SZirine Manifest

I behold Thee, infinite in form, on every side,
but I see not Thy end nor Thy middle, nor Thy beginning! [1]

I. Overview
Szirine Magazine is a literary magazine on world cultures and subcultures. We publish fiction, non-fiction, poetry and open form essays in which culture and language play important roles. Szirine Magazine authors convey the distinct localities of their cultures, the poetic spirits of their languages.

Szirine Magazine believes that the interpretation of our observations is heavily influenced by selective perception and limited insight. It takes years of direct participation, often from childhood on, to intrinsically understand a culture and attach an accurate meaning to it. A truthful still description of our own single experience is not always enough to properly depict a shared and living culture. For example, to the outsider, some behaviors may appear exotic or primitive, but to an insider they are sophisticated traditions of deeply held importance. And to the outsider, what may appear as a sophisticated and esthetic custom may to an insider be but unworthy and trivial. In short, the perspective of the outsider, even at best will, can easily misrepresent the indigenous cultures it observes. Szirine Magazine upholds the principle that most often it is the insider’s perspective that can best if not solely examine, express and portray the culture. We are reluctant and careful to accept stories by an outsider who is well intentioned and literary talented, but to a certain extent excluded from the intrinsic workings.

Szirine Magazine constructs a space, a third space, that exists between the insider and the outsider. It is in this third space that they meet, exist and exchange. In this third space, Szirine Magazine mediates and allows conversations and contemplations to blossom. Here, words are added to the English domain to bridge the gap and fill the voids. Here, in the third space readers and authors both reside, allowing many voices to speak, some from afar, others from close, some conclusively unifying, others with diverging variety.

II. On Cultures and Subcultures
Globalization, individualization, technological developments and new media, all these processes have a tremendous influence upon contemporary cultures and the way we perceive them. No longer are our lives dominated per se by the cultural monopoly of one existing tradition within strict boundaries, no longer is the predominant culture an evident force that conforms and binds society, while cultural entities remain constantly in flux.

Historically, in western countries the concept of culture has become associated with the notion of a nation in the last hundreds of years. But this has led to gross oversights in many fields, from mass media to politics to history. Furthermore, what often seems to be a homogenous culture or subcultures, may contain a manifold of fractions and subcultures. In Morocco for example, Berber culture still survives as a resilient force, despite almost 1500 years of Arab colonization and a short-lived period of West-European domination. In the United States, African-Americans have developed dominating cultural traditions in music (blues, jazz, hip hop), fashion, and language, even though many were severed from the countries of their African ancestors. Different religions and religious interpretations too follow separate traditions within countries around the world, and wide cultural differentiations exist between geographical units like the city, countryside, mountains, river deltas, desert, islands, continents, and so on.

Subcultures in societies can also be defined by political beliefs, language, occupation, age, sex, physical abilities, sexual preference, mental or physical handicaps, hobby, geography, skin color, climate and believe it or not, some would even go as far as saying that writers form an odd subculture of their own!

Perceptions of cultures and subcultures are often transmitted to us without the privilege of first hand experience. Schools may teach us in a theoretical manner about the history of our culture and of distant societies. Television, radio, cinema, and printed media all portray a small selection of cultural experiences and offer brief impressions of charged events in the world news. The Internet however opened up access to knowledge of more unfamiliar and distant cultures and their particulars. But quickly we learned that language is central to understanding much of these accessible sources of information, and that understanding the cultures from where these sources stem can be crucial to validate their true meaning. Szirine Magazine creates in a third space, a place between source and destination that helps us navigate these new worlds.

III. On Cultures and Identities
Culture is by definition a social concept in the sense that it is any behavior shared by two or more people; it is the shared identity between people. People are to a certain extent part of a particular group with a distinguished set of rules, beliefs, preferences and affections. In addition, the perception of culture influences the way others see us, the way we see others and the way we see ourselves. The perspective from which we observe and describe culture is therefore never without interest.

Culture defines in part our individual identity, as much as it does our collective identity, acting as a mirror that reflects not only the way others perceive us but also how we perceive ourselves. And when we choose not to comply with a certain norm or value in our culture, we experience a distancing of our individual identity. As such, culture both binds us and sets us apart from others. These forces often work at the same time pulling and pushing us from and toward our current place in society. Our cultural identity provides us with a framework in which we find or are given meaning.

The binary qualities of comfort in association and separateness have us searching the world for contrasts and commonalities. We find these in traditions, language, religion, ideologies and other cultural expressions. You might say that when we are infants, we are one with the world and our perception does not separate ourselves from our environment. We depend on, what is to our perception, a universal mother. But when we grow older, we separate ourselves from our environment through a process of individuation. The youth is accepted into the adult world through processes of initiation. He or she then establishes a new relation with the world by seeking a new identity, place and role in society. Different cultures and different individuals establish varying forms of relationships, levels of dependencies and responsibilities between individuals and society.

IV. On Cultures and Language
The enrichment of learning about world cultures and subcultures occurs not only on a personal level. Of course, we enjoy reading stories, articles and poetry by writers from other continents, which can inspire us temporarily or permanently or simply entertain us. But Szirine Magazine also enriches the language that we use by helping to discover different nuances of the language in which we define ourselves.

According to Jacques Lacan, our self-knowledge is constructed from language and ideological structures. It is through language that we understand, and convey, our relationship to our selves and to others. In turn, learning and understanding how other cultures express themselves help us to understand their identities. In the third space of Szirine Magazine, we are able to find these persona through their meaning in language and we explore how it is expressed in other cultures.

The imaginations that exist in separate realms of respective cultures take shape in the third space of Szirine Magazine. World voices add to the English language through translations that surface foreign images and distinct expressions. Also, immigrants both contribute to and grow within the language through a form of mutual pollination. Writings about world cultures and subcultures introduce new words and expressions. They introduce us to unknown or distinct concepts that carry foreign souls, rich spices. Szirine Magazine unifies in the third space the signified with the signifier, supplementing our own limited language with a more expansive base of roots, graphemes and phonemes. Szirine Magazine creates in the third space an international study in morphology, with linguistic traditions of non-English cultures adding new and dynamic structures to the English language.

Stories transplant non-English souls into the English language. They bring a different rhythm, prefer a different pitch, or use different images to convey emotions and thoughts. They might use more abstract language, or the narrative might be more important than the plot. Sometimes, innovation is an important feature of the poetic or prose form while at other times tradition reigns. Some cultures use metaphors, while others might stay explicit and concrete, etcetera. All these different tongues influence our interpretation of language, our perception of cultures and perhaps in the end, the image of our self.

V. Conclusion
The world is a global village where the interaction between cultures and subcultures has intensified dramatically. Some fear a loss of identity, tradition, and/or meaning, others fear the uncertainty of clashing cultures, or predict a downfall of they see as a modern Babylonic construction. Szirine Magazine has created a third space where we engage in a conversation that transcends our separate worlds. In this third space we add new meanings, behaviors and words to our language that diverse cultures. Our goal is to increase insights into world cultures and subcultures through the medium of language. Feel free to step into and move around in this third space and expand it with the intonations of your own voice.

* The editors of Szirine Magazine, humbly acknowledge the shortcomings of our knowledge, understanding and interpretation of cultures and the perspectives from which the Szirine Manifest was created. We will be very grateful to receive your contributions and comments to it, so we can expand our horizons.

[1] Bhagavad Gita (11; 1:45-46; 2:9)

August 1st, 2003 by