Jingle Bell – Punjabi Tadka

When we started this blog, we hoped that anthropologists among our readers would be willing to contribute 'pictures of the week', photos (or videos) that would illustrate in a suggestive manner a theme of cognition-and-culture relevance, but we had very little success and, sadly, we have all but given up. Here however is video not from an ethnographer but suggested by 3QuarksDaily and borrowed from YouTube that illustrates in a pleasant and timely manner how cultural items borrowed in another culture get transformed in the direction of a better integration to their novel environment.


Original creation by: Nupur. Music by: Amartya Rahut.





  • Philippe Ramirez 28 December 2009 (17:49)

    I don’t believe this video really illustrates how foreign cultural items are borrowed and “transformed in the direction of a better integration” to the South Asian environment. It illustrates rather how some circles (basically the Indian middle class and its media) are aware enough of the composite nature of their culture to be able to “play” and joke on the contrast between its various components (e.g. St Klaus wearing a turban and riding a buffalo). As a matter of fact, within the last two decades, Xmas has become one of the main yearly festivals among the Indian middle class (beyond the Christian community obviously) having to do mostly with exchange of cards. But on the cards, St Klaus does look very much like his Western counterparts; his icon has not been adapted t all. I would say that in India, Xmas is “digested” enough to be addressed in the manner we see here. In a way, this video will have more to do with what I understand of the meta-cognition of Indians (how they think about their culture) than with inter-cultural cognition (how they transform foreign features).

  • Dan Sperber
    Dan Sperber 30 December 2009 (22:09)

    Thank you for these informative and highly relevant comments, but of course a transformation of Jingle Bells with an ironical, meta-cognitive dimension intended for the Indian middle-class is a case of intercultural transmission, even if not a classical anthropological case. I would argue that construction is involved in all cases of intercultural borrowings, classical or not. What is special – but not unique here – is the self-conscious character of this construction.

  • Christophe Heintz
    Christophe Heintz 9 January 2010 (18:23)

    This discussion raises an interesting question: Do attitudes towards one’s act of intellectual borrowing figure as important factors of cultural evolution? Or do these attitudes only rarely cause a transformation of the borrowed cultural item? Couldn’t historians of religions come up with many examples where the act of borrowing from another religion is accompanied with a denial of the act of borrowing? This denial may then lead to cover the origin of the cultural item by changing its form. Our times of intellectual property rights provide new reasons to cover the act of borrowing … does this have an effect on cultural evolution?