Cafe Discussion #9

Group Members: McKenzie, Hannah, and Sarah

Written By: Sarah

Since we covered the Stoddard and Cornwell article on douglarisation more in-depth in class, McKenzie, Hannah, and I decided to discuss, “Karaoke in East Asia: Modernization, Japanization, or Asianization” for our last cafe blog. We thought it was interesting how karaoke was Japanese in origin, but each culture around the world has its own adaptation of karaoke. Hannah said that she associates American karaoke with the bar scene, drinking, and people singing new or pop songs. The U.S. adopted the karaoke machine and idea of singing along with our favorite songs; karaoke has become very American for many people in America. I mentioned that before reading this article, I had no idea that karaoke was not American and that it came from Japan. When I think about it, it does make sense to me now since the word “karaoke” clearly has Japanese origins.

The fact that I did not know that karaoke was from Japan brought us to the discussion of how the West appreciates other cultures more so than the people associated with the culture. Though people do try to be authentic sometimes, such as with eating sushi, it is not the same as going to the country or region where it came from. McKenzie did not entirely agree with that statement, she said that you can get sushi in California and NYC that is very authentic since there is a Japanese diaspora there that makes it like they would in Japan. Hannah thought that while inauthentic food or cultural practices might not be for the best, it does encourage people to try things from other cultures and be more open-minded.

We all agreed that the article was not as well written as it could have been. The authors conducted ethnographies within several Asian countries but did not conduct any interviews. While observing can give you a part of the story, it is important to ask locals questions about what you are researching. The authors did not mention their positionality either. I said that their last names suggested that they had Japanese heritage but they very well could have been Japanese Americans with little knowledge of Japanese of Asian cultures. Mckenzie said that their background could change the actions of the people they were observing and thus their overall results, or how the authors perceived karaoke in general. The lack of interviews or mentioning of their positionality changes the meaning of the article. I mentioned that while it was interesting to read about karaoke, it felt like the authors were just throwing out observations they made without fully explaining or analyzing what they found. Hannah said that the article did not feel very credible because of this and that a literature would have been better.

While it was easy to find the flaws in the article, we did discuss the positive aspects of it. Hanna liked how it challenged the idea that Asian countries have the same culture. The article compared Asian countries to other Asian countries and not to the West, which is not very common in literature. Asian cultures are often homogenized, but, as McKenzie brought up, they all have their own creations and spins on each other’s inventions to differentiate themselves. This reminded us of Althusser and how he describes the sharing of cultures around the world.

To conclude, we all agreed that karaoke brings people together; it is an activity that people in a variety of cultures and countries enjoy. Hannah wondered that if karaoke came from a lesser known country, or Africa, if that would change its reception. I said that karaoke probably would not be as popular if it had not come from a prominent country or region, as the West can be very selective on what they choose to appropriate or enjoy. For instance, you can get Asian, European, or Mexican food in most areas in the United States but African food is not very common unless there is an African diaspora in the area or you are in a city. Hannah and McKenzie mentioned that this might be because African food, such as what they ate in Kenya, is not as exciting as foods from the other regions as their dishes mostly consist of potatoes, beans, rice, and cabbage. Regardless of why African food is not as popular, this article made us think more about the cultural influences in our everyday lives that we might not have given much thought about beforehand.

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