Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Classmates' Brilliant Contributions!

 In this blog post, I would like to explore a couple students’ blogs and describe the contributions to theoretical concerns and debates posited by each student. I will first explore Chris Favero’s blog post on Globalization and ‘Jai- Ho’. Chris explores the theoretical concerns of Walter Benjamin’s “The Work Of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” and Arjun Appaduri’s “Global Ethnoscapes” to construct a theoretical understanding of the social and cultural significance of – both the Slumdog Millionaire film original version and the Pussycat Dolls version – the song and dance ‘Jai Ho’.  Chris’ blog addresses Appaduri’s argument that imagination has acquired a singular new power in social life …  [as] [m]ore persons in more parts of the world consider a wider set of possible lives than they did before” (Appadurai, 1996: 53). Chris applies Appadurai’s argument through addressing how the Pussycat Dolls reproduced version of  “Jai Ho” may create an emotional connection to individuals who do not have cultural ties to India. An excellent illustration of the imagined homeland is the Pussycat Dolls’ apparel in the music video consisting of traditional earnings, scarf and a Bindi, which may signify traditional body d├ęcor of an Indian woman in India. Therefore, the western pop group is merely  ‘dressing up’ and portraying traditional cultural embodiments of a culture not their own, but rather which they are exposed to and can thus imagine. Chris also explores theoretical concerns of Walter Benjamin who may posit that reproductions threaten the authenticity of the original as the authority, the ‘aura,’ of the original is lost through reproductions, as they are detached from their tradition (Benjamin, 2005: 3).  Chris supports Benjamin’s argument through exploring how the unlike the original, the Pussycat Dolls ‘Jai Ho’ includes western notions of popular culture including promiscuity, western dance and a nightclub-like beat. 
I also explored Alyssa Pipperni’s blog post on globalization and ‘Jai Ho’ which addressed similar theoretical concerns from Benjamin and Appuradni to those in Chris’ blog post. Alyssa addressed how the authenticity and aura of the original ‘Jai Ho’ number in Slumdog Millionaire may be lost in reproductions by providing examples such as how the Pussycat Dolls detached the original song from its tradition as throughout the Pussycat Dolls reproduced ‘Jai Ho’ version, their dancing style is not only provocative, unlike the original, but also, there is overt western product placement such as a ‘Nokia’ phone.  Further, Alyssa exemplifies the theoretical concerns of Apparundi, exploring how globalization has allowed representations of culture across cross cultural boundaries, facilitated by the media, thus allowing people to imagine themselves in a broader and less restricted social life (Apparundi, 1996: 54). By having a popular American group perform the song ‘Jai-Ho,’ it may influence Americans to make a personal connection through this Americanized representation of Indian culture—more so than an Indian representation of Indian culture in America.  Therefore, in both Alyssa’s and Chris’ examples of Appadurai and Benjamin’s theoretical concerns, it may be posited that the Pussycat Dolls ‘Jai Ho” has applied North American media ideals and culture to a song originally premised on Indian cultural ideals, which has perhaps affected the aura of the original albeit, allowed individuals to explore a widened possibility of imagined lives. 
Another scholar who has dealt with similar issues is David Novak who explores the process of remediation as repurposing media for new context of use and how ‘recycling’ media worldwide is a form of cultural globalization altering our imagination of the possibilities of a global society (Novak, 2010: 42).  Therefore, Novak’s theoretical concerns around remediation may relate to Appurandi’s argument on globalization and the possibilities of a wider set of imagined lives such as through the reproduction of media i.e. ‘Jai Ho’.  Also, Novak’s assertion that actively being part of the remediation process may require de-emphasizing the authority of an original, as well as that media reuse – i.e. reuse of sacred symbols – may cause subjects to become detached, recontextulized and watered down, (Novak, 2010) may perhaps compare to Benjamin’s argument that through the reproduction of media the authenticity, and authority, the ‘aura,’ of the original may be lost and detached from tradition (Benjamin, 2005: 3).

1. Novak, David
2010 Cosmopolitan, Remediation, and the Ghost World of Bollywood. Cultural Anthropology 25(1): 40-72.

2. Appadurai, Arjun  
1996 Global Ethnoscapes Notes and Queries for a Transnational Anthropology.      In Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, Pp.48-65.  Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.
3. Benjamin, Walter  
1936 The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility. In Water Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 3: 1935-1938. Cambridge Mass: Harvard University Press.

Raise The Red Lantern: Chinese Cinema

Raise the Red Lantern (1991) a Chinese film directed by Zhang Yimou is a pertinent example of traditional Chinese cultural and societal norms and practices related to women’s position and value in society.  Raise the Red Lantern is the melodrama of a 19-year-old female, Songlian who is forced to marry a rich landowner, becoming his fourth mistress.  I would like to analyze this film through a feminist lens such as is provided by Laura Mulvey in Gordon Gray’s Cinema: A Visual Anthropology to critique pivotal themes in the film such as the autonomy, agency, value and status of women reflected through their presentation in this film. 
From the inception of the film, the act of necessitating Songlian to enter a marriage with a 60 year old man reflects the commodification, diminished status and minimized value of women, thus perhaps inferring a woman’s value and identity as premised on and reflected by her tie to a man. Raise the Red Lantern portrays a sexist, androcentric, patriarchal society reflected by the male head, referred to as ‘master,’ claiming ownership over four mistresses. The ‘master’s’ mistresses are also pitted in constant competition against one another, vying for his attention, thus giving more perceived power to the ‘master’ figure, while presenting the women as solely interested in attaining a male’s attention.  Therefore, the women in this film are presented with limited, minimal agency and autonomy and maintain a status and value directly correlated with the amount of attention they receive from the ‘master’.  This film reflects a confucionist society with rigid class and gender lines and customs, which – in the context of this particular film – oppresses women and reinforce their ‘proper’ place as below or subservient to a male. 
  Feminist film theory may be used to explore the oppression of women in this film by examining the demeaning ways in which women are presented and treated, which perhaps  correlates with the way they may be perceived; thus reinforcing the argument that they are oppressed, stripped of autonomy and agency, value and status in Raise the Red Lantern. Throughout the film there are many tight shots (close-up’s) of the women’s faces, however, there were no close ups of Chen’s – the master – face, therefore perhaps signifying an oppressive attitude towards women by suggesting the insolence of a women looking directly into her husbands face.  Further, a feminist film theory approach may critique the portrayal of Raise the Red Lantern by exploring how men are presented as powerful, strong and dominant, while not only are women the subjects of male-gaze, but also fetishism is applied to their bodies.  It is argued that, “the very act of cinema-going is voyeuristic and by looking at the subject (the male viewer) gains power and control over the object of their gaze—usually a woman or more precisely a woman’s body” (Gray, 2010: 59).  In the majority of the shots of the women in Raise the Red Lantern, one, single, specific part of women’s bodies is focused on exclusively; mainly the women’s upper torso from the top of the head to the bottom of the chest. The way the women are presented in this film may create a space for the sexual objectification and exploitation of women, thus allowing males to feel a sense of viewing dominance, and voyeuristic power over the females in the film.  The separation of women’s bodies proliferate in this film perhaps reflects the shaping of patriarchal order and an oppressive attitude towards women through their appearance perhaps coded for visual erotic impact, reflecting the objectification of the female body for male’s gaze and pleasure. Further, the separation of the females’ bodies and suggested portrayal of the women sleeping with the ‘master’ at his beckon call, suggested through quick shots throughout the film of the mistresses beginning to undress in his presence, perhaps also reflects women bodies as turned solely into objects of desire, portraying women’s bodies as stripped of agency and autonomy thus reflecting the subservience and devaluation of women.   Therefore, through the assertion of the principal male character as the ‘master’ and the ways in which women are presented in the film, perhaps influences the male viewers gaze, giving them a sense of voyeuristic power and privilege throughout the film over the viewership of the women’s bodies.

This is  the trailer for Raise the Red Lantern!
 1. Mulvey, Laura                                                                                                                                                1975 Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. Screen 16 (3): 6–18.
2. Gray, Gordon                                                                                                                                                2010 Film Theory. In Cinema: A Visual Anthropology, Pp, 35-73. Oxford, New York:               Berg.

Communicating Community

Radio is a salient, communication tool that has the power to spread a message across vast distances thus representing the inherent ability to transcend certain boundaries or barriers in   asserting ones voice or opinion to the masses.  The radio is effective at proliferating news and instrumental in creating an informed community with an enhanced awareness of their rights and wider surroundings. I will use examples from two case studies, the film CBQM as well as the discussion on women’s radio programming in Guatemala to present examples which assert that the radio is able to both reflect the nature of a community it serves as well as create community.  
Women’s radio programming in Guatemala is a salient example of how radio both reflects the nature of the community it serves and creates community.   The women’s radio programming exemplifies how the radio can be used as a resistance tool that may enhance and facilitate a strong common bond among a group of individuals facing adversity, and thus form community based on a sense of bounded solidarity premised on common values, experiences, beliefs and goals. The radio serves as a protective space where one can say anything, enabling libratory, agency enhancing benefits for women able to express their thoughts and opinions in a safe and private space asserting, “I am woman, I have a word.” In Guatemala, women may face oppression in society and restriction in regards to having the freedom to speak publicly about their thoughts.  Therefore, this radio project allows women to combat their silencing, it gives women a space to both express their voices and make their voices public thus helping to establish a sense of community among these women.  The pubic radio broadcasts of women’s voices perhaps creates an imaginary community, not necessarily physically bound but instead reaching out to a plethora of women who may share similar experiences linking them together and creating an outlet for expression, a resource for assistance and knowledge and a tool of communication. This tool, a vehicle for the spreading of women’s issues and opinions, contributes innumerable benefits towards women’s lives, creating an informed community— i.e. by teaching women about their rights in society.  For example, in a domestic assault situation, knowing that the police are required to help is an example of information gained from listening to women’s radio. Therefore, proliferating knowledge such as about women’s rights and creating a sense of enhanced agency are examples of the beneficial nature and community sentiment created through women’s radio programming in Guatemala.    
In both Fanon’s article as well as in the lecture on radio programming in Guatemala, we are exposed to the idea that the radio can be used as a resistance tool, a tool that can enhance and facilitate a strong common bond among a group of individuals facing adversity or contention and thus form community based on a sense of bounded solidarity based on common values, experiences and beliefs and goals.  In Fanon’s article we are presented with the “ new attitudes adopted by the Algerian people in the course of the fight for liberation, with the respect to a precise technical instrument; the radio) (Fanon, 1965: 69).  In the face of colonial presence and power the national radio broadcast “ The Voice of Fighting Algeria” was of salient importance in consolidating and unifying the people, thus creating a sense of group membership and community amongst these individuals facing adversity by an oppressor group (84).  Previous to 1954, adopting the radio in the Algerian house was seen as a sign of Europeanization, a sentiment of giving voice to and surrendering to the occupier (92). However with the creation of The “Voice” radios became a commonality in the Algerian household through it’s broadcast sending a sense of strengthening the unity of the Algerian people, as possessing a radio signified  “paying taxes to the nation, [and] buying the right of entry in to the struggle of an assembled people” (84).  Switching on the radio no longer meant surrendering to the enemy but instead the “Voice” served as a viable communication tool, creating a sense of communal solidarity, power and resistance against an oppressor. The “Voice” enabled the proliferation of the news regarding the revolution to all of Algeria, thus, it is important to note in regards to this example but also in general, a beneficial attribute of the ratio is that it is not necessarily geographically limited (82). Through reference to Fanon’s article the many beneficial attributes of radio maybe presented, such as the ability of radio’s contribution to creating a community, unity, solidifying a groups sense of agency and proliferating news across geographical boundaries; thus as  result playing a fundamental role  in strengthening the sense of Algerian national consciousness.
CBQM, a radio broadcast program in remote Fort McPherson, is also a unique case study of how the radio serves, creates and enhances a sentiment of community. CBQM creates an actively informed and enhanced sense of community through its many personalized, community enhancing functions including the spread of community messages between members, (i.e. for one person to call another), announcing messages about events, such as the seniors dinner, as well as being used by the local police to announce enforcement news.  Therefore, CBQM creates a sense of connection between the members in this remote physical place, as it allows for members of the community to have a mediator of sorts representing and addressing salient concerns within the community. CBQM reflects the nature of community as its content is premised on the everyday lives, realities and activities of Fort McPherson.  Further, CBQM is not only used as a tool to proliferate well wishes, urgent news, announce community problems/solutions and to share safety/precautionary measures, but also facilitates unique community bonding activities.  I was pleasantly surprised as to how CBQM facilitated a community wide bingo game, as I thought it was a fantastic use of the radio as a communication tool able to reach many people simultaneously.  Overall, CBQM is a fantastic example of how the radio plays a pivotal part in the activities of everyday life as a communication tool reflecting the realities of a group of people as well as bonding these individuals thus, building, enhancing and maintaining a sense of community premised on shared realities.

 This is an excerpt from the CBQM trailer.

1. Allen, Dennis                                                                                                                                                 2010 CBQM National Film Board of Canada.
2. Nitsan, Tal, Lecture on Women’s radio programming in Guatemala.
3. Fanon                                                                                                                                                         1965 This is The Voice of Algeria. A Dying Colonialism



As suggested by David Novak the “process of remediation [is] repurposing media for new contexts of use” (Novak, 2010: 41), thus guided by this definition I will explore the contention and acceptability of media reuse spanning across global and cultural borders. It may be posited that the reuse of media is essential and that without the reuse of media, including media influences world- wide, our media would be much more limited in scope than it is presently. “Recycling” media   throughout the world is a form of cultural globalization and perhaps helps us imagine the idea of a global society—as appropriation that forms new subjects within ‘alternative modernities,’ whose simultaneous engagement with broad transnational mediascapes is part of how we imagine the possibility of a global society (Novak, 2010: 42).  Many people however believe that the proliferated re-making of varied media is indeed cultural appropriation, theft of ‘cultural property’ and has detrimental consequences on cultural value and signifiers, i.e. sacred symbols, or the sacredness of a certain cultural representation staying pure and true to its context. 
I do not believe that the ‘re-making and reuse of media worldwide has detrimental consequences, such as cultural theft or affects on cultural purity, but rather that the reuse of media is a fantastic example of the increasing interconnections and exposure, proliferation and celebration of a myriad of varied cultural elements and contexts. Thus, the re-making and reuse of media enables and signifies the gaining of awareness, recognition and respect for a vast array of cultures, practices and beliefs. Although I argue that media reuse has greater contributory, positive, enriching effects than consequential, detriment I will outline examples of both positive, acceptable instances of media reuse and media reuse that may be viewed as unacceptable. 
  Often, certain forms of media reuse generate contention, are viewed as unacceptable by many individuals and thus generate a sentiment of negative viewership and recognition.  Some media reuse may be viewed as unacceptable as a result of the fine line (that may be crossed in media reuse) between cultural mockery and cultural celebration. It may be posited that through media reuse “subjects are made to be detached, circulated, and recontextualized, creating a tension between “tribute” and “mockery” that can never be resolved (Novak, 2010: 64).  Further media reuse/remakes may take aspects that are sacred and exclusive to a culture such as traditional cultural elements i.e. cultural symbols and information and  ‘water them down,’ proliferating these ‘watered down’ representations worldwide, thus perhaps depleting their original sacredness.  
 Further, parodies or spoofs may be explored as an example of a media remake viewed by many individuals as unacceptable.   For example, there are a myriad of spoofs made in America that objectify and thus make fun of varied elements of Asian media and culture. There are spoofs utilizing dubbing as well as other mechanisms that poke fun at or remake a traditional Asian television show into something totally new, maintaining the characters and setting but altering the content.  Parodies as a type of media reuse arguably crosses the line of cultural mockery, perhaps reflecting the ethnocentric beliefs of western culture. Thus, parody’s are an example of how “[r]emediation works by pushing the limits of cultural identifications with media . . . [producing] different juxtaposed interpretations” (Novak, 2010: 62) which may thus cause contention. 
For years Hollywood has remade Asian films and Asia is now accelerating their own remaking of many Hollywood films.  Some people feel as if Hollywood remakes of Asian film such as ‘The Ring’ (Ringu) and ‘The Departed’ (Jessop, 2010) exemplify a cultural appropriation, or detachment of authentic, original cultural content and value of the film as remaking and proliferating remade films for Western audiences perhaps causes its original cultural pretense and contextual sentiments to be negatively altered.  However, the reuse of film such as Hollywood remaking Asian films and Asia remaking Hollywood films may be viewed as a positive feedback loop.  I believe that the remake and proliferation of these films is positive, as although the movies may be altered from their original contexts to fit the context in which they are being remade, I do not necessarily believe that it weakens cultural power elements, sacred symbols or authenticity.  For example, Hollywood films remade from the Asian original are likely viewed by a different audience than is the Asian original. Realistically, many people are not cognizant of the fact that a movie such as “The Ring” was remade from the Asian original, thus, because the films are largely viewed by different audiences, I do not believe remakes take away authority or significant value from the original as both versions are available to be watched in their own contextual, cultural setting.  I believe that remaking and reusing media enables a strengthening of culture and cultural symbols as well as provides a learning opportunity, as those aware of the remake of the film may thus watch many versions and identify differences and similarities, thus perhaps making people increasingly aware of specific cultural elements and signifiers.  Further, it may also be argued that certain themes are universal, and this is why remakes work” (Jessop, 2010).
As a result, although remakes may generate contention and a lack of acceptance by some, I argue that media reuse contributes to the creation and proliferation of a continually expanding, varied, representative, flourishing broad array of media that people all over the world can enjoy.

 This is an additional example of  a spoof  of Asian media ( Asian  cartoons)  dubbed over by the trailer of the American Film  Juno. I believe this is a good example of   media remix and the intermixing  of specific, contextual, cultural elements  of Asian and American media. 

1. Jessop, Kolenshkov, Sonia  
2010 Cast in Asia’s Image. Newsweek.
2. Novak, David 
2010 Cosmopolitanism, Remediation, and the Ghost World of Bollywood.      Cultural Anthropology 25(1):40-72.