The invention of tradition
CP Snow once said that all ancient British traditions date to the second half of the 19th Century, and his only error was to limit this claim to Britain. The great majority of real traditions having been swept away or reduced to irrelevance with the rise of capitalism, the 19th century saw the rise of a whole set of new ones, which were then fixed in shape by the system of nation-states, each with their own newly-codified language and officially sanctioned history that took shape at the same time
Via Barista and an interesting link on the theatrical origins of the ninja, I came to this great piece by Craig Colbeck on Karate and Modernity, a lot closer to my own interests than black-clad stage assassins. Although the jargon is a bit heavy going in places, there’s a pretty clear argument to show that the Okinawa karate tradition developed in the late C19 and was derived from China.
Living in the 21st century, and in Australia, I can’t say I’m too worried about the invention of tradition. Anything more than 100 years old is old enough for me.
OT PS: At my local shops at the weekend, I passed a woman (20s?) wearing a T-shirt that stated “Kickboxers are Nancy Boys”. I was struck by the rather antique slang (unless it’s come back in while I wasn’t paying attention), but also a bit bemused by the subtext. Worn by a man, the implication would presumably be one of aggressive bravado, but I don’t know what it means worn by a woman. And what about women kickboxers?
fn1, This process began a bit earlier in Britain and France and still hasn’t reached finality, but the crucial period, including German and Italian unification and the creation of the US in its current form, took place between 1850 and 1900.