May 20, 1999 – Regina Bendix: “Heredity, Hybridity and Heritage from one Fin-de-Siecle to the Next”

Thursday, May 20 | 4:00 pm | Kresge 159

In 1884, Crown Prince Rudolf, the only son of the Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph II, requested and received an indulgence from his father to plan “a great ethnographic work offering a comprehensive picture of our fatherland and its peoples.” The project enlisted the foremost ethnologists, historians, geographers, and humanists of the day to represent the entire empire from the Viennese center to the outermost peripheries in Bohemia, Bukovina, and Bosnia. The question faced by the Austro-Hungarian Empire was how to deal with multinationalism, and the collective cultural representation offered in this work was in part a political justification for the shared administrative structure provided by the Crowns. Although the Crown Prince’s effort to will the Empire into the twentieth century faltered, the style of cultural representation he developed remains instructive for an understanding of the processes that continually transform cultural knowledge into market commodities.

Regina Bendix is Assistant Professor in the Department of Folklore and Folklife at the University of Pennsylvania and Corresponding Editor of the Journal of Folklore Research. Her book In Search of Authenticity: The Formation of Folklore Studies (1997) explores the ways in which “authenticity” permeated the launching of inquiry into folklore two hundred years ago, the subsequent institutionalization of the field as a “discipline,” and the traces of “authenticity” that persist even in present-day approaches.

This presentation is one of a series of events in the Civilizational Thinking project, organized by the Center for Cultural Studies and funded by the Ford Foundation.