Wednesday, January 28, 2009

response to javier's blog

I don’t know very much about Latin American popular culture either, and I agree that this article provided a lot of information. I still feel like there is so much more I’d need to know to really understand it though. I also wrote about popular Catholicism in my blog- I thought it was really cool how as hard has the Europeans tried to completely eradicate indigenous religions, the people embedded their former religious customs into catholic practice. The shift toward urbanization had interesting effects on popular culture- such as traditional Mexican handcrafts transformed into purely decorative symbols and sculptures. I like how you commented on soccer, and how although Britain introduced the sport to Latin America, it became a huge symbol for national identity, especially amongst Brazilians.

repsonse to anna marieke

hi! it wouldn't let me post my comment without a live journal account, so i'm just going to do it here.

I also thought the article was very very long! I feel like it was a lot to take in at once, which may have hindered my comprehension a bit. I was glad though, that Rowe and Schelling provided a region-specific analysis, instead of an essentialist perspective that presents all facets of Latin American culture as one.

Overall I found the article very informative and comprehensive. I really like how you described Latin American culture as a medley of the traditional indigenous and new European influences. Our class discussion yesterday really clarified this for me- how popular culture and aesthetic forms represent the underlying power and class struggles within the region.

Monday, January 26, 2009

last 201- what is popular culture in latin america?

What is Popular Culture in Latin America?

“The Faces of Popular Culture” reveals several facets of Latin American culture, so for my blog I will comment on only a few main points. I thought it was interesting how the authors portrayed the modernization and industrialization of the twentieth century not as simply destroying the traditional culture of Latin America, but as creating an infused culture. This infused culture represents both Native and Hispanic, as well as rural and urban influences.

One interesting example of modernization and urbanization transforming the significance of traditional culture is with Mexican handcrafts. The article explains how these handcrafts, although originally sculpted for practical usage, now serve almost purely aesthetic purposes. These crafts, coined “airport art,” have grown to represent traditional culture. Although their initial purpose has significantly changed, natives and tourists still regard them as a symbol of national identity.

I thought the description of popular Catholicism was very interesting. I sometimes associate Christianization with the complete obliteration of Native religions. Therefore, this article provided a new perspective through its description of Catholicism in Latin America being heavily embedded with traditional religious beliefs. This article describes Catholic rituals celebrating patron saints as placing less importance on the traditional priest figure. Instead, the ritual involves a capelao, often an elderly woman who serves as the collective memory of the people. I think this is really interesting, knowing that traditional catholic doctrine is very male-centred. Additionally, this article describes how a sort of mythical or magical undercurrent often accompanies these ceremonies, which is further reflective of traditional spiritual influences.

The last aspect of this article I want to comment on is the significance of soccer in Latin American popular culture. They explain how when the British first brought soccer to Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay in the nineteenth century people considered it a very elite sport. I was a bit taken aback when I read that the players spoke in English to distinguish themselves as gentleman- why should society perceive speaking in English as some sort of highbrow, privileged behaviour? Anyways, I thought it was cool how in Brazil soccer became increasingly popular amongst the working classes, and that it developed into a huge national identity symbol.

Well that’s it for now. I know I didn’t comment on a lot of other interesting examples, but I hope to learn more in class. Bye!

Monday, January 19, 2009

LAST 201- What is the People?

What is The People?

Eva Peron and Jose Luis Borges’ pieces characterize the Argentine people during the Peronist regime. Both authors attempt to define who the people are, a task more daunting than I originally perceived. Evita wrote In My Own Words while she was dying to reaffirm her allegiance to her husband and to whom she refers to as “the people.” Evita repeatedly describes “the people” as Argentina’s working class, and specifies subgroups including women, the exploited, and descamisados (shirtless men, or workers). Her narrative style utilizes various binaries (“we” versus “them”, “light” versus “darkness”) to portray the polarization within her society, and to depict the upper-class as antagonistic and oppressive. She states “Nation is not a plot of land with moveable borders; rather, it is the people. The Nation suffers or is happy in the people that form it,” which emphasizes the importance of the working class to all of society. Although I’m not very familiar with Argentine history, I found her passionate tone extremely moving. She praises fanaticism, claiming it is “the only way life can defeat death,” and denounces the indifferent as the most deplorable enemy. Her critique of imperialism kind of confused me. She claimed that capitalism exploits the people, and condemns the upper-class for profiting from this system. Again, I’m unfamiliar with this article’s historical context, but didn’t Eva climb from the working to upper class? She speaks of her own jewelery, possessions and wealth, yet claims to be one with society’s poorest people. She also expresses extreme contempt for the wealthy, although she was included in that class. Maybe she aimed to inspire the working classes with her enormous success, but I thought this discrepancy cheapened her purpose. I did, however, really like what she said about religion. She states it “should never be an instrument of oppression for the people,” and criticizes Christian institutions that have abandoned the poor. I think this heavily relates to our society, as people sometimes use religion to justify hatred and discrimination. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this article. I would like to know more about Eva and the article’s general historical background to understand some of the ambiguities within her argument.
I was very confused after reading Borges’ “A Celebration of the Monster.” I think I lacked the necessary historical and contextual background to understand the story. Borges also characterizes the Argentine people during the Peronist time period, but takes a radically different stance from Eva. Whereas Eva repeatedly declares her allegiance and belief in her husband’s policy, Borges depicts Peron as a tyrant or monster. I don’t really know what more to say about this article. . . Hopefully discussing it in class will give me more insight. Bye!

Monday, January 12, 2009

LAST 201

What is Culture?

Throughout the readings, Williams and Keesing provide insight into the definition of culture and how scholars perceive its function in society. Williams’ title “Culture is Ordinary” reflects his viewpoint of culture as a universal and innate phenomenon. He describes culture as the arts and learning implemented to expresses the beliefs of every human society. Williams suggests that culture serves two distinct functions: 1) the “common purpose” of the society, and 2) the “deep personal meaning” of the individuals. He criticizes “teashop culture” as well as those who utilize esoteric argot in describing culture to illustrate his belief that all individuals create and share this structure, not merely the well-educated. Williams additionally examines Marxist cultural theory, which states “culture must be finally interpreted in relations to its underlying system of production.” He denounces the Marxist notion “we live in a dying culture and the masses are ignorant,” and likens this reference of the masses to cultural othering. However, Williams does find merit in three aspects of Marxist cultural theory: 1) the relationship between culture and production, 2) the observation of restricted education, and 3) a different system of production would serve as a cultural directive. He condones Leavis’ theory that industrialization has tainted, or cheapened, British culture, and suggests that education is the only method of retaining classic art and literature. Finally, Williams opposes the theory that the decline of culture in the industrial era resembles “a kind of Gresham’s law,” enumerating examples of how “bad culture” does not replace “good culture” in any definitive correlation.
In “Theories of Culture Revisited,” Keesing focuses on radical alterity, defined as “a culturally constructed Other radically different from Us.” He describes some classic binaries associated with othering, including “civilized verses primitive,” “rational verses irrational,” and “Occident verses Orient.” Keesing criticizes common anthropological approaches to culture, accusing them of essentialism and reification. He means scholars typically study and describe culture in a manner that portrays this elusive concept as concrete and tangible. Keesing elaborates on how the reification of culture results in its becoming a commodity with potential for appropriation, thus, further allowing for othering.

Friday, January 9, 2009

test post

test post for last 201