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Research findings

  • The project has examined transcultural trends as a particular type of flow, which leads to the proliferation of popular concepts, objects, and lifestyles across national and cultural borders.

  • The case studies within the project have explored the potential of transculturality as an analytical tool in a twofold way: 1) as a research perspective/paradigm, 2) as an inherent normative quality. First, transculturality served as a lens through which to examine trends. Moving beyond the confines of national and cultural boundaries broadens our perspective and leads to new sets of research questions. When boundaries are perceived as flexible variables in the movement of cultural flows such as trends, we can trace those factors that contribute to the fortification of boundaries and those that advance the eradication of such boundaries. Such an approach makes it possible to probe the cultural attributes and alleged roots of trends. Cultural attributes can then be treated as discursive constructs that agents employ in the proliferation of any trend. Accordingly, whether a trend is perceived or treated as Chinese, American, European or else depends on the perspectives and intentions of individuals and institutional agents. Second, sub-projects asked whether trends that successfully travel across nations and cultures possess specific transcultural qualities that other, more localized trends do not. Here, transculturality is understood as a characteristic rather than being employed as an analytical approach. The project’s results suggest that one vital factor of transculturality is a trend’s potential for reconfiguration. A trend’s capacity to be embedded discursively and made to fit a new culture while potentially retaining an aura of “foreignness” may render it transcultural.

  • As sub-projects have demonstrated, trend followers form networks. Such networks may be face-to-face, virtual or a combination of both. Shared common practices and interests, interconnection and exchange make up the foundations of such networks. Emerging trends may induce trend followers to create networks, but networks also create trends. Some participants follow trends with the deliberate goal or accidental result of joining some network. Others attempt to express themselves by initiating or participating in an emerging trend. Regardless of whether trend followers primarily seek to join networks or aim to demonstrate their individuality by adopting a trend, they all belong to greater groups of agents. Groups of agents form what research group members have termed publics. The formation of publics is key to the proliferation of any trend. Within the project’s research framework, publics were not understood as fixed social fields that possess firmly demarcated borders. Instead, they are heterogeneous and amorphous, bound by a common interest. Yet, as research results have demonstrated, some members of publics are either not aware of their membership or do not seek contact in networks. Publics are shaped by shared desires and trend practices. Aspects of gender, class, culture, lifestyle or political and religious beliefs, however, may figure strongly as well. Because trends’ publics are constituted by socio-cultural processes, they are highly fragmented and firmly bound in their historical temporalities. Moreover, publics are not confined to national borders, cultural borders, or even to the subcultural borders within which they originate. How and why a public constitutes around a trend is therefore contingent upon its respective historical context

  • The research findings have demonstated that desire has a fundamental bearing on the propensity of a trend to travel and to become popular in different cultural contexts. A multitude of individual and collective desires provides impetus, reason and glue to the formation and success of trends. The desires described here were the result (or expression) of likes, admiration, wishes, yearnings and hopes. In any attempt to fulfil a desire, the powers of the imagination, interpretation, creativity, nostalgia, invention, improvisation and imitation come into play. Just as desires may create trends, project results have shown that trends, once underway, also create desires; desires for something new, something revived, something fashionable, something foreign or simply something better. Desires, therefore, contribute to the unintentional or deliberate constitution of the self. In the process of living a trend, an adherent will eventually come into contact with other trend followers or join the ranks of those who share similar desires and interests.

  • Trends, which seem ubiquitously popular in one society, are only able to translate into new contexts if they are able to adapt and cater to the desires of audiences and key-agents in new surroundings. The ability for reconfiguration or the conscious act of reconfiguring trends for new contexts is thus an essential process in the transcultural travel of trends.

  • The results of the case studies and the project as a whole call for a more nuanced understanding of the global and highlight the inevitable shifts and transformations of popular lifestyles, commodities, political ideas and counter-cultural lifestyles in their transcultural travels.

  • For a more detailed summary of project results please see: “The Transcultural Travels of Trends: An Introductory Essay”