Construing Scandinavia: A semiotic account of intercultural exchange in theme park design
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Evaluation of other cultures is a strong force in a culture's definition of itself. Cultures are formed in encounters that include domination, conflict, and dismissal as much as appreciation and smooth exchange. In this paper, the construction of cultural identity is discussed, with reference to a Scandinavian Theme Park proposal made in cooperation between American design consultants and a local Swedish team of planners and visionaries. The image production in this design proposal, which never came to be realised in architectural production, shows that "Scandinavia" appears as a two-some dialogic construction that adopts stereotyped cultural identities, and that it was not brought to any wider public dialogue. In a semiotic account of this architectural decision-making, models of culture (Lotman. 1990. Universe of the mind: A semiotic theory of culture. London: Tauris.) are discussed in terms of the tripartition of culture into Ego-culture, Alter-culture and Alius-culture (Sonesson. 2000. Ego meets alter: The meaning of otherness in cultural semiotics. Semiotica 128(3/4). 537-559.; Cabak Rédei, Anna. 2007. An inquiry into cultural semiotics: Germaine de Staël's autobiographical travel accounts. Lund: Lund University Press.), considered as a basic abstracted backdrop of what is meant by cultural difference. In this paper it is suggested that this tripartite view on culture, can be further discussed in reflection of post-colonial studies, notably through terms such as "mimicry" (Bhabha. 1984. Of mimicry and man: The ambivalence of colonial discourse. October 28. 125-133.) and "subalterity" (Spivak. 1988. Can the subaltern speak?. In Cary Nelson & Lawrence Grossberg (eds.), Marxism and the interpretation of culture, 271-313. Urbana & Chicago: University of Illinois Press.). The model of culture can furthermore be discussed through Peirce's distinction between different stages and carriers of representation, adding to the cultural model an understanding of what it means, over time, for a culture to relate to an admired as well as to a neglected other cultural actor.