Slovenski etnografski muzej

Številka revije 
Etnolog 16 (2006)
Janja Žagar
Članek v pdf obliki 
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On standardising what is appropriate and beautiful through the rules of manners

A person’s body is a basic given and we communicate with our environment with our body. All natural conditions, activities, and changes of the body are always observed, compared, and considered in the sense of social and cultural norms. These norms determine what is beautiful, desirable, prestigious, decent, etc. The human body is, of course, not a naked body, but above all a (standardly) dressed body. And because the body is not something static, a major portion of body communication (in the sense of social communication) must be attributed to body movements, posture, facial mimics. Every period thus incorporates its ideological values in a properly groomed, dressed and moving body. In the sense of signifi er and signified, this means that through such a body all properties are expressed, which a society considers desirable or undesirable. As “appropriateness” and the meaning of what is #8220;appropriate” are shaped, controlled, judged, and interpreted by the current social elite, forms of appropriateness are standardised in such a way that they are the privilege (as well as burden!) of the elites; to all others, they are forbidden, not permitted, or at least inappropriate. As a differentiating principle, these norms may even exist in a climate where the elite considers the “inappropriateness” of the masses as legitimate, excepted, and unsanctioned. The appropriateness of an individual’s personal appearance, as well as the values expressed through his or her clothing culture and body language, is always interpreted through the “ideal measure” and the individual’s social position. These elements therefore allow us to observe individual social structures and, in the course of time, also their development changes. Actual body expressions are temporary and as far as the past is concerned #8220;uncatchable”; they are recorded only in images and descriptions, “reworked” by chroniclers and artists. In this sense, the documentary nature of the more recent media (photographs, fi lms) is not unqualifi ed either. But even such sources are informative to the researcher, especially in the sense of cultural remodelling. The article discusses such a group of sources published with the aim of helping people to behave and look in a mannered way. Our comparison of manners guides produced in different social and historical circumstances confirmed that they are an excellent source for research into the social construction of the (groomed, dressed, moving) human body. Manners guides from before the Second World War have many common features and these are recaptured by later guides on general and business manners, and protocol.