PDA

View Full Version : Mysteries of Mystification



Higgins
09-16-2007, 08:45 PM
There's an idea in cultural theory: mystification. It seems promising, but it also seems to never quite work.

Usually (for reasons that might become clear some day) it is used in the form "de-mystify"....Here for example is a "de-mystification" of the "Frontier" and the background of James F. Cooper:

http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/fall97/taylor.html

Here's some hilarious "theoretical" (ie quite mysterious in itself) "background"...where any demystification (ie scientific explanation of our own norms) gets lost in the jargon:

http://www.brocku.ca/english/courses/4F70/poststruct.html

And even more oddly unenlightening:

http://www.tedfriedman.com/electricdreams/2005/02/introduction.php

Anyway, it seemed to me, since everybody seems to be misusing or dismissing the idea of "de-mystification"...I could propose that what it might mean is a scientific explanation of our own norms in terms of how they came to be what they are historically.

kdnxdr
09-17-2007, 03:19 AM
You start.

Higgins
09-17-2007, 04:56 PM
You start.

Well, so we were talking about bull fighting, but there are plenty of other violent ritualized pastimes that used to be popular but now seem reprehensible to a lot of people.

The question is...would something like "de-mystification"...ie a full explanation of what the point of some bloody ritual is (in symbolic terms...almost like a psycho-analysis of the need for the ritual) both explain the ritual and reveal the change norms behind the changing evaluation of the ritual?

robeiae
09-17-2007, 05:21 PM
Well, so we were talking about bull fighting, but there are plenty of other violent ritualized pastimes that used to be popular but now seem reprehensible to a lot of people.

The question is...would something like "de-mystification"...ie a full explanation of what the point of some bloody ritual is (in symbolic terms...almost like a psycho-analysis of the need for the ritual) both explain the ritual and reveal the change norms behind the changing evaluation of the ritual?
No, it would create needless complications. It seems clear--to me, anyway--that "demystification" refers to showing "what really happened" or "what is really going on," with regard to a specific history or process, where there had existed a general consensus accepting some pseudo-version of these things.

For instance, there is the story of Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World and there is the reality behind it. For a long time, the story--idealized in the extreme--held sway and was taught as pretty much history in most schools. De-mystifying the story consisted of an increased level of scholarship and research into the background, resulting in a very different, and much more correct, story.

I don't see anything that needs to be "demystified" with regard to bull-fighting. If the exercise is just to portray the practice in intellectualized terminology for the sake understanding the relationship between such activities in general and the human experience--which is a fine and worthy thing to do, imo--I don't see how it would be "demystification." No myths are being shattered. No supposed facts are really being questioned. The whole thing is just being viewed through a different rubric of understanding.

Higgins
09-17-2007, 06:55 PM
No, it would create needless complications. It seems clear--to me, anyway--that "demystification" refers to showing "what really happened" or "what is really going on," with regard to a specific history or process, where there had existed a general consensus accepting some pseudo-version of these things.

For instance, there is the story of Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World and there is the reality behind it. For a long time, the story--idealized in the extreme--held sway and was taught as pretty much history in most schools. De-mystifying the story consisted of an increased level of scholarship and research into the background, resulting in a very different, and much more correct, story.



I agree and the voyages of Columbus make a much better example than bullfighting.
I also agree with what I think you assume: that for something to be really de-mystified there has to be a methodologically neutral ground where the superiority of one account over an other can be accurately assessed. ie we don't know if we are really moving in the direction of de-mystification unless we know that the de-mystifying account uses better methods than the mystifying account.

Methodological neutrality is especially important with such events as the voyages of Columbus where there is some perceived need to incorporate or assess "the other side"...for example the impact on various American Indian social groups and civilizations.