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5 posts tagged with Culture by languagehat.
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"You Narts are a haughty and stubborn race."

Narts! The Nart Sagas are arguably the most essential ingredient of Circassian Culture, to which they are what Greek mythology is to Western Civilization. Though much less known than their Greek counterparts, the Nart epic tales are no less developed. The heroism, sagacity, guile and ferocity of the Nart demi-gods are more than matches to those of the Greek Pantheon. If this selection of stories captures your interest, you might want John Colarusso's Nart Sagas from the Caucasus; you can read the introduction online ("A ship sailing across the Black Sea in the year 1780 eventually would have come upon a lush shore at the eastern end of the dark gray waters..."). Although they seem to have been brought by the Ossetes (and J. Cassian is posting an Ossetian tale, The Death of Soslan, on his blog), they're everywhere in the Northern Caucasus. And some people say they were the source of the King Arthur stories.
posted by languagehat on Dec 4, 2004 - 13 comments

Mutilation losing favor in Africa

Female genital mutilation is a blight on women's lives in many parts of Africa. Today's NY Times has a story, "Genital Cutting Shows Signs of Losing Favor in Africa" by Mark Lacey, that gives grounds for optimism:
Slowly, genital cutting is losing favor. Parliaments are passing laws forbidding the practice, which causes widespread death and disfigurement. Girls are fleeing their homes to keep their vaginas intact. And the women who have been carrying out the cutting, and who have been revered by their communities for doing so, are beginning to lay down their knives.
(If you don't want to register with the NYT, here's the Mathaba.net copy.)
posted by languagehat on Jun 8, 2004 - 52 comments

"I am of Ireland, and the Holy Land of Ireland..."

CELT, the Corpus of Electronic Texts, "brings the wealth of Irish literary and historical culture to the Internet, for the use and benefit of everyone worldwide. It has a searchable online database consisting of contemporary and historical texts from many areas, including literature and the other arts." It has texts in Irish, Latin, Anglo-Norman French, and English, ranging from the annals of the fifth century to the Agreement reached in the Multi-Party Negotiations in Northern Ireland of 1998. "Great my glory/ I that bore Cuchulainn the valiant..."
posted by languagehat on Apr 11, 2004 - 5 comments

Ex-women in Albania.

Sworn virgins. "A sworn virgin is called such because she swears—takes a vow under the law of the Kanun—to become a man. From the day she takes this vow (which is sometimes at a very early age), she becomes a man: she dresses like one, acts like one, walks like one, works like one, talks like one, and her family and community treat her as one. She is referred to as he. He will never marry and will remain celibate all of his life." If you find this stuff intriguing, by all means read Alice Munro's great short story "The Albanian Virgin" (from Open Secrets, 1994); you might also want to check out A Dictionary of Albanian Religion, Mythology, and Folk Culture, where there's much more cultural weirdness, and Edith Durham's classic High Albania (online here), from which I first learned of these mannish gals. Oh, and there's a movie!
posted by languagehat on Jan 30, 2004 - 15 comments

Air-conditioned Islam

The new Islam. Husam Tammam and Patrick Haenni in Le Monde (English version) describe the new forms of Islamic culture taking shape in Egypt. I follow the Islamic world fairly closely, but this was news to me. Does it herald an Islam that can live with the rest of the world (and vice versa)?
This entry, both with the hijab [veil] and the nashid [religious chant], into consumerism and syncretism with non-Arab models, has led to an implicit questioning of the old puritanism of the 1970s and 1980s - and above all a questioning of the principle of the ideologisation of religion. The change is important: we could trace similar patterns in the Islamic economy, increasingly affected by the ups and downs of international finance; or in Islamic charity, which has been rethought, within a framework of neoliberalism, as a security net to replace the state's withdrawal from this area (a withdrawal the Islamists have widely supported).
(Via Path of the Paddle.)
posted by languagehat on Oct 9, 2003 - 9 comments

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