Cultural Flows

Cultural Flows

We each, in our café discussion about the Korean Punk Rock video, had different opinions about how culture flows and whether globalization results in cultural homogenization. Our thoughts are as follows.

Tishara thinks: cultural flows are multidirectional. This is especially evident when you look at aspects of culture like cuisine and clothing. In the average Western household, you can find takeout menu’s offering foods from around the world; some of the most popular cuisines include Italian, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Japanese, Caribbean, and Spanish foods. But in that same way, many popular American fast-food chains have hundreds of international locations, particularly McDonald’s and KFC. In fashion as well, there are evidences that cultural flows are multidirectional. Take for example Nigerian women’s fashion of today where the popular styles represent aspects of American high fashion clothing (i.e. high-waisted skirts, form fitting/slim cuts, revealing bodices, etc.). With the increasing number of major American clothing brands expanding their shipping availability, more and more people are able to pick and choose the American fashions they like and incorporate it into their cultural styles.

Dolma thinks: In terms of culture flowing from West to the rest of the world, it is more frequent that it happens that way. However, it would be to misjudgment to dismiss the transfer of culture into West as well from the rest of the world. For instance, the Gangnam style video become hugely popular and he even performed at the New Year’s Eve celebration in New York City. Thus, the transfer of culture is happening both ways but at different rates.

I (Fatima) can agree with Tishara and Dolma to an extent about which direction culture flows. While there is certainly a presence of Western food chains in the rest of the world, Westerners seem to rely more on cultural diversity in their food rather than other cultures relying on Western restaurants. The stigma attached to Western chains make it so that many eat there out of convenience rather than a way of life whereas Americans and other Westerners value international cuisines because it enriches their lives. I think Dolma is correct in thinking that culture flows from the West to the rest at a more accelerated pace and I think the medium that dictates this is mass media. Tishara pointed out to me how rare it is that Western consumers are advertised products that are distinctly from someplace in the rest of the world. Of course most products are manufactured internationally but the brands are usually American with the exception of cars. However elsewhere in the world, advertisements disproportionately promote Western brands.

As to the question of whether globalization leads to cultural homogenization, we decided: It is definitely western influenced and it is the effect of globalization. However, one cannot say if cultural change such as the Punk culture in Korea is homogenization because they are creating their own genre of Punk music. Furthermore, it is not replacing the existing culture but rather it’s an addition to it. For example, Jo san Aung, one of the members of Punk band managed by Drug, explains in her CD cover that they are creating Punk in their own way and on their own terms.  We think globalization can be considered cultural homogenization depending on how you look at it. For Dolma one of the main messages she receives about globalization is that everyone wants to look like “America” or just be rich; everyone wants to mimic the dominant culture in order to get recognized to eventually become famous. Tishara gives the example of Soca artist Machel Montano who will create songs that resemble pop, techno, and rap music all with the hopes of making Soca music mainstream. Whether or not his efforts are successful the point is he’s doing it purposefully because he thinks that it will make his music appeal to what’s already out there. She does believe that culturally different groups of people are able to preserve some of their cultural identity but after a while things begin to change. Carnival in Trinidad is another example, it has spread to all areas in the States where there are Caribbean populations (i.e Toronto, London, NYC, Boston, Miami….)

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