Sunday, April 26, 2009

5 questions from David (week 15)

1) When Appadurai attempts to substantiate his passing claim about the American "rape of the Philippines" (D&K p586) he describes a Filipino "nostalgia without memory". In recent years, we've seen greaser/teddy boys in Britain and Japan, cowboy subcultures in Norway and Scandinavia, and other make-believe Americas worldwide. I understand why different cultures would find aspects of American culture intriguing, but 'rape'? Moreover: what makes this 'nostalgic' in any sense except through the American lens? American cultural artifacts are more style than anything else. Styles are embraced or rejected irrespective (or sometimes because of) other cultural meanings; isn't Appadurai's fixation on 'peculiar chronicities' something of a peculiarly American perspective? (Yes, I know he was born Indian, but he was educated in the US and has done the bulk of his work here.)

2) Appadurai invents (defines) a distinction between nations (seeking to capture or co-opt states) and states (seeking nationhood) (D&K p.593) as a fundamental feature of the era of globalism. Does he get this right? Are Basques and Tamil Sri Lankans "imagined communities"? Is there something really novel or new about what he's describing?

3) While Sreberny is right that Western transnational media companies have embraced globalism sloganeering and have absorbed many 'local' media entities (D&K p.610), is this the defining trend of the globalization of media? Aren't we, in fact, seeing the transnational
emergence of Indian media, the growing role of Arabic media (Al- Jazeera), the growing importance of non-American voices in media at large? Moreover, aren't the transnationals ...struggling?

4) Sreberny seems convinced (and worried) that the emergence of national impulses defined by ethnic or cultural homogeneity may not "allow heterogeneity and civic rights to flourish" (D&K p622)-- but doesn't she overlook (or give a 'pass' to) the oppressive pre- globalist totalitarian forces that kept ethnic nationalist expression in check/bottled up for much of the 20th century?

5) I very much like the hybridization argument Pieterse lays out, especially the argument that it "unsettles the introverted concept of culture that underlies romantic nationalism, racism...civilizational chauvinism and cultural essentialism." (D&K p676). But by extension,
doesn't this process of cultural cut-and-pasting --over time--ultimately lead to homogenization and cultural blandness? Isn't there a lot to be said in favor of localization of culture and cultural/
national identity that Pieterse conveniently overlooks?

David D. Brown

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