Maps, Diagrams and Charts: Making the Cultural Trait Visible

  • Fulvio CarmagnolaEmail author


This paper is a philosophical reflection around the concept of a cultural trait. A trait is any perceptible or intangible characteristic aspect. In addition, to be cultural, a trait must not be intentional or part of a plan, and its diffusion and repetition – even when initially intentional – must elude control. Traits are inseparable from a cultural space and power relations that are the source of their value, and that govern their spread. Consequently, cultural traits – like “the style of a period” – can only be recognized a posteriori and at distance. Traits can be mapped in different ways, but a map is no simple object. Maps can vary along two dimensions: dynamic-static and conceptual – perceptual. Some maps are schemas or diagrams. Classifying the maps used by Zenni to illustrate the history of jazz, and comparing them with analog maps from the 1970s, I show how maps depend from the observer's (cultural) ideas. Some maps evidently express a search for hierarchy and origins. But, in contemporary philosophy, the question of the origins constitutes a problem. For Michel Foucault, history is not a search for the origin, on the contrary, it must “dispel the chimera of the origin”, because passion for the origin is functional to reassurance or self-reassurance, and there are no single origins.


Repetition Power/cultural space Foucault Style Diagram Origin as “chimera” 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.“Riccardo Massa” Department of Educational Human SciencesUniversity of Milano - BicoccaMilanItaly

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