Bricolage and Globalization—An article by Michael Kimmelman in the NYT this weekend on cultural identity and globalizaton inspired me to invite my students to create a “bricolage” of their cultural identifications. Here is the context: As we move from a character who leaves a reservation in Washington State to someone who witnesses the breaking up of various cultures while the new nations of Pakistan and India are formed and now to a Nigerian woman who migrates to England and discovers how English "eyes" see her, accept her, reject her, and how she holds onto and rejects aspects of her culture, it's a good time to consider the complex ways diverse cultural elements are available to us--things we have already appropriated--or rejected.
I asked students to consider this comment by Michael Kimmelman (NYT April 18, 2010): "Culture means many things . . .It is something made and consumed in socially revealing ways. When Mat Nilsson, a Swedish product-design strategist. . . told the New York Times that he loves to browse for handmade baskets in Spain, bird cages in Portugal, brushes in Japan and hardware on the lower East Side of Manhattan, he was creating his own cultural identity out of the bric-a-brac of consumer choices made available by the globalizing forces of economic integration. Bricolage, it's called. Anyone may now pick through the marketplace of global culture."
While I find Kimmelman’s last generalization naively (?) middle class—and students in my course are already aware (given our examination of colonial atrocities) that globalization is about things that are a lot more complicated than picking through the marketplace—Kimmelman gets closer to complex ideas about culture and identity later in his essay: “Culture (often unconsciously) identifies crucial ruptures, rifts, gaps, shifts in society. . .pointing us toward those things around us that are unstable, changing, that shape how we live and how we treat one another." I am hoping that our current blog will enable us to examine some of these ruptures, just as our reading and discussion so far has led us to see how Eurocentrism continues to play out in identity formation in post-colonial cultures.
Here is my students’ blog topic for this week in World Literature Written in English: DO AN INVENTORY OF YOUR PERSONAL CULTURAL AFFILIATIONS AND SEE IF YOU CAN DETERMINE WHERE THE THINGS YOU WEAR, BUY, EAT, THINK, READ, WATCH--COME FROM. . .HOW GLOBALIZED ARE YOU? WHAT DO YOU DISAVOW FROM YOUR CULTURE OF ORIGIN? WHAT DO YOU EMBRACE? DESCRIBE YOUR HYBRIDITY WITH VERY SPECIFIC EXAMPLES, PICTURES, MUSIC, AND REFLECT ON WHAT ALL THIS MEANS TO YOU.
And here is a bricolage of my students’ bricolages:
“Various cultural influences shape my tattoos. I have the words "nature" and "god" tattooed across my wrists in Sanskrit, a space where Jesus was allegedly pierced as he was crucified. On my upper arms I have an abstract version of the African continent (abstract because it's supposed to mimic the henna tattoos Indian brides have on their palms) with the Hindu symbol for the sound of creation, on one arm. While the other has a short prayer to the Hindu god Shiva surrounded by the lotus flower. This collage of symbols is evident of what has influenced me as a human the most” (Dominick).
"Engaged assimilation is my way of life. I reject the word culture because it contains cult. I dress from uniform to civilian attire. Which consists of flea market jeans and boots that were on sale. I read William Faulkner to learn about the south. Ate encyclopedias for breakfast and the history channel for lunch and PBS. I cooked yummy Spanish food and now I eat gross healthy food so I won’t die in combat. I read D.H Lawrence to learn about my mother. I read Karl Marx to learn how to become a bad writer. I steal from all ethnicities --I absorb them. I think about fixing the broken [pieces of] my invented delusion how black ice melts to tears. I think about the next punch line I’m going to say that will make at least three people laugh. I think of the times I was outside the wire. Then Nostradamus takes my breath away" (Stephanie).
And the Warhol/Basquiat (above) is from Lazaro.
I am looking forward to discussing what all this means J and if anyone is doing something related to globalization and fluid, transforming, identity formation, perhaps our students can blog across classes.