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Hybrid Cultures March 5, 2009

Posted by ah12 in cyborgs.
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As Roland Keltz discusses in his book, “Japanamerica” the world is adapting to new hybrid cultures, in which a society becomes shaped not only by its own traditions and history but also that of other cultures.

While I agree that in the age of globalization certain elements of different cultures become integrated into our society, there is still a cultural gap to be bridged. Consider these to be “cultural misinterpretations”. A few examples:

Keltz’s example: In the west “hentai” is considered a perversion, while in Japan it is merely the selfexpression that belongs to the private life, which must be very open and free to counterbalance the rigid and impersonal public life that, according to Keltz, is traditional of Japan.

A fun example: have you ever been to a party where European techno/house music has been played? Everyone goes nuts. Why? Its not like they understand the words, or the message of the song. The song is just so intense that, often techno comes accross as this intense music made anonymously and without meaning. However, thanks to my younger brother’s Swiss education, I can tell you that techno is just the opposite. It is an intricate game of one-upsmanship and meaningful messages, with certain musicians attracting quite heavy followings not all too different from, for similarity’s sake, Girl Talk or MGMT. Americans like the music, but they don’t understand what makes it good and enjoyable, choosing to popularize songs that are complete afterthoughts to the artists’ european fans.

Serious example: Often in the West, we face a great deal of international issues relating to nations under the control of Islam, or at least heavily populated by Muslims. Often lost in the argument (I am very liberal, but also a probable religous studies major so bear with me) that much of the international crisis in the middle east comes not from Western greed, or poor foreign policy but rather an inevitable confronation between two radical schools of thought. We, as Americans, often believe that democracy will fix the troubles facing the various peoples of the middle east, however that notion is probably a fallacy. Muslims all believe in sharia law, currently under strict enforcement in Saudi Arabia and Iran although under different schools of thought, yet many Westerners look at this as oppressive. The truth is that sharia also serves as a form of arbitration for legal matters, thus limiting how useful a western legal system might be in a predominantly Muslim nation such as Palestine. In addition it serves as a set of living guidelines, giving defense to the poor and orphaned while providing legal defense for women (depending on how powerful women in a given nation may be) and a set of marrital obligations not found in Western culture. Thus, can we really say that our methods and beliefs can be blended into a culture that we rely on for business and political means?


1. animatingthecyborg - March 5, 2009

You raise some excellent points and questions in this post. Perhaps, and I’ll be playing devil’s advocate for the remaining of this comment, Americans are only open to globalization on our own terms–meaning, we’re hybridizing Japanese popular culture because it is uncannily similar to our own in many ways. Japanese culture plays into that duality of being familiar, but foreign enough to sustain fantasy around. Plus, as Roland Kelts said in the roundtable discussion this morning, Japan and America had an almost sibling relationship, where the U.S. becomes the Big Brother to Japan, so an interdependent relationship is developed that’s analogous to siblings: admiration tinged with resentment.

Could it be that *that* is why there is such a cultural bridge yet to be gaped in the middle east, the interdependence has not been developed because the cultures haven’t cross-pollinated to such a degree as Japan and America? Not that the problems between the two can be reduced and distilled to such a concept, but it is an interesting one to ponder.

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