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Liminal Cultural Models: The Macedonian 19th Century Paradigm

Folkloristika 5/2 (2020): 39–51
Author: Кatica Ќulavkova
Text: PDF


Every cultural model has its own border zone, which is susceptible to the border zones of other cultural models. These border zones are places of contact between the divergent cultural models. Cultural history is marked by the constant tension between two principle intentions: 1) to save the archaic substrate of cultural identity (the initial and traditional model), and 2) to carnivalize the canonized cultural model through its contact and intercultural dialogue with other diverse cultural identities and practices. The carnivalizing intention opens the possibility for a third cultural intention that we could name borderline intention or intentio liminalis. It does not destroy the existing models but only modifies them and introduces other liminal ‒ also called “third” ‒ cultural identities.

Culture is immanently intercultural (dialogic), much like people are fundamentally intersubjective (social). Thereby, cultural contact and dialogue are important factors for the development of cultures. Even the antagonism between the different cultural models is a potential form of contact, which means that it generates transitional and borderline cultural models and practices. According to cultural theory, the phenomenon of cultural liminality is particularly characteristic of the transitional periods of development in culture and society. It only appears as categorical and identity confusion, while it, actually, stimulates cultural development and is an important indication for cultural evolution.

Culture in the Macedonian Enlightenment Period is a typical system that is comprised of liminal/borderline cultural models rather than of antagonistic and polarized ones. The cultural paradigm of the 19th century surpasses the local and bipolar theoretical frameworks. It points out the problematic character of the rigid dichotomy of high (sacral) and low (profane) culture. The new Macedonian civic (old-town) culture both incorporated and distanced itself from the church cultural practice and the folklore cultural practice, thus avoiding the rude antagonism. Therefore, in 19th century Macedonia, the category of “high culture” entails not only the (lettered) church culture and the elite part of the so-called civic (old-town) and pro-European culture, but a part of folklore, as well. The aesthetic quality is what raises the different cultural models to the level of art. Moreover, precisely the folklore culture ‒ the guardian and the transporter of the ancient cultural substrate ‒ denoted the dominant new cultural paradigm (the third culture), which articulated the Macedonian linguistic, civic, church, and even national political priorities. And from the end of the 19th century onward, it also stimulated the more radical (national) revolutionary movements.
Keywords: folk culture, contact, carnivalism, intentio liminalis, liminal/borderline models, border zones, third culture, cultural substrate, North Macedonia