn't quite mesh as well.

It's like a photographer saying, "Just act natural!" What do I usually do with my hands? I never know what to do with my hands in pictures that aren't supposed to show what I do with my hands in pictures that I don't do with my hands when having my picture taken argh argh argh...

On the other hand, I agree to some issues--There's the false, I think, dichotomy between modernity and tradition. Everything that's made it into tradition has survived that long because it served the people in the present something well enough. So, instead of considering a practice as some consolidated, chronologically-locked monolith...I suspect that traditions are always dying, in the sense of transforming or transmuting. It's natural in the course of ideas, but because this cultural death has also happened by force, by a "conquest of the foreign", then an aspiring practitioner could develop an aversion to perpetuating a "conquest of the modern" (as if "what happened with foreign conquest happened and we're past that".)

Elementargedanken and archetypes has fallen out of fashion, from what I've seen, probably because that judgment, that value put to what is universally human, is now considered to be merely Volkergedanken privileged over other Volkergedanken. Recognizing the location and environment that a practice has grown from--making that sancrosanct--might also have built a similar wall transitioning from traditional practices into modern practices. Now I think I'm being redundant, but my point:

Delving into tribalism is, I think, at least an effort at checking privileged access to culture. You've set up some great arguments for both cultural universalism and tribalism being problematic in terms of cultural appropriation, but in many people's minds these are polar opposites, like, I get this sense of, "Of course tribalism isn't cultural appropriation, because it's research and effort and has respect, unlike those shiftless eclectic New Agers!" (Basically what Juniperberry above me said.)

Quote
Is it possible for Neo-paganism to grow beyond them?

Certainly yes, but I can't predict how.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2014, 12:05:08 am by Faemon »
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Materialist

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Re: Does anyone else have issues with tribalism?
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2014, 03:41:10 pm »
Quote from: Juniperberry;157100
?
I always thought "tribalism" was about recognizing your local culture and environmental influences and adapting a religion around that, similar to tribes in the past.

For example, tribalism heathenry to me would be my own brand of Arizona worship with my family, friends and local community that I deal with here.


I've gotten the exact opposite impression. Arizona, huh? Let's take the Asatru Alliance from your home state: mission is to promote Northern European culture. I see this everywhere. "Our culture" is a Heathen code word for "the culture of an extinct tribe/culture of Europe that spoke a Germanic language."

It isn't just Heathens. When I was interested in Celtic Reconstructionism, a group that I bumped into was trying to revive a caste system. Or the CR FAQ. When it mentions "local" culture, they mean that of an Irish immigrant community or similar, or going to Highland games festivals-like Irish-Americans are going to be pagan, and what does sports have to do with religion?

And Nova Roma, which wants to create a sovereign Roman nation in Maine, and has elected governors for the "provinces" they have divided the Americas into.

Getting involved in European cultures and their reenactments makes sense in Europe, but when done in the United States it's just...I shouldn't say stupid, but it gets there.

Juniperberry

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Re: Does anyone else have issues with tribalism?
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2014, 04:21:32 pm »
Quote from: Materialist;157152
I've gotten the exact opposite impression. Arizona, huh? Let's take the Asatru Alliance from your home state: mission is to promote Northern European culture. I see this everywhere. "Our culture" is a Heathen code word for "the culture of an extinct tribe/culture of Europe that spoke a Germanic language."


:confused:

I understand why you're using them as an example (it benefits your point), but all that does is show me how one group may interpret tribalism without really addressing how I interpret tribalism.


Quote
Getting involved in European cultures and their reenactments makes sense in Europe, but when done in the United States it's just...I shouldn't say stupid, but it gets there.

 
My German-American husband and I shop at a German-American run deli that sells German-American products to a German-American clientele. Is that stupid?

My German-American husband keeps trying to recreate Mezzo Mix at Circle K by mixing Fanta and Coke. Is that stupid?

On Bizzare Foods last night I saw a fourth generation Japanese family mixing cultural Asian foods with traditional Southern foods. Was that stupid?

I think you need to define the parameters a bit more for this topic.
The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. [...] The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe. 10 years at most.--Elon Musk

I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence," [Bill] Gates wrote. "First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don\'t understand why some people are not concerned."

Jack

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Re: Does anyone else have issues with tribalism?
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2014, 06:29:58 pm »
Quote from: Materialist;157152
Getting involved in European cultures and their reenactments makes sense in Europe, but when done in the United States it's just...I shouldn't say stupid, but it gets there.

 
Did you and the SCA have a falling out or something?
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Louisvillian

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Re: Does anyone else have issues with tribalism?
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2014, 03:48:03 am »
Quote from: Materialist;157152
Getting involved in European cultures and their reenactments makes sense in Europe, but when done in the United States it's just...I shouldn't say stupid, but it gets there.
Trouble is, it seems like American Neopagans get shafted for going either way. If they try to revive aspects of ancient European religions, they're accused to appropriating and 'plasticizing' the cultures and traditions of European, non-American peoples. If they try to take inspiration from native traditions, in order to connect to the land they live in, the same accusations fly, but regarding Natives instead of Europeans.
Not to say that there's no basis for either criticism. But the question then becomes: what is an American Neopagan to do? If going in either direction is offensive or privileged, then they have nowhere to go and nothing to do to explore their spirituality and religious practice.

For instance, I'm not ethnic Greek at all. But my chosen religion is Hellenistic; to an extent, I adopt certain ancient Hellenic values because they are tied heavily into ancient religious practice. Am I wrong to do so, because I am not Greek by blood or upbringing?
« Last Edit: August 27, 2014, 03:48:56 am by Louisvillian »

Faemon

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Re: Does anyone else have issues with tribalism?
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2014, 03:52:51 am »
Quote from: Louisvillian;157208
Trouble is, it seems like American Neopagans get shafted for going either way. If they try to revive aspects of ancient European religions, they're accused to appropriating and 'plasticizing' the cultures and traditions of European, non-American peoples. If they try to take inspiration from native traditions, in order to connect to the land they live in, the same accusations fly, but regarding Natives instead of Europeans.

Not to say that there's no basis for either criticism. But the question then becomes: what is an American Neopagan to do?

 
Starseeds, Ascension Magick, and shapeshifting reptile alien politician false-flag terrorism conspiracy theories.

Yes, shafts everywhere.
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Jack

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Re: Does anyone else have issues with tribalism?
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2014, 04:23:21 am »
Quote from: Louisvillian;157208
But the question then becomes: what is an American Neopagan to do?

 
Pop culture paganism!
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Materialist

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Re: Does anyone else have issues with tribalism?
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2014, 08:15:30 am »
Quote from: Juniperberry;157163

My German-American husband and I shop at a German-American run deli that sells German-American products to a German-American clientele. Is that stupid?


It's when people try to "get" culture. As if it were collectible.

Materialist

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Re: Does anyone else have issues with tribalism?
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2014, 08:26:06 am »
Quote from: Jack;157171
Did you and the SCA have a falling out or something?

 
Pre-17th century, doesn't have much to do with U.S. history, except in an evolutionary sense. So, no, it's not something I'm interested in. And this is the first time I've heard of it, actually. (had to pop off to google.)

Materialist

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Re: Does anyone else have issues with tribalism?
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2014, 08:39:58 am »
Quote from: Jack;157210
Pop culture paganism!


Which is what I was going to say. The U.S. has its own literary culture, why can't we use it? Why must god and myth=something written down 2,000 years ago in  a foreign country? That new gods and myths can pop up all the time, or be created to fit a specific need, appears to be inconceivable to a lot of Neo-pagans.

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Re: Does anyone else have issues with tribalism?
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2014, 08:44:35 am »
Quote from: Materialist;157224
Which is what I was going to say. The U.S. has its own literary culture, why can't we use it? Why must god and myth=something written down 2,000 years ago in  a foreign country? That new gods and myths can pop up all the time, or be created to fit a specific need, appears to be inconceivable to a lot of Neo-pagans.

 
I'm going to argue that doesn't work for everyone, though. As an example, I am culturally American and Portuguese (specifically Azorean). I am a Kemetic, however. Pop culture paganism would never work for me because there has been nothing I've come across in American literary culture that has struck me as that "click, this is right for me" moment.

For those it works for, that's great. But for those it doesn't, what should they do? Though I do agree that picking up cultural things as if they're candy for no real reason other than to feel some distorted sense of "belonging" is questionable.

veggiewolf

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Re: Does anyone else have issues with tribalism?
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2014, 08:46:53 am »
Quote from: Materialist;157218
It's when people try to "get" culture. As if it were collectible.

 
So, it's a variation on a theme - "Cultures are not Pokémon; there's no need to try to catch 'em all!"?
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Faemon

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Re: Does anyone else have issues with tribalism?
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2014, 10:17:03 am »
Quote from: Materialist;157224
Why must god and myth=something written down 2,000 years ago in  a foreign country?

That new gods and myths can pop up all the time, or be created to fit a specific need, appears to be inconceivable to a lot of Neo-pagans.

I disagree that it's inconceivable, more that it's heavily, heavily stigmatized. If I'd hazard a few guesses as to why..."Long ago and far away" to frame a story makes it "true enough, because not like anybody's going to check". The confrontation of the contradiction between, say, the cosmology of Hans Andersen's / Don Bluth (the fairy Thumbelina came from flowers) versus J.M. Barrie (the fairy Tinkerbell came from the laughter of a baby) isn't compatible for some people with religious belief, because it's a conscious process to suspend dis-belief when immersing in fiction, and doesn't resonate as deeply. (Not a problem I have, but I'm guessing that's something like it...analysis gets in the way, disillusions people who run out of apologetics...)

Or maybe that it's...to tap into something contemporary or pulpy carries a stigma of something that serves a shallow purpose or is sourced from a whim rather than deep personal gnosis. (See the Otherkin suffer.)

That stigma isn't necessarily true, of course, but it is definitely discouraging.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2014, 10:18:02 am by Faemon »
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