Is it just the dress code?
November 19, 2006, 11:20 am
Filed under: identity, intercultural, orientalism, pidgin, style

Language isn’t the only medium we use in the pidginization of identity. Centuries ago, when Europeans set foot on the Chinese territory, they first used clothing to show their willingness for what will later be called “cultural exchange”. After the initial not-so-very felicitous faux-pas, when Jesuit missionaries tried to win recognition from their Confucian counterparts by dressing like Buddhist monks, they finally started to dress like Confucian scholars, as it is obvious on this picture of Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci and a Chinese convert:


(Ricci is the one on the left …)

All kinds of ethno-styles in contemporary fashion can also be understood as some kind of identity seeking process, although it is not directly intended to communicate with the cultural Other. Supposedly “Ethnic”, “Oriental”, “Tribal” or “Tropic” styles don’t refer to a particular cultural area, but mostly to some set of one’s own wishful (or fearful) imageries. This is a pidginization of sorts, but a slightly different one.

Anyhow, there still are some relics of the historical version of style-pidginization, when two cultures (or economies) meet:



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