I think that by now, most agree that cultures as we understand them are in fact not the cultures that exist today. As a vast number of scholars have pointed out, the globalisation effects that post-colonial scholars have been focusing on a great deal, (See for instance Homi Bhabha and Stuart Hall) seem to be resulting in so-called hybrid identities. These are new identities which are conjured up from the positioning of the individual, not merely as a process of "us" and "them, but as the constant ping-ponging
between cultures of the individual, which may in the end result in the creation of a new identity.
Thus, through the rise of these hybrid identities, we can assume that whole cultures are being constructed on the borderlines of nations and cultures. How should we term these new cultures?Homi Bhabha
(whose article's title was stolen for the heading of this post) speaks of Third Spaces
The non-synchronous temporality of global and national cultures opens up a cultural space -- a third space--where the negotiation of incommensurable differences creates a tension peculiar to borderline existences. . . Hybrid hyphenisations emphasize the incommensurable elements as the basis of cultural identities.
Bhabha was possibly inspired by the idea of Third Cultures, a term which may have been coined by Dr. Ruth Useem
in the 60s. Here, she refers to the third culture as an "interstitial culture" between two or more cultures. Thus, what Third Spaces and Third Cultures have in common is the idea that individuals, especially children(termed by Useem as Third Culture Kids) who grow up with close contact to two or more cultures choose their own sets of values and beliefs, to create their own reference frameworks.
However, it is yet not clear to me whether these frameworks are to be understood as a mix and match of cultural elements selected from those cultures that they mostly interact with, (which we may term "hybridity") or if we should rather consider their frameworks to comprehend a number of common denominators, universal values and deeds which are then applicable in all cultures.
I am however, more likely to adopt Soraj Hongladarom's proposal for a theoretical framework: the distinction between thin and thick cultures (Hongladarom, 1998
When participants of widely disparate cultures come to interact, what happens is that there emerge a kind of culture which is devoid of historical backgrounds that give each local culture its separate identity; it is, for example, the culture of international conferences. The newly emerging culture is comparable to piped music one hears in airports or in modern supermarkets; that is, it is shorn of its value, its role in a people’s scheme of things. It plays no part in the ritual of a traditional culture. In short, it has become sanitized and modernized. Let us call this kind of culture the ‘cosmopolitan’ one.(ibid., 241)
This 'cosmopolitan' culture is the thin culture. The thick culture then, should be understood as the culture in which values do
exist, where the fine grain of everyday life can be found, in the local area of the city outside of the airport etc. Hongladarom then, seems to a have framework that involves not a lot of third spaces marbling the cultures of the world, but rather a sort of "umbrella" culture, one thinly spread over globe instead.
This draws associations with Marc Augés idea of Non-Places
. Non-Places should be understood as spaces such as airports, supermarkets and highways. These are physical spaces which we enter in our everyday lives, but which are devoid of identity, history and culture, recognising them then as counterparts to anthropological places. The transitory nature of such places, seem somewhat relevant with regard to this thesis - something which I will undoubtedly be elaborating on later.
Do you see what I'm trying to get at? It would seem, then, that the non-anthropological places that Augé calls non-places, and which are considered to be devoid of culture and identity, could in fact lead to the construction of new cultures, although "thin".
These are all tentative thoughts and linkages, which I will of course continue to try to elaborate on. Might I just add at the end of this post that I am really quite impressed if you've read this far? ;-)