Emerging from the confluence of Greco-Roman mythology and regional folklore, the mermaid has been an enduring motif in Western culture since the medieval period. It has also been disseminated more widely, initially through Western trade and colonisation and, more recently, through the increasing globalisation of media products and outlets.
Scaled for Success offers the first detailed overview of the mermaids dispersal outside Europe. Complementing previous studies of the interrelationship between the mermaid and Mami Wata spirit in West Africa, this volume addresses the mermaids presence in a range of Middle Eastern, Asian, Australian, Latin American and North American contexts. Individual chapters identify the manner in which the mermaid has been variously syncretised and/or resignified in contexts as diverse as Indian public statuary, Thai cinema and Coney Islands annual Mermaid Parade.
Rather than lingering as a relic of a bygone age, the mermaid emerges as a versatile, dynamic and, above all, polyvalent figure. Her prominence exemplifies the manner in which contemporary media-lore has extended the currency of established folkloric figures in new and often surprising ways. Analysing aspects of religious symbolism, visual art, literature and contemporary popular culture, this copiously illustrated volume profiles an intriguing and highly diverse phenomenon.
Philip Hayward is editor of the journal Shima and holds adjunct professor positions at the University of Technology Sydney and at Southern Cross University. His previous volume, Making a Splash: Mermaids (and Mermen) in 20th and 21st Century Audiovisual Media, was published by John Libbey Publishing/Indiana University Press in 2017.
No matter the reader's background (literature, folklore, media or cultural studies, and beyond), there is no denying that this work will be a valuable addition to the library of anyone fascinated with mermaids." ~Western Folklore
This wonderful book asks us to consider the mermaid, a figure that has traveled globally for over two centuries. By tracking the figure across regions, nations, diasporas, and contemporary socio-cultural configurations, the book also serves as a kind of examination of circulatory networks as they move symbolically charged images and ideas out of mythological / folkloric systems into sometimes surprising contexts. With this, the chapters show that mermaids are an extraordinary form with which to understand polyvalency and through which we can understand the usefulness of certain psychoanalytic paradigms across histories and societies. One of the most compelling aspects of the volume is the tracking of the figure from myth to narrative to popular culture in numerous different contexts. Mermaids and Mermen guide the reader through India, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines, and China and across The Middle East and Latin America. They then open windows into contemporary popular culture in Australia and The United States. Each chapter reads the mermaid in tandem with the histories of cultural production more broadly in the se global sites. Beautifully written and richly theorized, the chapters each individually provide insight into circulation, media, and post coloniality. Read together, they offer a map for how to do contemporary cultural studies." ~Paige West, Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology, Barnard College, Columbia University