Posted by: | February 24, 2009 | Comments Off on Reflections

Hard to believe that we are already half way done! So far, I have enjoyed many aspects of this class. In discussing many elements of both the meaning of culture and the people, and specific cultural traditions in Latin America, I feel that my knowledge has expanded in all areas. Interestingly, though I have taken many classes in anthropology, I feel that I have learned at least as much about what ‘culture’ is in this class, and likewise, am probably more confused by it as well. I have never really had the opportunity to study ‘popular’ culture to such an extent, and I find that it adds a fundamental dimension to the study and understanding of culture as a whole. I also find that I have been able to make connections about culture, popular culture, and the people that we have discussed in this class in many of my other classes, which is exciting.

I really enjoyed the first two articles that we read by Williams and Keesing. I like the concept of culture being ordinary; that it is not an authentic relic of the past that can be found in a museum, or a form of high art only accessable to the elite, but rather it is all around us. Everything we see, from infrastructure and architecture, to human interaction and social relations sheds light on the embedded history that has sculpted the culture that we see today. Culture in Latin America can not be reduced to strictly indigenous culture or legacies of European culture, but rather it represent the mixing of it all. In comparing culture to a Coral Reef, I really enjoyed how Keesing dismanteled this idea, suggesting that culture is not simply a natural process that slowly changes over time and is unintentional in doing so, but rather culture is reactionary. Culture exists out of a serious of power relations and struggle that have conciously dominated and resisted domination. Forces of globalization, modernization, and colonization have effected culture, and people have continuously resiseted and reacted to these forces thus adding yet another dimension of the culture we see today.

In Evita Peron’s book In My Own Words she adresses the ‘people’ in a passionite way. However reading this article brings into question, who exactly are the people? According to Peron, the people are generally those who have in some way been disenfranchised by the system, ie the women, the poor, the sick, the elderly, etc. Many definition of the ‘people’ can exist, but as this relates to the study of popular culture, one can see that culture can both come from a trickelling of culture from the elites of above, or an absorbing of culture from the masses of below. Cultural exchanges are multideimensional in their flows.

This concept is well defined in Rowe and Schelling’s “The Faces of Popular Culture.” Though this article cuased some debate in class, I feel that its aims were explain how parts of indigenous life and culture were ‘crushed’ during the time of conquest an colonization, there is a certain resiliancy of culture that have not allowed for domination, but rather hybridization and mixing of cultures. In this article we see the exchange of culture from ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up,’ along with an extreme hybridization of customs and religions. The authors note that as capitalism effects culture, commercial processes can make art pre-packaged and for profit, thus cheapining their form. Rowe and Schelling note that at certain points commodification can go too far and get eaten up by the ‘culture industry’ which leads to a degradation in quality and creativity. They suggest that history is not nuetral by guided by popular culture that can get absorbed into commercial and state culture.

Lastly, I will comment on the discussion of race. I find race a particularily interesting concept in Latin America. Through conquest, colonization, and slavery, many mixed races were created that further created social hierarchies. In The Cosmic Race Vasconcelos suggests that it is in the mixtures of race that make Latin America strong and unique. However through his language, it becomes very obvious that race is far from nuetral. Wade argues that even in the concept of ‘mestizo’ that signifies to many an inclusion of all, their still exists a strong sense of racial hierarchy, and this mixing has not equated to social and racial equality. In Latin America, generally speaking, lightness of skin often equates to social status, and black or indigenous colouring can often be found at the bottom of this hierachy.


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