Category Archives: Core Topics

Swastika – how symbols change their meaning.. (part 2)

The decorative Hindu swastika

The swastika was adopted as a symbol of National Socialist German Worker’s Party (NSDAP or the Nazi Party) in 1920, and in the 1930s, after Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, it became a commonly used symbol of Nazi Germany. It was during the Second World War when in many cultures worldwide the connoted meaning of swastika changed. From the universal genuine sign it suddenly became a racist ‘Aryan’ emblem, a symbol of the Nazis and their atrocities. “The Nazi movement has become such a strong sign that many of the cultural signs to which it linked itself were retooled to be entirely identified with that movement. This re-purposing affected the swastika” (Assaf, p. 8-9).

In 1950s French philosopher Roland Barthes broadened semiology by the term ‘myth’ which he described as “a peculiar system, in that it is constructed from a semiological chain which existed before it: it is a second-order semiological system. That which is a sign in the first system, becomes a mere signifier in the second” (Barthes, p. 114). As the sign becomes associated with a concept, it becomes a signifier and produces a second sign, which is detached from the original meaning. So following this method: the swastika (sign) is a crooked cross (signifier) and in pre-Nazi times symbolizes ‘luck’ (signified); when Hitler decided to use it as a symbol of Nazi Germany (sign) swastika (signifier) became the symbol of hate, racism, evil etc. (signified)

This postcard, copyright 1907 by E. Phillips, a U.S. card publisher, speaks for the universally high regard in which the swastika was held as a good luck token before use by the Nazis corrupted its meaning.

In 1925 Coca-Cola made a lucky watch fob in the shape of a swastika

……………………………………………………………………………………..

Barthes, R. (2000) Mythologies, London: Vintage.

Assaf, K. The Dilution of Culture and the Law of Trademarks: idea-vol49-no1-assaf.pdf

Ward Sr., M. Hitler as a Sign: A Consideration of Semiotics and the Holocaust: SemioticsandtheHolocaust.pdf

Yronwode, C. The Swastika: http://www.luckymojo.com/swastika.html

Advertisements

Swastika – how symbols change their meaning.. (part 1)

Ancient Swastikas: A-Rhodes (585 BC) B, C - Greek (500 BC) D - Greek (615 BC) E - Peru (300 CE) F - Woodland Indian (1000 CE) G - Greek (300 BC)

A friend of mine, who recently came back from India, brought me as a souvenir a red headband encrusted with a gold thread, a Hindu devotional object. After a closer examination, to my great surprise, I found it to be covered with tiny swastikas. Forgetting completely about the true meaning of the sign and looking through the prism of my Polish historical heritage I was shocked (and at first terrified) with my discovery. So how did it happened that this ancient multicultural symbol of ‘good luck’ has such horrid and evil connotations in the modern Western culture?

Signifier: swastika is a symmetrical cross with its arms bend usually at right angles. In geometric terms, it is known as an irregular icosagon or 20-sided polygon.

Sacred Swastikas in different cultures

Signified: the word swastika comes from Sanskrit and literally means ‘well-being’. It describes a lucky object or a mark denoting good luck. The symbol appears in many ancient cultures with different meanings attributed to it: image of the supreme god, solar symbol, symbol of fire, union of the male and female sex, harmony. It is a historical sacred symbol in Eastern Religions. In Buddhism swastika represents eternity and it appears on the chest of some statues of Buddha. In Hinduism it represents Sun’s rays, upon which life depends. As well in Christianity swastika is used as a hooked version of a Christian Cross and appears in many ornaments and church decoration.

more info on swastika’s historical and cultural appearances: Fernando Coimbra’s A Swastika Pictorial Atlas

[…]

The American Swastika Drug Company, 1922

Swastika in Kruszwica, Poland

………………………………………………………………………………………..

Coimbra, F. The Swastika: From Origins Through Present Days: http://www.archaeometry.org/coimbra.htm

History of the Swastika, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Holocaust Encyclopedia: http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007453

Origins of the Swastika, BBC News Magazine: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4183467.stm

Taylor, S. Swastikas on Scottish Grave stones: 2A Scottish GRAVE STONES.pdf


Is Postmodernism “dead and buried”?

Many academics argue that Postmodernism collapsed at the same time as Twin Towers did (9/11 Ten Years After, p.2). Whether 9/11 deserves such a pivotal role in our artistic and literary tradition could be argued. Others insist that the end of Postmodernism is marked by Jean Baudrillard’s death, the last of the greatest intellectuals of the era (Beaumont, online).

But the Postmodernism was “dead and buried” earlier than that, reveals Dr Alan Kirby (2006, online). Digimodernism, or formerly Pseudo-modernism, has “displaced Postmodernism to establish itself as the twenty-first century’s new cultural paradigm” (Kirby, 2009, p.1). Digimodernism emerged in the mid 1990s and it is characterized by “excruciating banality and vacuity of the cultural product” (Kirby, 2006), as well as  infantilization and general decline of intellectual culture: “The pseudo-modern era, at least so far, is a cultural desert” (ibid.)

First decade of the 21st century is far more consumerist-sophisticated than any other in the past, which consequence is the flood of a product (including cultural product) on the scale never experienced before. I strongly disagree with Dr Kirby that everything produced nowadays is of intellectually poor quality (most of it probably is, but not everything!). The difficulty, which today’s recipient is facing, is to find this ‘culturally significant product’ in the vast accumulation of junk, which as any other challenge could be actually intellectually stimulating. It is the modern quest for the Holy Grail!

This new era is still burdened by the mistakes and faults caused by it’s predecessor. What it needs is yet another cultural revolution to cleanse itself and have a fresh start (Tabula Rasa). Howgh!

……………………………………………………………………………………..

9/11 Ten Years After: History, Narrative, Memory (BAA Workshop July 14-15, 2011): 9-11_Program.pdf

Beaumont, M. Baudrillard and the end of postmodernism: what next?, the Guardian, 9 March 2007: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2007/mar/09/baudrillardandtheendofpos

Kirby, A. (2006) The Death of Postmodernism and Beyond, Philosophy Now, Issue 58, Nov/Dec 2006: http://www.philosophynow.org/issue58/The_Death_of_Postmodernism_And_Beyond

Kirby, A. (2009) Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure Our Culture, US: Continuum. read Introduction: Introduction.pdf


Gender issues – response to the debate held on 09/03/11

Vanity 8th Wonder

I was completely outraged by the populistic slogans, that my fellow students (mostly male voices shouting: men are pigs!! men are taking advantage of women! etc.) expressed in the debate we held in the class on Wednesday (09/03/11) after the soft-porn image of Vanity 8th Wonder appeared on the screen. I decided to investigate the myth of women being exploited in porn business.

“I used to do interviews like this, just like the movie you’re doing, and I did it 15-20 years ago; and those documentaries were never shown, because it actually showed me as being kind of intelligent, articulate female, who had chosen to go into particulate business, and that’s not exciting. You wanna believe that I was made to do it. That I was a victim! That I was forced! And I’m sorry, it hasn’t happen like that” (Jane Hamilton, AKA Veronica Hart, director and producer of adult movies, former adult film performer)

That’s the opening lines of Naked Feminist, the documentary depicting a group of strong and quite often intelligent women, who surprisingly seem to be in control of their own fate, while working in the socially condemned pornographic industry.


……………………………………………………………………………………..

We discussed as well ‘size zero’ models and generally the female image served by fashion/pop culture. And again the same male (!?!) voices were shouting: this is disgusting! men are responsible (because of their visual sexual stimuli)!! Apart from the painful hypocrisy expressed here (how on earth this image can be disgusting to a heterosexual male?)… lets just remember that the majority of men involved in fashion industry are of homosexual orientation (probably all male fashion designers). There is nothing wrong about that I suppose except the fact that they might not have the idea, and surely they do not represent, heterosexual male perception of the female physique.

……………………………………………………………………………………..

Achille, L. (2004) Naked Feminist, US: Lush Lily Productions.