This week my wife and I traveled to the Northwest for my cousin's wedding, and as I was reading John Storey's book, Inventing Popular Culture, I saw pieces of it coming alive all around me.
Storey writes a convincing manifesto on the development of the phenomenon of Pop Culture, describing its evolution from the old modernist dichotomy of high and low art/culture to today's postmodern leveling of the cultural playing field and blurring of the high/low distinctions.
What intrigued me the most from Storey, for the sake of this project on Global Media and Culture, was his chapter on Pop Culture as Global Culture. He makes the same point that was discussed last week from Pieterse (in fact, Storey quoted Pieterse several times)--that rather than destroying local cultures and Americanizing everything into a homogeneous mass, globalization is more accurately providing for the blending of cultures into unique and never-before-seen hybrids: "Globalization offers the possibility of cultural mixing on a scale never before known. This can of course produce resistance to difference, but it can also produce the fusing of different cultures and the making of new and exciting forms of cultural hybridity" (Storey 117).
This is what I witnessed last week as I drove through Vancouver, B.C., observing both trappings of contemporary Canadian culture and remnants of its British heritage; totem poles, museums and community centers representing its Native past and present; and restaurants featuring food from a hundred different nations world-wide.
This is also what I witnessed on a much more personal level through the celebration of the marriage of my west-coast American cousin and her Guatemalan husband. The wedding was a fairly typical North-American wedding, but the groom gave his vows in his native tongue. The reception was a mixture of Guatemalan marimba music, dancing, many international foods and drinks, US traditions. The couple was from the very beginning intentionally mixing their two very disparate cultures into one special hybrid that maintained some unique flavors of both while exploring new frontiers that could only be discovered together.
Storey said it well when he concluded, "Perhaps there will never be a global culture shared horizontally by all peoples of the globe; local circumstances, including local traditions, may always preclude it. But is that the kind of global culture worth working towards? Better, I think, to build a world culture that is not a monoculture, marked only by hierarchical distinctions, but a world culture which values plurality, in which diversity and difference exist in horizontal relations...." (Storey 119-120).
Some US MNCs seem to globalize with such capitalistic aggression that their intent appears to be total global Americanization, and many of us "enlightened," intentional Jesus-followers show in our actions and our attitudes that such cultural domination is what we fear. I think the things we have read the last few weeks serve to address our fears that the
The question we are still left to ask is what our response is. What is our part to play? As the cultures of the world are hybridized by globalization what should Jesus-followers stand for? I believe we should stand for open, even-handed cultural mixing that honors all the cultures that enter the mix. We should still be on the look out for the powers and structures that would discriminate or marginalize on the basis of race, class, or any other distinction. We also can ground ourselves in the unshakable core of our faith, so we do not get nervous or defensive around the increasing plurality of religions and philosophies.
Media can play a role as well. As we have discussed a number of times before, one of mass-media's most effective uses is that of advocacy. Also, as technology gets cheaper and information pathways are increasingly opened to all, mediums such as the internet can be used by local cultures to join in the global conversations and add their voices to the mix. We as Jesus-followers can work to be just in the ways we use media, and create bold, beautiful works of Popular Art that embody and evoke the best values we hope to add to the global cultural discussion.