Saturday, 9 July 2011


Would it be possible to construct a theory of genre not around the notion that certain genres must include items from a checklist of positive identifiers, but on the contrary that certain genres (science fiction, Fantasy, Romance, crime and so on) are, in a weak sense, taboo?
On an universal scale in almost all cultures, Taboos can include sex, death, dietary restrictions (halal and kosher diets, religious vegetarianism, and the prohibition of cannibalism), restrictions on sexual activities and relationships (sex outside of marriage, adultery, intermarriage, miscegenation, incest, animal-human sex, adult-child sex, sex with the dead), sexual fetishes, restrictions of bodily functions (burping, flatulence, defecation and urination), restrictions on the use of psychoactive drugs, restrictions on state of genitalia such as (transsexual gender identity, circumcision or sex reassignment), exposure of body parts (ankles in the Victorian British Empire, women's hair in parts of the Middle East, nudity in the US), and restrictions on the use of offensive language.

Practices considered acceptable in one culture may be considered taboo in other cultures. For example, Foot Binding, practiced in ancient China, would be considered taboo in the context of modern cultural morals. Exposure of intimate parts is generally taboo in (most) modern developed countries.[citation needed] Other subjects perceived to be taboo involve burning money; some countries or nations (most notably post-WWII Europe whose governments often object going to war except for reasons of self-defense) and moral-philosophical debates on whether or not humanity should (or not) exist. No taboo is known to be universal, but some (such as cannibalism, intentional homicide, and incest taboos) occur in the majority of societies. Taboos may serve many functions, and often remain in effect after the original reason behind them has expired. Some have argued that taboos therefore reveal the history of societies when other records are lacking. Certain taboos lose their sting over periods of time. In the United States and western countries, most people are now more comfortable than before when they discuss and explore social issues: gossip and scandal, alcoholism, depression, homosexuality, divorce, income disparity, personal relationships, pregnancy and childbirth, and teenage rebellion. Medical disorders and diseases like cancer, polio, AIDS, mental disorders and suicide aren't as heavily taboo now as in the past. Certain personal things such as age, height, weight and appearance are not always shared with confidants or in public; this indicates that such topics may be taboo to some people.
One of the interesting things about this might be, precisely the extent to which a taboo item is not simply abjected from the social body, but embodies a kind of special mana or holiness of its own. (Or more strongly, to take Freud's case, the 'incest' and 'parricide' taboo dyad as it appears, let's say, in the first Star Wars films.

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