• Cultural Cringe

    Cultural Cringe

    • Cultural cringe, in cultural studies and social anthropology, is an internalized inferiority complex that causes people in a country to dismiss their own culture as inferior to the cultures of other countries. It is closely related to the concept of colonial mentality and is often linked with the display of anti-intellectual attitudes towards thinkers, scientists, and artists who originate from a colonial or post-colonial nation. It can also be manifested in individuals in the form of cultural alienation. In most cases, the term is pejorative, used as a means of asserting the merits of the national culture.

      In 1894, Australian bush poet Henry Lawson wrote in his preface to his Short Stories in Prose and Verse:

      The Australian writer, until he gets a "London hearing," is only accepted as an imitator of some recognized English or American author; and, as soon as he shows signs of coming to the front, he is labelled "The Australian Southey," "The Australian Burns," or "The Australian Bret Harte," and lately, "The Australian Kipling." Thus no matter how original he may be, he is branded, at the very start, as a plagiarist, and by his own country, which thinks, no doubt, that it is paying him a compliment and encouraging him, while it is really doing him a cruel and an almost irreparable injury. But mark! As soon as the Southern writer goes "home" and gets some recognition in England, he is "So-and-So, the well-known Australian author whose work has attracted so much attention in London lately"; and we first hear of him by cable, even though he might have been writing at his best for ten years in Australia.

      Lawson clearly writes here from bitter experience, evidence enough that the Gestalt of psychological servitude, cultural anxiety and entrenched peer-cruelty which was later to become labelled "the cultural cringe" was pervasive in nineteenth-century Australia, and is thus a fundamental element of Australian self-identity.

      • A.A. Phillips, The Australian Tradition : Studies in Colonial Culture, Melbourne, Cheshire, 1958
  • What Else?

    • Cultural Cringe