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Cultural Imperialism

Cultural Imperialism

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Published by Isaac Pérez Bolado

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Published by: Isaac Pérez Bolado on Sep 03, 2011
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We Are the Empire: Globalization, Media and Cultural Imperialism The world that we live in today is deeply interconnected

. We cannot understand the culture or politics of a place without taking a look at what occurs in places near and far from it. For example, teenagers from Canada to Cambodia are in love with Justin Bieber, stream his music down the worldwide web. As he delights them with choruses to be repeated like mantras – “baby, baby, baby!” – they dance alone in their bedrooms (if they have one of their own), maybe thinking about the boy in their class who has a haircut just like Justin's. In today's world, trends, fads and other cultural messages are transmitted down just as fast as it takes to download a Youtube video or send a text message; they spread out quickly from person to person and become part of their day-to-day interactions (Campbell et al. 2011). A more intriguing effect of these developments in global media, however, are the way that these messages also change the standards in preferences, values and politics from one country to another. Starting in the 1970s, some scholars have looked at the expansion of US culture, such as brand-names, films, music and fashion as an extension of the economic domination taking place in Latin America and other countries that were former colonies of Western powers. This theory was called “cultural imperialism” (McAnany and Wilkinson 1992: 725), and though it has since lost some of its influence, it is from time to time used to explain some cultural phenomena, like the currency of the English language or the popularity of cricket in India (Dunch 2002: 302). One of the reasons why the theory has faded back, scholars say, is that it places too much emphasis on the power of the imperialist agent, believing that the 'dominated' culture is completely passive and powerless (Dunch 2002:302). Another is that the theory does not look at the more complex relationships in a globalized world, in which it is not only one power that dominates over other, but the forces have become multi-national, non-linear and sometimes exist outside of space itself (McAnany and Wilkinson 1992: 725; Appadurai 1990: 3). Overall, it seems that “cultural imperialism” is a term that cannot be easily used in studying global media today, at least in the way it has been used before. I will propose that instead, we can look at cultural imperialism in a different way, as the propagation of a single global cultural economy that

In his review of the subject. like how to reconcile the idea with a world in which no one country owns . Dunch adds that the concept of cultural imperialism was able to survive in the 1990s as an extension of the literature on post-colonial studies. but which still shared many of the concerns over cultural “invasion” as the earlier wave of cultural imperialism scholarship (1992: 730). especially the United States (1992: 726). carried over in brand-names and their advertising images and the “values” present in American music and films. which they thought was somehow polluting the local culture and harming the national identity. however. “cultural imperialism” has faced many of the questions outlined before. At a time when many of these nations were going through a period of nationalist development. as historial Ryan Dunch argues. as scholars saw how difficult it was to applying them “in the field. What is Cultural Imperialism? Despite its popularity. According to McAnany and Wilkinson.” and also because of difficulties finding an energetic public response among the people.” a less ideological and more policy-based concern with the effect of American-produced television and film in the European markets. however. intellectuals and governments were anxious to defend their homelands from the perceived invasions of United States' cultural influences. In the 1980s. “cultural imperialism” revived in the form of European “Hollywood-phobia. These concepts dwindled down in influence. because both “culture” and “imperialism” are words that can be used in many different situations and can have different definitions. the term came up first as an extension of the economic scholarship of imperialism in Latin America. specifically because of the influence of Edward Said's Orientalism. in contrast with the top-down scheme that the early supporters of cultural imperialism believed in.integrates local cultures into a single network of ideas where no clear hyerarchy exists.” especially. the concept of cultural imperalism has been “notoriously difficult to define. Instead. many people seemed to “demand” these supposedly invasive products and images (McAnany and Wilkinson 1992: 728). McAnany and Wilkinson continue. Since then. which tried to uncover relationships of dependency between underdeveloped countries and the world's economic powers.

Even as McAnany and Wilkinson wrote their article in 1992. the global media landscape was beginning to shift shapes. and they noted that these changes meant important questions to the idea of a cultural imperialism associated with only one country. is a publicly-traded company with major stakeholders from several large markets. Their article concerned the acquisition by Hollywood companies of regional and local media industries outside the United States.” borrowing from anthropologist Arjun Appadurai. Furthermore.” and new rules of communication for us (Manovich 2008: 34). furthermore it doesn't stay untouched.video -replied to. icons of American culture like the Nike brand logo take on different meanings in different cultures. it is now public and kept in a registry that lets people track the information as it flows through new channels of communication. it is blogged about. Facebook has close to 700 million users. 2011). located in every inhabited continent and from a variety of national and socioeconomic backgrounds. Culture is no longer produced in private spaces to be interpreted by scholars. but they noted that even then companies from Japan. to their iPhones. In a world like this. no wonder the . Australia and even international conglomerates had begun taking a more prominent role in the production and distribution of media across the world. even auto-tuned (Campbell et al. the companies that own and dominate the “mediascape. Google. Whereas before radio and television let media create “mass diffusion”. or recognizing the cultural autonomy and diversity of peoples. The internet creates for us a new “self. The precipitous growth of access to the internet has produced forms of communication a lot more complicated than there used to be. are now multi-nationals in many ways (Appadurai 1990: 12). taking control of discourse away from America or the corporation itself. and putting it back in the hands of consumers in their respective locality (Dunch 2002: 305). reddit-ed. Dunch illustrates how. to public tweets and re-tweets. the world's most visited website. The Empire's New Groove The world has changed a lot since the 1990s.everything anymore. information on the internet today flows more than one way: from the top of corporate offices and newsrooms to people's Facebook profiles. for example.

apparently boundless capacities (2008: 32). This opinion. came some time before cell-phones and a long time before Facebook. A good number of factors could back this idea. leading to ideas about what is “in” or “beautiful” that are common across the world. although different from before. allowing people a more homogeneous access to the meanings of publicity slogans and song lyrics. Youtube and Wikipedia. passing on news and commentary that is geographically relatable to them and demographically relevant. Conclusions Global media is playing a key role in teaching the world to think as one. and which we can call a form of cultural imperialism itself.usefulness of the term “cultural imperialism” has been questioned. Most people today use much of their internet time on Facebook. In his seminal article “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy. Now it is not about countries and cultures in the abstract dominating each other. Trends and fads spread out more rapidly thanks to faster media. Young people today. but the discourse of the global culture muzzling the local cultural ideas.” Appadurai dismissed the idea that mass communications could produce meaningful communities among people in the world (1990: 3). as Manovich points out. one that is trans-cultural by nature. however. The internet has become. Because of all of these factors. we can say that a meaningful “community” of sorts is rising. looking at updates from their friends. somewhat diminishing them in importance to the culture of the global media. increasingly localized while balancing a tension with its own global. The differences that divided cultures and economies before are becoming blurred. watching the videos that interest their local communities. but from this one can ask the question: if globalization exists and is so powerful. one could argue. But the term has perhaps another potential use. it seems more and more like individuals and their relationships to each other will have a growing role in the . are more similar in their tastes and in their understanding of global media phenomena than they were in generations before. then who is responsible? While before scholars thought about countries trying to dominate each other and extend their economic influence through culture. like the fact that the use of English is a lot more widespread today.

0” in Media & Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication. Manovich. 2 (Winter 2009). . 6 (December 1992). Martin's. Vol. 41. Appadurai. Eight Edition. “The Internet Today: From Media Convergence to Web 3. Arjun. acting as cultural marketplaces. 2012. Vol. 2012. Blackwell. Bedford/St. Bedford/St. No.” History and Theory. Vol. Richard. Works Cited Campbell. will give this empire shape. Christian Missions and Global Modernity.” Critical Inquiry. Emile and Kenton T. “The Practice of Everyday Media (Life): From Mass Consumption to Mass Cultural Production.” Communication Research. … “Television and Cable: the Power of Visual Culture” in Media & Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication. Eight Edition. 1 (1990). 2012. The flows of information. and we are globalizing ourselves. Dunch. Sage. Martin's. Wilkinson. 32. Vol. In that sense. Duke University Press. “From Cultural Imperialists to Takeover Victims? Questions on Hollywood Buyouts from the Critical Tradition. 3 (October 2002). McAnany. Ryan. 19. No. Martin's.shaping of a single global culture. Bedford/St. No. Lev. 2. Eight Edition. “Beyond Cultural Imperialism: Cultural Theory. University of Chicago Press. No.” Public Culture. “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy. Christopher Martin and Bettina Fabos. the empire is us. … “Shifting Values in Postmodern Culture” in Media & Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication.

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