There were two readings that I found very interesting this week. Both of these dealt with themes of colonialism and imperialism, which are subjects I am interested in researching. The article by Aaron Barlow about blogging resonated with me because he doesn’t only talk about blogging, but also about what happens when new technologies are taken to other countries that may not be so technologically advanced. I liked the idea of the blog, and the internet in general, as a space for improving your writing or your art, which is one of the things that Barlow mentions, but I also thought he made a good point when saying that not every culture and every country is going to approach these changes in the same way, and that what worked in one place is not necessarily going to work in another. I thought it was important that he mentioned that some of this technology is not always what people in other parts of the world are looking for; sometimes it’s not even something they want, and that many of these technologies are designed to work for people of a certain socioeconomic background and not everyone else.
The other reading that I found could be useful for my research was the excerpt from Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson. I found this excerpt to be particularly relevant for me because I come from a country that was at one point a colony and that has, because of this, always struggled to define itself. Here, Anderson talks about nationalism and how it, in a sense, derives from religion, the Christian religion in particular. I found this to be an interesting observation because, coming from a place where Christianity was an imposed religion, it makes sense that that would be the basis of a struggle for an identity. The part where Anderson brings up the idea of “civilizing” the natives was something I also found interesting, in particular the writing he quotes by Pedro Fermin de Vargas, which I found to be not as negative as some other writing by colonizers that I have read before.
Raymond Williams’s reading was good brief introduction of cultural studies and it was useful to define how analysis art/or something with cultural theory. Williams points out three categories in definition of culture: ideal, documentary, and social definitions. And he mentioned that the ‘social’ definition includes ‘ideal’ and ‘documentary’ definitions, and at the end he stated that ‘documentary’ analysis will lead out to ‘social’ analysis.
By Stuart Hall’s writing is good to understand the brief history of how cultural study take place, and how it conflicted with the Humanities studies. It is interesting that the both author dealing with cultural studies are from and studied at England. After the two reading I get curious how cultural studies have that strong (?)/close relation of England, and I want to know about if there is some social/historical background of the emergence of cultural studies.
I was pleased to read the Anderson piece because I had been thinking about nationalism the previous week. I had been involved in some discussion, the broader gist of which was why craft is important. At some point someone brought in a point about whether the idea is more important or the making of the thing is more important: if the idea is the most important thing, why not just send drawings to a factory in China and have them make it? In these sorts of discussions China is often assumed to be a great enemy of American craft, seemingly for more than just economic reasons. It’s not just that Chinese craft workshops/small factories undercut American craftspeople, there seems to be a deeper feeling difference or otherness. I started thinking that craft is craft whether it’s in China or the United States and that this demonization of Chinese craft workshops is really nothing more than a manifestation of nationalism. Nationalism has always seemed to me to be negative force and one which ought not be encouraged but I had never thought about it in the realm of craft before. It was interesting to read about the origins of nationalism having just been thinking about it in different terms.
This week, the two readings I found interesting were Aaron Barlow’s essay on the blog. In our Media Theory class we have been discussing how corporations and advertisers control media content and media production, and how audiences have no role to play in this process. So I had been thinking about how social media and websites such as YouTube have changed the idea of audience/media content producer. Anyone can make a YouTube video and gather and “audience” of several million people, so the paradigm of rich corporations completely controlling media output is definitely becoming decentralized in today’s times. What Barlow says about the blog resonated with what I was thinking about these past few days. I also found interesting what Barlow says about humanity and technology going together – that we cannot put a value on technology as “good” or “bad” unless its being used with a specific intent.
The second piece I found interesting was Benedict Anderson’s article “nation” and “nationality”. My interest in this piece is a bit obvious because when you belong to a “postcolonial” country, the ideas of nation and nation building and what constitutes that nation, and how the people of a nation manufacture a sense of belonging towards each other (especially in a country as diverse as India) – these are things that you confront on a daily basis. What I really responded to in this article was when Anderson suggests that the “nation” came in when people found that religion was not enough to provide a sense of collectiveness. In India, religion is deeply connected to the idea of the nation, especially for those who espouse right-wing politics. So it’s interesting to see how this concept works out in my country, where religion and nation are often conflated within nationalist rhetoric.
I really enjoyed Hall’s analysis of Leavis in terms of what aspects of him were influential positively and negatively. It seems that Leavis was a part of this elitist groups of cultural experts that prided themselves superior in terms of historical cultural knowledge which contrasted with the scrappy origins of the Centre for Cultural Studies. He also engaged very adamantly with questions of culture, something that was quite inspirational, implying a paradoxical relationship with this inspirational figure. It is also so characteristically British to include wittily a Hamlet quote at random (“…baring his chest as it were to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”).
Hall’s piece in its reference to the opposition the Cultural Centre got makes me wonder how often this divide in cultural studies is the result of class. I’m reminded from Kapur’s class the concepts within the Frankfurt school and there was this promotion of classical music over jazz, implying a similar sort of elitism that was informing which artistic forms are supposedly in better taste. Anderson’s look at nationalism also implies this artificial communion that informs national self-reflexivity. He mentions that, “ontological reality is apprehensible only through a single, privileged system of re-presentation.” Anderson is talking about this in relation to the development of and interchangeability of language, but couldn’t this “privilege” apply to all aspects of our imagined communities? Are a select few dictating the importance of capitalism and American values in order to improve their profit margins? I would say that there is this rich profiteering aspect to culture that is conspiratorially frightening. I could be way off base or too obvious with this proclamation, but I enjoy thinking about such dark matters. That is why I’d like to do an independent film free from Hollywood corporate mongols dictating what needs to be in my movies in order for them to be made/distributed. They are, in a way, creating a specific media culture, probably to someone’s benefit.
Before I read about cultural studies for the class, I believed it to be a study of culture and how people behave. Although, I was not too far from being right, I also learned that it is a critique of ones culture and behavior. In Raymond Williams article, The Analysis of Culture, he states, “The analysis of culture, from such a definition, is the activity of criticism, by which the nature of the thought and experience, the details of the language, form and convention in which these are active, are described and valued.” Meaning, that culture is studied, or critiqued, by the time era of which people are living, or lived, in. Williams discusses that there are three levels of culture. First, Lived Culture, which is current culture- what we are living in now. Second, Recorded Culture, which are the arts, the news, etc. And, Third, Selective Tradition, which is a part of a past culture that is being used today. After reading this article I have never broke down cultural studies in this manner.
Raymond Williams breaks down culture into three categories in his article The Analysis of Culture. The ideal is the universal understanding of perfection. Documentary is the body of intellectual and imaginative work. Social is the values in art, behavior, learning, and institutions. Williams discusses the issues attached with these categories. For example the ideal disregards natural sexual desires, documentary is a selective body of work, social can mass produce culture without growth of values. As a female artist, I appreciate his breakdown culture, with dramatic lacking of female contributions in consensus history. It’s upsetting that women still only makeup 17 percent of directors, producers, screenwriters, and cinematographers in the 250 top grossing films. Currently I’m researching experimental horror filmmakers. My favorite short film is Kitchen Sink by Alison Maclean. The film breaks down domestic gender roles, correlating the female relationship with the man-like monster to Frankenstein.
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