December 22, 2009

Eating cultures

After reading Narayan's last chapter and her review of Lisa Heldke's views on culinary imperialism, what is the most important point you gathered from this discussion? Do you think eating at ethnic restaurants is a neocolonial form of culinary imperialism? Why or why not?

I think the most important point Narayan makes is her emphasis on the role that food plays in the creation of a multicultural society. I think it is important that the different groups that make up the fabric of a country make efforts to learn about the different cultures within the country. After all, if all these people are regarded as citizens of the country, it only makes sense that in America for example all these cultures come together to form what should be the definition of American culture and learning about all of them pretty much means you are learning about your country's history and culture. While it may seem that food is not the only part of culture, it is often the most convenient (often enjoyable) place to start and it is unlikely that continued experience of the food of an ethnic group would not lead to some expansion of knowledge on the other parts of the groups history and practices as food often links the various parts of a culture. The importance of paying attention to the process of food preparation and consideration of any labour exploitation that may be involved in it is also important and equally applicable to all foods as we are aware of the many cases of child labour or low wages involved in coffee production for example.
There may be instances of cultural imperialism as suggested by Heldke as may be the case when the consumer of 'ethnic' food thinks of the food in terms of its inferiority or oddness inrelation to what they consider as more 'normal'. But a new culinary experience which is regarded with an open mind would probably not be a form of imperialism but instead constitute a small but positive step towards cultural understanding and multiculturalism.

Uma Narayan and colonial concepts of tradition.

Chapter 2
Narayan uses an analysis of Mary Daly's critic of the practice of sati to show that Western feminism often is influenced by colonial views of the third world. These views include the tendency for foreign onlookers to assume that cultures within a country, even one as big and as religiously and culturally diverse as India, can be applied to all its inhabitants. This is obviously not so as shown by the practice of Sati and its relationship to the Hindu religion which excludes non-Hindu Indians and also the fact that even within the Hindu community, the practice was generally only common amongst certain castes and in certain parts of the country. Another colonialist assumption that Daly takes up is the belief that Third World nations are culturally stagnant unlike the progressive West which leads her to ignore the history of cultural practices in India. Narayan shows how the popularity of Sati has been at differing levels at different points in history and how the acknowledgement of its practice as 'Indian tradition' may have predominantly arisen from the British colonialist attempt to understand the practice in the 17th century. Also she points to the fact that many new cases of sati in recent times and the phenomenon of 'dowry deaths' are actually indicators of the modernization of India and the effects of India's increased dependence on money as it relates to the new bride and her dowry receiving in-laws. Daly's inability to take issues other than feminism and the global existence of a patriarchy into account leads to her over simplification of the experiences of women who have a history, culture and nationality that is different from hers. Finally, Narayan analyses the views of Indian feminists on the practice of sati and their criticism of the assumption that the practice is historically sanctioned by religion and show that the support for the practice may actually be more economic and political. They also question the idea that women who observed sati do it out of devotion for their husbands, which gives the practice its sacred air, based on the fact that many Indian women have little independence and rights to make decision for themselves. The more complex analysis of Indian feminists over Western feminists shows that increased proximity to a culture often provides more knowledge and therefore facilitates more effective criticism.

My question about the chapter mostly centers on the government's treatment of the issues of sati and dowry death because though they are technically regarded as illegal, I wonder if the fact that most of the perpetrators get away with their crimes is based on a hesitance on the government's part to get involved in tradition and incur the people's wrath or if the constraints on the abilities of the police and legal system based on financial concerns etc. is the main reason for the low rates of conviction.

December 21, 2009

Sexual objectivity becomes a female preserve

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'In the sixties and seventies, in contrast, as the existential dilemmas of alienated males and the action exploits of male heroes took center stage in the movies, women - now "liberated" from their sexual repression - became the sole focus of the camera's erotic eye, while the "beautiful man" virtually disappeared'. (Bordo, 147)

In the picture this fact described by Bordo is especially illustrated as there are not one but two nude women who are obviously the focus of the camera. Meanwhile the man is barely noted in the background and is still fully clothed even though he is supposed to be in a sexual embrace.

Judith Butler: Gender Trouble

'The feminist "we" is always and only a phantasmatic condition, one that has its purposes, but which denies the internal complexity and indeterminacy of the term and constitutes itself only through the exclusion of some part of the constituency that it simultaneously seeks to represent'.

Judith Butler's writings in Gender Trouble as summarised above, is mainly concerned with deconstructing the existence of feminism and its basis on an idea of binary sexes. She points out that the term feminism suggests that it is representative of the idea of the feminine and it is in identifying and describing who belongs to this group, that the troubles inherent in the system are realised. The main problems are the fact that the idea of 'woman' is often seen in the Western way as many believe major feminism movements began in the West. This supports the view of many writers we have read in this course such as Gandhi, Collins and Narayan, that show that those with the epistemic authority to describe feminism are often white feminists and this often leads to the exclusion of feminists of other colours and cultures. Another aspect to the description of women on which Butler focuses is the idea of sexes being only of two kinds, man and woman, and the description of feminism in terms of women makes it necessary to view feminist thought as representative of people who are considered by society to have feminine traits. This might exclude lesbians, transsexuals, women who are considered 'masculine' in some way based on their work or way of life and even unmarried women, who are seen as going against their inherent sexual natures and need for domestic stability. Butler suggests that a repetition of the ideas of feminism as it applies to all is necessary along with an understanding of all peoples' unique cultures rather than an attempt to identify a single meaning of feminism and apply it to the world which would be akin to cultural imperialism.

December 9, 2008

Imperial Food

Since reading Narayan, I have thought a lot about the different situations of eating foreign food in the United States, and it occurs to me that the different circumstances around the store make it more or less a neocolonial experience as far as I'm concerned. For instance, as she pointed out, many foreign restaurants sell large portions for cheap...which I think must represent the price somewhat ie rice is cheap. I, as a white american, enjoy a new exciting flavor and the restaurant owner gets my money. I think this is okay, it's just a transaction, unless I make fun of the accents, the dress, the religion of the culture who's food I'm enjoying. Obviously, one can make any situation into a neocolonial power struggle by being a jerk. What I do think is a problem of colonialism is the large chains specializing in foreign food, but owned by some rich american who isn't interested or involved at all with the country from which they borrowed their recipes. Here I am talking about Noodles and Co, and Chipotle, which are both owned by McDonalds. Noodles and Co serves "asian" dishes, "mediterranean" dishes, as well as US comfort food like mac and cheese. They effectively replace any hole-in-the-wall asian noodle shops in whatever neighborhood they choose to move into by using their almost endless capital to create an experience that offers foreign food in comfortable, American standard atmospheres. This has the effect of eliminating the learning about other cultures, and routing the credit and money for the recipes back into the traditionally dominant culture.

December 6, 2008

Butler

"It seems there is no original or primary gender that drag imitates, but gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original; in facet, it is a kind of imitation that produces the very notion of the original as an effect and consequence of the imitation itself."

http://z.about.com/d/politicalhumor/1/0/M/e/1/giuliani_trump_drag.jpg

Butler

"It seems there is no original or primary gender that drag imitates, but gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original; in facet, it is a kind of imitation that produces the very notion of the original as an effect and consequence of the imitation itself."

Drag

drag.bmp

“Drag constitutes the mundane way in which genders are appropriated, theatrricalized, worn, and done; it implies that all gendering is a kind of impersonation and approximation. If this is true, it seems there is no original or primary gender that drag imitates, but gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original; in fact, it is a kind of imitation that produces the very notion of the original as an effect and consequence of the imitation itself� (Kaplan 313).

Blog 5

From Halberstam: "the male body has engaged in the most fabulous and extensize misrecognition of the realness of embodiment" (pg. 358)
link to image: http://www.powerbody.biz/male_bodybuiders/images/BobParis_jpg.jpg

Child Boxer

View image

From Butler, "Gender as the site of psychic mimes.."

This quote reiterates Butler’s argument of gender being a social construction. A social construction created by the conventional repetitive actions and societal norms that we abide by.

My influence to search for this particular picture stemmed from something the guest lecturer said at class on Thursday. She said that “Masculinity and men are gendered as well�. I feel like we have primarily focused on the damage inflicted by gendering young women, and have not discussed equally how young males are gendered. It is a GWSS class, I know, but I just thought that this was important to note. It particularly disturbs me when I see young kids upset and crying in public and their mother or father scold them and say “stop that, be a man!�

Child Boxer

View image

From Butler, "Gender as the site of psychic mimes.."

This quote reiterates Butler’s argument of gender being a social construction. A social construction created by the conventional repetitive actions and societal norms that we abide by.

My influence to search for this particular picture stemmed from something the guest lecturer said at class on Thursday. She said that “Masculinity and men are gendered as well�. I feel like we have primarily focused on the damage inflicted by gendering young women, and have not discussed equally how young males are gendered. It is a GWSS class, I know, but I just thought that this was important to note. It particularly disturbs me when I see young kids upset and crying in public and their mother or father scold them and say “stop that, be a man!�

December 5, 2008

Butler and Drag

http://www.strangecosmos.com/images/content/113113.jpg

"In this sense, the 'reality' of heterosexual identies is performatively constituted through an imitation that sets itself up as the origin and the ground of all imitations. In other words, heterosexuality is always in the process of imitating and approximating its own phantasmatic idealization of itself- and failing." (Butler 313)

The Stetson Man/Cowboy/Quarterback?

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Women may dread being surveyed harshly – being seen as too old, too fat, too flat-chested – but men are not supposed to enjoy being surveyed period. It’s feminine to be on display.
(173)

Bordo
Beauty (re)discovers the Male Body

butler

http://www.sdkingsclub.com/rudy_bio.html

butler:
drag is not the putting on of a gender that belongs properly to some other group, ie: an act of expropriation or appropriation that assumes that gender is a the rightful property of sex, that "masculine" belongs to "male" and "feminine" belongs to "female." there is no "proper" gender, a gender proper to one sex rather than another which is in some sense that sex's cultural property.

Gender Performativities


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