Posted by: glue | August 18, 2008

Pro/Con-tamination

Moving beyond the habits of Good & Evil to the qualities of good or bad (Spinoza, Nietzsche), in order to read the scene of disaster as oracle. “Contamination” is a keyword used to describe the threat to our drinking water posed by the Superfund site. but the resonances of the term spread across and through semantic boundaries with different valences. For example, in the context of globalization, the creolization of diverse societies and cultures.

Syncretism

Syncretism

See for example Kwame Anthony Appiah, “The Case for Contamination” (New York Times Magazine, January 1, 2006.

“The fear is that the values and images of Western mass culture, like some invasive weed, are threatening to choke out the world’s native flora. The contradictions in this argument aren’t hard to find. This same Unesco document is careful to affirm the importance of the free flow of ideas, the freedom of thought and expression and human rights – values that, we know, will become universal only if we make them so. What’s really important, then, cultures or people? In a world where Kumasi and New York – and Cairo and Leeds and Istanbul – are being drawn ever closer together, an ethics of globalization has proved elusive.

“The right approach, I think, starts by taking individuals – not nations, tribes or “peoples” – as the proper object of moral concern. It doesn’t much matter what we call such a creed, but in homage to Diogenes, the fourth-century Greek Cynic and the first philosopher to call himself a “citizen of the world,” we could call it cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitans take cultural difference seriously, because they take the choices individual people make seriously. But because cultural difference is not the only thing that concerns them, they suspect that many of globalization’s cultural critics are aiming at the wrong targets. Yes, globalization can produce homogeneity. But globalization is also a threat to homogeneity. You can see this as clearly in Kumasi as anywhere. One thing Kumasi isn’t – simply because it’s a city – is homogeneous.

Noise

Noise

“Researchers have actually gone out into the world and explored the responses to the hit television series “Dallas” in Holland and among Israeli Arabs, Moroccan Jewish immigrants, kibbutzniks and new Russian immigrants to Israel. They have examined the actual content of the television media – whose penetration of everyday life far exceeds that of film – in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India and Mexico. They have looked at how American popular culture was taken up by the artists of Sophiatown, in South Africa. They have discussed “Days of Our Lives” and “The Bold and the Beautiful” with Zulu college students from traditional backgrounds.

“And one thing they’ve found is that how people respond to these cultural imports depends on their existing cultural context. When the media scholar Larry Strelitz spoke to students from KwaZulu-Natal, he found that they were anything but passive vessels. One of them, Sipho – a self-described “very, very strong Zulu man” – reported that he had drawn lessons from watching the American soap opera “Days of Our Lives,” “especially relationship-wise.” It fortified his view that “if a guy can tell a woman that he loves her, she should be able to do the same.” What’s more, after watching the show, Sipho “realized that I should be allowed to speak to my father. He should be my friend rather than just my father.” It seems doubtful that that was the intended message of multinational capitalism’s ruling sector.

But Sipho’s response also confirmed that cultural consumers are not dupes. They can adapt products to suit their own needs, and they can decide for themselves what they do and do not approve of.”

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