Tradition is generally understood as a body of values, beliefs, rules, and behavior patterns that is transmitted generationally by practice and word of mouth and is integral to socialization processes. Connoting fixity, stability, and continuity, it guides daily behavior and justifies shared beliefs and practices. In small-scale societies, where tradition offers the dominant blueprint for acceptable behavior, its status is that of sacred lore. Where orally transmitted, however, tradition is always open to variation, contestation and change, and becomes a model ofpast practices rather than a passively and unreflec- tively inherited legacy.
Since the 1990s, the historical turn in anthropological theory has led scholars to contextualize the emergence of particular constructions of tradition within colonization, missionization and post-war ‘‘development’’ and in articulation with the global political economy. Since 1980s, the topic of tradition has proved remarkably durable, engendering a multilayered body of knowledge about constructions of the past in contemporary societies. Social actors’ received notions of tradition as the solid foundation that underpins customary behavior have been deemphasized in scholarly analyses in favor of conceptions of it as constantly subject to reinterpretation and rereading by each new generation of carriers, who construe their past in terms both of present perceptions and understandings and future hopes and needs.