Sunday, April 8, 2012

Almost done University.. crazy!

Easter has been a crazy time for me and my family as per usual- the church thing really kept us running around and exhausted! Luckily no one got sick though, which is a family first.. although the 3 days full moon had us all in headaches and swallowing advil in every sip of water but *sigh* thank God it's over!

On top of it all I have been working like crazy to get my final assignments completed in time for tomorrow's submission date.  Last Wednesday was my final day of classes for my university career but I had to sing at a funeral so I didn't attend..  :(  Oh well, it's over without much pomp or circumstance and as much as I am nervous, the relief is just amazing! Sadly its only been short lasting since I still have to essays for my seminars and a final exam for my full year course to write.. cumulative too- as in, remember everything you've learned since September 2011 and be able to recognize cite passages by author and explain.. come on! there's only 300 authors and corresponding stories/poems, it's easy! SO NOT. Come April 17th midnight it will all be over and all my pain and suffering through essays, response papers, readings, lectures, tutorials and seminars will be a thing of the past :D

So beyond my crazy weekend, I managed to spend a total of 3 days working on my essay for CSCT 4HC3 (a.k.a the history of Cultural Studies seminar) and let me tell you it was no easy feat!  First I had to come up with a topic from nowhere, and the make sure it was a well researched, interesting argument about either something in the history of cultural studies or cultural studies that dealt with questions of urgency.. definitely took a lot out of me.. I spent half an hour out of my Holy Saturday vigil mass editing the 4 single spaced pages that I'd written hours before.. not to mention some of the homily in today's Easter Sunday mass finishing it up- and I didn't even get to the 4th page entirely! Thankfully my Bestest Best Friend agreed to read it over for me tonight, I couldn't/can't look at another sentence!

So just so you understand all the research work and the labour I took in writing the darn thing I've decided to post some pictures followed by my actual essay- pre submission and pre-conclusion lol

Enjoy! and please, keep ur negative comments to yourself!!(hehe)

Ethnocentrism and Urgency: The Importance of Challenging Post 9/11 Stereotypes
            The history of cultural studies seminar focused on a number of articles this term which shed light on the effects of terrorism on Western society, specifically in the United States of America where ethnocentrism and therefore racism and racial stereotyping have increased since the terrorist attacks on the world trade centre on 9/11.  The Jasbir Puar’s article “The Turban is Not a Hat: Queer Diaspora and Practices” focuses on the call for understanding and the willingness to gain knowledge on the difference between the “terrorist” Muslim and the peaceful Sikh on account of visual differences regarding the religious headwear of Sikh and Muslim men- the turban.  Puar asks the reader, in this case, the Canadian university student to consider the direct effects that 9/11 had and continues to have on non-white or “othered” bodies in regards to colonial and orientalist history of the West towards Indian culture.  In a similar way, Angela Failler’s article ‘Remembering the Air India Disaster: Memorial and Counter-Memorial” provides the Canadian example on the subject of ethnocentrism and racist stereotyping which has arisen in the “West”, post 9/11 and seeks to present the effects of terrorist action on Canadians of both Indian and non-Indian descent.  In order to examine more closely the Western ideology of people in the east and the relation of those in the east to the ideologies surrounding race, identity and social alienation this essay will provide working definitions for the following terms: ethnocentrism, stereotype, orientalism, racism and the “other”.  Furthermore, it will attempt to bring forward the problems involved in stereotyping as they arise within the issues of racism and the subjection of certain bodies [in this case, the non-white body] as object and subject of what Laura Mulvey termed “the gaze” as well as in relation to Edward Said’s term Orientalism.  Through examining Puar and Failler’s articles in relation to the aforementioned ideologies, this essay will provide an understanding of the work of cultural studies within the issues and questions surrounding race and identity as they are related to, and effect ethnocentrism along with cultural acceptance and alienation.
                     When approaching subject matter relative to post 9/11, it is important that the cultural theorist or cultural studies student attain and work through a common understanding and definition for the term “ethnocentrism” which will enable them to examine more clearly the accounts of events that lead towards the mislabelling and stereotyping various cultural groups.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term ethnocentric (ethnocentricity, ethnocentrism) in two ways: “ethnocentric: 1 evaluating other races and cultures by criteria specific to one’s own, 2 believing in the inherent superiority of one’s own race or culture” (OED).  Relatively, Edgar and Sedgwick’s Cultural Theory The Key Concepts defines “ethnocentrism” as: “the tendency to refer exclusively to one’s own cultural values and practices, even if engaged with others who may not share those values [and] likewise, the tendency to describe and judge the systems of value and dominant practices of other cultures from the standpoint of one’s own” (115).  The definition given also maintains that “such an attitude has connections with the stereotyping of others and can be a feature of racism and prejudice” (115).  While the OED definition gives a more concise definition, Edgar and Sedgwick provide a working definition which, being more than theory, rather allows for the student to understand the practice, cause and effect of “ethnocentrism”.  The issue arises when, in the case of mistaken identity the non-Sikh or non-Muslim American/Canadian person allows themselves to retain and put into practice the mind frame of ethnocentrism.  The opinion of the ethnocentric person translates the presence of an “other” or different person and relegates that presence to a position of inferiority and direct opposition with their own self and social, cultural or political position that then renders that presence as an object and not a subject.  Therefore, as Puar cites through Butler and Ahmed, “hate does not reside in a given subject or object [but rather] it circulates between signifiers in relationships of difference and displacement” (184).  Furthermore, “the challenge [of] localizing fear in a body [offers that] the feared body occurs through a visual racial regime as well as the impossibility of containment of feared bodies” (Puar 184).  The author also provides that “the anxiety of this impossibility of containment subtends the relegation of fear to a distinct object, producing the falsity of a feared object [and therefore inhibits] the nonresidence of emotions, their circulation between bodies, that binds subjects together, creating pools of suspicious bodies” (Puar 184).  This presence is therefore taken as a literal object and this causes the spark of ‘contagion’ wherein there is little to no differentiation made between a turbaned Sikh man and a turbaned Muslim man, with racist sentiments then stemming from purely visual findings.  As a result, it is the work of cultural theorists and students to understand and breakdown the questions of why and how race is purely a visual finding and whether or not differentiation will help to end that racism.
            To further understand the idea that racism, ethnocentrism and racial stereotyping [along with sexism and homophobia] stem from visual difference, it is important to understand exactly why and how physical cultural distinctions or interpretations affect cultural identity.  While Puar suggests that ‘seeing’ race or the ‘vision of race’ can be used to combat the issues of ethnocentrism, racism etc, the author also struggles with what she provides as a mistaken identity clause wherein Sikh groups attempt to gain acceptance by showing themselves as counter to or different from ‘Muslims’ (169).  While the non-Sikh or non-Muslim Canadian/American places a label of “other” on both Sikh’s and Muslims, it is necessary to consider the issues of representation, exoticism and “Other” as they pertain to and affect ethnocentrism and racism.  In O’Brien and Szeman’s text Popular Culture a user’s guide, the concept of “other” and more specifically the representation of the Other is defined as follows: “popular visual culture, has traditionally worked to reinforce and accentuate the cultural code of masculine dominant and female subjection by spectacularizing difference and inequality [and] much the same thing occurs in the representation of minorities, whole visible embodiment of difference has serves, like the category of femininity, to shore up the dominant- white, masculine-code of identity” (90-91).  Furthermore they cite that “like the female body, the non—white body, both male and female, has historically served the function as spectacle, a site for projection of fear and desire in the form of stereotypes” (91). Therefore in order to understand the cause and effect of cultures [viewed and thought after as] “other”, we must examine the following two theories: Edward Said’s term Orientalism and Laura Mulvey’s concept of “the gaze”.  Once the definitions of these two terms have been clarified, it will be easier to see how the ‘specular’ is relied upon for these “othered” groups or individuals (Dean, 2012). 
            Laura Mulvey’s theory of “the gaze” and Edward Said’s concept of orientalism and have been used side by side within various areas of cultural studies for reasons which this essay also seeks to illustrate: that the relationship between “East” and “West” in colonial history has caused a want or seeking of the exotic and has placed non-white people as subjects of interest for white men [specifically]. In Practices of Looking: an introduction to visual culture, Sturken and Cartwright provide an understanding of both “the gaze” and of “exotic” through the use of paintings/images by white men involving non-white women from Tahiti and Papua New Guinea:
                   These paintings also produce meanings of discourses of race, gender, and   colonialism [and] the women in [the] painting’s are specifically coded as other, in  particular as the exotic other who represent a world supposedly unspoiled by modern  civilization, a paradise.  The race of the women is marked [so that they are viewed as]   exotic, different, and other” in accordance with the binary oppositions of      civilization/nature, white/other, and male/female. (Sturken and Cartwright 100-102)
Sturken and Cartwright provide their reader with the concept of “the gaze” defining it in relation to the position of women in films as presented objects of what Mulvey terms the “male gaze” (76).  They provide that “the concept of the gaze is fundamentally about the relationship of pleasure and images; in Mulvey’s theory, the camera is used as a tool of voyeurism [or the pleasure in looking while not being seen], disempowering those before its gaze” (Sturken and Cartwright 76).  Furthermore, “the image convention of depicting women as objects of the gaze and men as lookers continues to exist today [and] this convention has many cultural and social implications” (Sturken and Cartwright 80-81).  While Sturken and Cartwright allow that “the concept of the gaze is not restricted to questions of subjectivity and spectators [there are] also ways of thinking about institutional gazes, which have the capacity to establish relationships of power and to affect individuals within them” (93).  It is in this understanding that we can return to the issue of Sikh vs Muslim mistaken identity and causes of visual racial stereotyping and “other-ing”.  The white male in this case is the “looker” according to Mulvey, and the Turbaned non-white male is the subject and object of the white man’s gaze.  Therefore as Puar cites, “the turban, and the body that it sits upon” becomes not only a subject for viewing but a site through which gender, therefore masculinity and sexuality are read and questioned (168).  The question from the Canadian university student: how does this excuse or enable racial stereotyping?
            Puar’s article provides an interesting relationship for ethnocentrism, racism and the non-white identity with Edward Said’s concept of “orientalism” as she allows her reader [the Canadian University student] to understand the “double movement” which has been enabled for the “queer South Asian diasporas” (169-70).  As such, it is important to understand Said’s concept to then comprehend what this double movement allows.  O’Brien and Szeman provide that “Edward Said uses the term Orientalism to describe a dominant form of colonial discourse in which a mythologized East, or “Orient”, becomes a site for the projection of Western fantasies of otherness as well as a mechanism for Western domination of actual non-Western cultures” (240).  The text further informs the reader that:
                   Orientalism consists of a repertoire of images and ideas that produce ‘the Orient’ as   an               object of Western knowledge and control.  Disseminated through a variety of  institutionalized forms [and which] draws on a bank of stereotypical (and frequently inconsistent) qualities- inscrutability, deviousness and treachery, religious    fundamentalism and immorality, violence, and excessive delicacy and effeminacy- in  order to construct ‘the oriental’ as a fixed, unchanging other, lacking subjectivity or  internal variation and condensed in binary opposition to Western consciousness and  culture.  At the same time [serving] to mark the absolute otherness of Eastern people [and] turning other cultures into objects of Western knowledge. (O’Brien and Szeman   240)
Through this definition, Puar’s discussed “double moment: an invitation to  participate in and reproduce narratives of U.S queer exceptionalism in contradistinction to perverse (Orientalist) and repressed (neo-Orientalist human rights discourse) sexualities of the East [in the queering of terrorist populations of the sexually perverse brown terrorist]: the body or object”- the turban and the body it is attached to (Puar 169).  Therefore, the “turban” itself affects not only one’s notion of person, race or culture but of “queer” and sexuality as well (Dean 2012). 
            The ethnocentric person, as Edgar and Sedgwick propose features strongly in creating cultural stereotypes and racism which “play a significant role in shaping the attitudes of members of [one] culture to others” (336).  It is within their definition of the term “stereotype” that the Canadian university student can see the effect that ethnocentrism has on multi-cultural societies [specifically “Western society”]: “a stereotype is an oversimplified and usually value-laden view of the attitudes, behaviours and expectation of a group or individual [wherein] such views may be deeply embedded  in sexist, racist or otherwise prejudiced cultures, and are typically highly resistant to change” (Edgar and Sedgwick 337).  As this definition explains, the ethnocentric person contributes to a general stereotyping of a culture or cultures and these labels are then carried over into every aspect of society therefore causing problems for anyone who may fit into the stereotype or definition associated with certain cultures physically, behaviourally and so on.  Furthermore, it is important to understand that the ethnocentric person themselves if also subject to the culture in which they are raised with all of its norms, values, practices and practical theories that contribute to the continuation of racist, stereotypical behaviour.  
            As a result, systemic racism which has been created through a history of and perpetuated by ongoing cultural stereotypes becomes common place, so that post 9/11 Americans have turned towards any non-white individual or cultural group with violence and ignorance. In Angela Failler’s article “Remembering the Air India Disaster: Memorial and Counter Memorial”, the author reminds her reader [in this case the Canadian university student] that Canada [relatively] though needing a better anti-terrorist aim, cannot escape the past which oppresses the present but rather, that Canadians can choose whether or not to perpetuate the same ideas as those in past.  Also, as discussed in seminar, perhaps the author is asking the student to consider the need to create a true and well-rounded inclusive history involving every angle and side of a situation which should then be written by many authors of varying experience and voice (Dean 2012).  Although, will it be enough if the ethnocentric voice is excluded from history?  The hope is that racism, stereotyping and ultimately ethnocentrism itself will disappear from society but then theorists and students of cultural studies have to be putting the theories into practice with no space for error or incorrect thought.  Ultimately, where would the “Western” societies [Canada/ the United States of America] gain their understanding of “culture” [Culture] if there were no diversity present?  The challenge therefore lies in the need to find a space within “Western” [C]culture for the acceptance [and/or] tolerance of non-Western [or Eastern], or “Other” bodies, cultures and ultimately peoples for the sake of a world that should be unified [especially] in the aftermath of tragedies and terrorism.          

Works Cited:

Dean, Amber. “Remembering the Air India Disaster: memorial and counter-memorial”. CSCT

            4HC3. McMaster U: Hamilton. 13 February 2012. Seminar.

Dean, Amber. “The Turban is Not a Hat: queer diaspora and practices of profiling”. CSCT

            4HC3. McMaster U: Hamilton. 13 February 2012. Seminar.

“Ethnocentric.” The Canadian Oxford Paperback Dictionary. Ed. Alex Bisset. 2000. Print.

Edgar, Andrew and Peter Sedgwick. Cultural Theory The Key Concepts. New York, NY:    
     Routledge. 115-364. 2008. Print.

Failler, Angela. “Remembering the Air India Disaster: Memorial and Counter Memorial”.              Cultural Studies/Critical Theory 4HC3. Ed. Amber Dean. Hamilton: McMaster U. 79-         105. 2012. Print

O’Brien, Susie and Imre Szeman. Popular Culture A User’s Guide. Toronto, ON: Nelson. PAGE             2010  Print.

Puar, Jasbir. The Turban is Not a Hat: Queer Diaspora and Practices”. Cultural Studies and            Critical Theory 4HC3. Ed. Amber Dean. Hamilton: McMaster U. 95-113. 2012. Print.

Sturken, Marita and Lisa Cartwright. Practices of Looking an introduction to Visual Culture.         NewYork US: Oxford UP. 76-106. 2003. Print.





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