article: Paolo Fabbri, Invention of tradition, on cultural heritages and tourism

A report by Eero Tarasti of Fabbri’s speech held at Séminaire international de sémiotique à Paris, Jan 11, 2018

That tradition can be something invented and not just herited, was the message of the Italian semiotician Paolo Fabbri. One often quoted source is the book about imagined nationalities by Benedict Anderson which has now, as translation, reached also Central-European intellectuals. Nationalism in its post-colonial state consists of diverse groupings in the mold of scouts, freemasonry or national hymns. Also Gianfranco Marrone has discussed such issues in his Sémiotique et critique de la culture (PULIM 2017). How a nation is contructed? Yuri Lotman speaks about semiotic explosion, in which there is maximum of information, but just only information, not signification or values. Axiologies are, however, linked with ideologies. Foucault dealt already with this question: how one can analyse an institution, in this sense.

Deleuze and Guattari belong also to this paradigm. Hjelmslev launched the concept of context. If we have a good definition of the institution, we do not need the context. Vincent Descombes wrote about Institution of the sense. How can one constitute a personality? It is by externalization, of the passive intentionality. How can one become an innovator? How can one find some novelty? Like in rugby or soccer: one takes the ball, not with hands, so someone makes innovation: take the ball by hands. Luc Boltanski wrote about Enrichissement. Une critique de la marchandise, Critics of the markets.

Dean McCannell already discussed the stage of authenticity, which is nothing but fictive production of the simulacra. Thus there is the phenomenon of patrimonialisation (not patrimondialisation). A tourist is a rich person who visits places which have signification. They are overloaded by narrativity. UNESCO has its list of 10 points for cultural heritages. What is involved is the notion of importance. St. Petersburg,  a tourist city, has been declared as a UNESCO heritage site. Costa Smeralda in Sardinia does not exist at all but they provide the reality effect as if it existed.

There are thus already cities which are more organized for tourists than for the habitants. Nationalist projects become more common, as in the case of Catalonia, i.e. the demand of total autonomy. We may ponder what is culture and what is civilisation. For Fabbri culture is paradigmatic and static, whereas civilisation is opening, syntagmatic. (Comment: what about Norbert Elias for whom culture was something high –spirited, profound, i.e. German, and the civilization something sensual, like in Italy.) Jacques Fontanille asked: who invents the tradition? One has to first enunciate the issue and then semiotize it.