Culture - University of Manitoba

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Transcript Culture - University of Manitoba

Mike Featherstone
Undoing Culture: Globalization,
Postmodernism and Identity: “An
Introduction: Globalizing Cultural
Mike Featherstone
It is assumed that culture has become decentred, that
there is an absence of coherence and unity; culture can
no longer provide an adequate account of the wrold with
which to construct or order our lives. 1
Culture, long on the periphery of the social science
field, has now been moved towards the centre. 3
It is also important to examine the ways in which
globalization has produced both the modern and the
postmodern, in the sense that the power struggles
between nation-states, blocs and other collectivities
gradually became globalized as more parts of the world
were drawn into the competing 5
Mike Featherstone
Heterogeneous cultures become incorporated and
integrated into a dominant culture which eventually
covers the whole world. 6
Such an emergent global society is clearly far from
being comparable to the conventional sociological
notion of society which is grounded in the nationstate, and as in the case […] and emphasizes normative
integration and common cultural values. 7
In contrast to the assimilation, or melting pot, models
which worked off strong insider/outsider divisions in
which identity was seen as fixed, today there is a greater
acknowledgment that people can live happily with
multiple identities. 9
Mike Featherstone
 What this suggests is that an important part of the processes which
are leading to intensified globalization has to be understood in
terms of the movement of people around the world. 10
 More people are living between cultures, or on the borderlines,
and European and other nation-states, which formerly sought
to construct a strong exclusive sense of national identity, more
recently have had to deal with the fact that they are
multicultural societies as ‘the rest’ have returned to the West
in the post-1945 era. 10
 From the point of view of postmodernism, modernity has been
seen as entailing a quest to impose notions of unity and
universality on thought and the world. 10
Mike Featherstone
This is because modernity is seen as both a Western
project and as the West’s projection of its values on the
world. 10
In effect modernity has allowed Europeans to project
their civilization, history and knowledge as
civilization, history and knowledge in general. 10
Instead of the confident sense that one is able construct
theory and map the world from the secure place of the
centre, which is usually seen as higher and more
advanced in symbolic and actual terms, postmodernism
and postcolonialism present theory as mobile, or as
constructed from an eccentric site, somewhere on the
boundary. 10
Mike Featherstone
 This conscious mixing of traditions and crossing of
boundaries highlights the ways in which the rest, no so
obviously visible in the West, have always been part of
the West. 11
All these factors should be grounds for rethinking the
category [‘organic ethnic communities]; yet it is the fact
that blacks are both inside and outside the
development of Western culture within modernity
which is the biggest problem. 11
[…] slavery is the premise of modernity, something
which exposes the foundational ethnocentrism of the
Enlightenment project with its idea of universality,
fixity of meaning and coherence of the subject. 11
Mike Featherstone
Postmodernism and postcolonialism have pointed to
the problem of cultural complexity an the increasing
salience of culture in social life through the greater
production, mixing and syncretism of cultures which
were formerly held separate and firmly attached to social
relationships. 12
The radical implications of postmodernism and
postcolonial theory are to question the very idea of
the social, the unity of modernity and the
metanarratives of the Western Enlightenment
tradition with its belief in universalism and progress. 12
Mike Featherstone
This suggests a spatial relativization of the West in a
world which ceases to be its own projection or mirror
image. 12
Works such as [Edward] Said’s (1978 [Orientalism])
emerged from the fact that:
(a) more people are crossing boundaries and have
multiple affiliations which question taking-forgranted stereotypes;
(b) there has been a shift in the global balance of power
away from the West to the extent that it cannot now
avoid listening to the ‘other’, or assume that the
latter is at an earlier stage of development. 12
Mike Featherstone
It is no longer possible to conceive global processes in
terms of the dominance of a single centre over the
perepheries. 12
Rather there are a number of competing centres which
are bringing about shifts in the global balance of
power between nation-states and blocks and forging new
sets of interdependencies. 13
This leads to a number of important questions about
the image of culture we have long operated with in
the social sciences. 13
Mike Featherstone
This image may have presented an oversimplified
view of a culture as something integrated, unified,
settled and static; something relatively well-behaved
which performed the task of oiling the wheels of social
life in an ordered society. 13
If this image is now seen as inadequate to capture the
current phase of globalization with its nation-state
deformation processes, how did it arise and become so
influential? 13
It has meant that ‘the rest are increasingly speaking
back to the West’ and along with the relative decline of
Western power it has required that the West has
increasingly been forced to listen. 13
Mike Featherstone
It is no longer as easy for Western nations to maintain
the superiority of adopting a ‘civilizational mission’
towards the rest of the world, in which the others are
depicted as occupying the lower rungs of a symbolic
hierarchy, which they are gradually being educated to
climb up to follow their betters. 13
Hence globalization makes us aware of the sheer
volume, diversity and many-sidedness of culture. 14
Syncretisms and hybridizations are more the rule
than the exception – which makes us raise the
question of the origins and maintenance of the
particular image of culture we have long operated
with in the social sciences. 14