Sunday, April 26, 2009


The Appadurai piece was very nice to read because he touches on almost very aspect of globalization and gives some contextualization that, even if the piece is almost 20 years old, serves to comprehend a bit the current situation. On page 586 he speaks of how Americans are “hardly in the present anymore”: haven’t those same “megatechnologies of the twenty first century” help create a world that goes beyond his description by facilitating the access to copies of things form all those decades?
Appadurai also seems to believe that the cultural colonization is now a tad more democratic (no pun intended): “…the United States is no longer the puppeteer of a world system of images but is only one node of a complex transnational construction of imaginary landscapes.” (p. 587). I respectfully disagree. Isn’t the quintessential American sit-com family the most copied everywhere? Isn’t English the language of computers even if they’re fabricated somewhere else? If we agree that those that own the means of intellectual production have the power to call their dominant ideology science, what’s the impact of having the top ten universities in the world in the United States? I could keep naming examples, but is it really necessary?
It seems to me like all the “-scapes” (p. 589) cannot be separated from one another in a way that they fuse and form what he calls “imagined worlds”, so how do we begin to understand the imagined world of the third world countries that don’t have the means to participate in all the “-scapes”?
Last but not least, Appadurai says that the “globalization of culture is not the same as its homogenization, but globalization involves the use of a variety of instruments of homogenization…” (p. 596). Aren’t those instruments usually owned by those that can already call themselves cultural empires? Yes, and this ties in with the Sreberny piece, we are able to indigenize (p. 607) the products that come from “media imperialism” (p. 606), but what’s the point if we’re only reacting and changing what they hand down to us instead of creating? Go to Africa and see a Japanese VCR playing a Hollywood movie…isn’t that the globalization we all fear and love at the same time? Should we, as intellectuals, concentrate on the way those Africans contextualize and assign new meanings to the film or should we concentrate on the fact that many are more concerned about selling them the damned products?
“Cultural boundaries are not etched in stone but have slippery divisions dependent on the self-adopted labels of groups.” (p. 621). Perfect, but hasn’t the real problem always been about the labels that others assign them?
Martín-Barbero is one of the most respect scholars where I come from, partly due to the fact that he taught there for a year. His historical recount and constant questioning of Latin America and its issues is always intriguing and thoroughly researched, as this piece clearly attests. In my opinion, some of his research can even be too historical, but that always serves to provide an accurate context.
Out of the whole article, I believe his idea of “writing the history of the mass media from the perspective of cultural processes as articulators of the communication process – hegemonic and subaltern- of social movements.” (p. 637), is the most valuable. Whenever turmoil leads to change, we need to look at it from many prisms, but the most important prism we can use to understand the role of globalization in any situation is to include an analysis of mass media throughout the process. Barbero continues to work with cinema, music and globalization to this day.
The Pieterse piece was one of those that turn everything upside down. I agree: we shall talk of “globalizations” (p. 658) because we’re dealing with “multidimensional processes” (p. 659). What I couldn’t understand was his insistence on trying to move away from the idea that globalization is westernization (p. 661). The idea of all societies creating “their own modernity” (p. 661) strikes me as an intellectual utopia that leaves capitalism and politics on the back shelve. How can they create something out of what other give them?
Pieterse discusses hybridity and brings is Latin America without citing Barbero or García Canclini, probably the most important globalization theorist in Latin America. Also, I cold argue extensively on the fact that “world music” (p. 666) doesn’t exists; it’s a hyperreal creation with clear commercial purposes that we can attribute, in great part, to the Putumayo Music series. His discussion of syncretism (p. 668) reads like a wikipedia explanation and leaves out all the cultural struggles and the oppression that forced people into syncretism. For someone who is not familiar with the history of these religions, it would be easy to imagine that it happened in a peaceful way, more or less like a fun adaptation of something new. Is it taboo to speak of forced hybridity? Should we forget about colonization and death as a tool to bring religion, education and “culture” throughout history?
Straubhaar concentrates on television and brings out the devils of CNNization (p. 682-683). When he talks about these channels bringing “the same content to worldwide audiences, although some “global” channels are creating regionally or locally adapted versions” (p. 683), I think he should’ve used the words ideology or model, which would explain a little better what these channels are really bringing. MTV is not a channel, is a way of living and consuming…
In this piece, the unifying theme is again hybridization as the direct result of globalization (p. 689), but the fact that Straubhaar breaks it down into different levels helps the reader understand the fact that there are multiple processes going on at the same time… and he does cite Canclini!
Straubhaar is also clearly making a point by stating the U.S. is successful in global markets by creating products that are already hybrid (p. 692).
The Kahn and Kellner piece brings Internet into the equation, which is now, in my humble opinion, more important than TV. They also bring in Internet activism, which goes along with some of my research and makes me feel like they romanticized the whole deal by calling these movements creators of “original instruments and modes of democracy” (p. 705) and “significant challenges” to the Bush administration (p. 705). Also, saying that phone messages and the Internet had a great impact on the Spanish elections is passable, but then they bring in figure 38.1 when speaking of Madrid and “massive antigovernment” demonstrations (p. 706)… while using a Catalonian newspaper!
I’m sure we’ll have a ton of fun discussing the whole Big Brother syndrome and online privacy, so I’ll leave that for class.

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