Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cultural Camouflage

These are thought-provoking excerpts from Kristofer Hansson's essay "Camouflage" in Orvar Löfgren and Richard R. Wilk, eds., Off the Edge: Experiments in Cultural Analysis. Ethnologia Europaea, Vol 35. Museum Tusculanum Press, 2006—

In cultural camouflage one has to identify these sharp edges, the behavior, traits or ideas that are not accepted as normal, and mask or obscure them. The individual must learn to know when it is important to blur these edges—which can be either a conscious or unconscious process.

We all have bodily and psychological characteristics that we don't want people to know about. To protect ourselves we use different strategies to blur and hide those unwanted qualities under a surface of acceptable characteristics and qualities. This transformation is sometimes an everyday mundane action allowing us to blend into different social settings. Most of the time we imitate a typical group member and merge into a larger group. Examples include dressing like others, trying to talk about the same topics, and so forth. This is something we often do without any reflection…

Camouflage strategies are constantly at work in everyday life when you have an illness or handicap that you don't want others to know about. With the use of the military metaphor we can understand that an illness creates, in different ways, sharp edges, features that stand out. To use a camouflage strategy is to break up these sharp edges so that the boundaries between oneself and the surrounding background of normal or healthy bodies is blurred.