Category Archives: globalization

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Suheir Hammad

By Andrea Plaid

Since it’s National Poetry Month, let’s talk about one of my favorite poets: Suheir Hammad.

Of course, Hammad speaks quite a few women of color’s truth with her classic piece, “Not Your Erotic, Not Your Exotic”:

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How Can Fashion Create A Better Relationship with Africa?

(L-R) Thakoon F/W 11, Louis Vuiton S/S 12, Thakoon F/W 11

By Guest Contributor Rafael Flores, cross-posted from Fashion Mole

Fashion’s conflicted love affair with Africa is on again. Louis Vuitton featured cobalt and berry Masai prints for its S/S 12 menswear show last June, while Thakoon fused Victorian tailoring with traditional East African patterns for F/W 11. Critics unanimously exalted both collections. Nicole Phelps of Style.com hailed Thakoon’s showing as “his freshest, most alive collection in a while,” and The New York Times Magazine proclaimed Louis Vuitton as the “winner” of Paris Fashion Week for menswear S/S 12, with radiant quotes from SHOWstudio, who hailed the collection as “hugely handsome, confident and clear.”

Sure, the clothes were beautiful, as they tend to be from practiced and esteemed labels like Louis Vuitton and Thakoon. But the use of African aesthetics for the financial and cultural benefit of the West conjures a host of unanswered questions: Is this practice exploitative? What image of Africa does it create in the West? Should designers give back to the communities from which they benefit?
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Mother Jones Falls Short with ‘My Summer at an Indian Call Center

by Guest Contributor Kirti Kamboj, originally published at Hyphen

Outsourced promo

Mother Jones recently published “My Summer at an Indian Call Center,” which looked at the other side of the “these people are stealing our jobs!” outsourcing scenario. It was written by Andrew Marantz, an American who spent a summer in India and took a training course for call center agents, and focused on his experiences during this training and his views of the industry. Some parts were interesting, such as the strange and amusing anecdotes from his cultural training bootcamp, and it provided a much needed counter to the idea that the current system of globalization brings greater happiness and prosperity to everyone.

Points like this were particularly insightful:

Call-center employees gain their financial independence at the risk of an identity crisis. A BPO salary is contingent on the worker’s ability to de-Indianize [16]: to adopt a Western name and accent and, to some extent, attitude. Aping Western culture has long been fashionable; in the call-center classroom, it’s company policy. Agents know that their jobs only exist because of the low value the world market ascribes to Indian labor. The more they embrace the logic of global capitalism, the more they must confront the notion that they are worth less.

But its critique was ultimately limited, full of over-generalizations, and at times contradictory. Below are four reasons I found it so, and why I would hesitate to recommend this article.

(1) Near the beginning of the piece, Marantz quotes a 2003 Guardian article which states: “The most marketable skill in India today is the ability to abandon your identity and slip into someone else’s.” It’s factually correct that this is a marketable skill, but by labeling it the most marketable skill the article is overreaching. It also fails to make a distinction that few Indians overlook. Namely, that there’s very little money that a middle class urban Indian can earn by slipping into the identity of, say, a villager in Orissa, or a farmer in rural Nigeria. The marketable skill is the ability to slip into an affluent Westerner’s identity.

By itself, this is a small omission and overgeneralization, but there are similar ones throughout this article, forming a pattern indicative of a lack of awareness or concern for the underlying hierarchies that govern many aspects of a call center employee’s life, as well as a lack of nuance.

(2) The most interesting, as well as most questionable, parts of the article were those which talked about the cultural training call center agents are required to undergo. In this training, Marantz says,

trainees memorize colloquialisms and state capitals, study clips of Seinfeld and photos of Walmarts, and eat in cafeterias serving paneer burgers and pizza topped with lamb pepperoni. Trainers aim to impart something they call “international culture” — which is, of course, no culture at all, but a garbled hybrid of Indian and Western signifiers designed to be recognizable to everyone and familiar to no one.

While in this instance learning “international culture” is obviously corporate doublespeak for “If you sound too Indian, you’ll be fired,” to claim that there’s no international culture seems similar to the claim that white people have no culture, especially in its glossing over of underlying hierarchies. The point of this culture training, it must not be forgotten, is to give the Indians at these call centers names, accents, mannerisms, and cultural signifiers that help them to pass for Westerners, to circumvent the “protectionism” instincts of the callers. This isn’t a melding of two cultures into something no one is familiar with; it’s the attempted erasure of one to avoid instigating the anger and scorn of those from the other. Continue reading

Bomba Estéreo “Blows Up” The Idea of World Music [Culturelicious]

As of last week, I had never heard of Bomba Estéreo, despite the fact that they were busy tearing up stages at Coachella, SXSW, and working the club circuit. The Colombian group consists of five members: Simón Mejía, the founder of the group, works the electronic side of the sound, Liliana Saumet sings the vocals, Diego Cadavid works percussion instruments, Kike Egurrola is on drums and Julian Salazar rocks the guitar. Signed to Nacional Records, the group is currently touring in promotion of their second album Blow Up (originally released as Estella) and their 2011 EP Ponte Bomb.

Their sound is described as “electro-tropical” with roots in traditional Colombia folk music called cumbia. According to Afropop Worldwide:

Cumbia, Colombia’s most famous musical genre is actually a term for a number of musical rhythms including porro and puya, with its essence in African percussion. Its highly flirtatious dance is thought to be derived from the festival of La Virgen de Canderia, held every February in Cartegena. The dance is traditionally a couple’s dance. The men dress in all white with a red handkerchief around their necks, while the women wear long flowing skirts. The women also hold a candle, which follows the men in a romantic pursuit, and often fan the flames by fanning the long skirt.

As recently as the first half of the 20th century, the cumbia was considered a vulgar, lower class (i.e. black coastal) musical form by the Colombian government, who also shunned it for its foreign (especially Cuban) elements. It is ironic that in the decades since, it has gone on to become Colombia’s national sound. This coastal fishing music has gone on to incorporate waves of influences along the way, from mambo-cumbias of the 50s to hip-hop cumbias of today. It has also gone on to become one of the most popular genres in Latin America.

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Open Thread: On “Radical Global Citizenship”

by Latoya Peterson

global citizenship

Earlier in the month, I had spotted a Fast Company article discussing the changing nature of diplomacy in the Obama White House. Alex Ross, the Senior Advisor for Innovation for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, granted a sprawling interview to Fast Company which addressed embracing transparency and collaboration in a mistrustful global environment.

Some interesting bits:

Upon entering office, Obama vowed an end to cowboy diplomacy. Ross says the U.S. is exercising influence “on a more multilateral basis, and doing so under the frame of global citizenship, less than quote ‘America’s Values’.”

“The language matters,” continues Ross. “We live in such an interconnected world.”

While, to some, talk of interconnectedness may seem like political pandering and boilerplate, to a large swath of the country, it’s an aggressively contentious worldview. Former UN ambassador John Bolton recently called Obama the “most radical president who has ever been elected,” in a speech pointedly titled “the Case against Global Citizenship.”

For instance, while Bolton and other conservatives slammed Obama for prioritizing Egyptian democracy over an America-friendly despot, the State Department was been busy supporting overtly subversive technologies.

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The 20th anniversary of Oka and the continuation of unearthing human rights at the G8/G20

By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

Video after video, photo after photo, story after story came pouring in this weekend telling us about another friend or another relative who had been unlawfully arrested, beaten, spit on, psychologically, physically, and emotionally abused and relentlessly harassed by the police in Toronto. All this and more unearthing of human rights happened to the people for demonstrating, protesting, taking action and speaking out against one of the most undemocratic and unethical convenings of the world’s largest superpowers – the G8/G20.

Counts of the number of arrests that took place this past weekend are at some 500 or more – with some having now been released – but so many others remain cramped and overcrowded in the mass jails that were erected in what we know were government and state plans to throw people in and violate their human rights – which is of course in line with the entire theme of the G8/G20. Rubber bullets, tear gas, and pepper spray were deployed by police at will and used against people of all ages who yes – were peacefully protesting (and I’m not going into the less than 100 who were not because they were the very small minority) but more importantly, YES IT IS our civil liberty and fundamental right to do so.

Reports also came rushing in about police keeping people cornered outside in the heavy rain for hours, as well as further accounts of violent police brutality directly inside and outside the jails – and I don’t owe them any benefit of the doubt to believe otherwise. This also occurred two intersections down the street from my house in Toronto.

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DISGRASIAN OF THE WEAK! Liveblogging The Karate Kid Remake With Jen’s Hardass Asian Mama

By Guest Contributor Jen, originally published at Disgrasian

Spoiler Alert + Any use of inappropriate cultural terms or conflation with the original movie is entirely intentional.

The Karate Kid (Jaden Smith) and his Mom (Taraji Henson) are leaving Detroit. Lest you think this is a single black mom/deadbeat dad scenario, we’re told upfront that the Karate Kid’s Dad is dead…period. Detroit is portrayed as a gray, dismal city full of shuttered storefronts. This is America in our continued state of joblessness, America in the 21st century, America on the decline. But China, where they’re headed for Mom’s work, is the land of opportunity, the land of now, the land on the up-and-up, or, as the Karate Kid’s Mom puts it, “a magical new land,” like unicorns live there or something.

The Karate Kid tries out his Mandarin on the Asian dude sitting across the aisle from him on the plane. “Dude, I’m from Detroit,” the Asian dude says. Light laughs from the audience, which is mostly made up of families with tween children and some creepy older loners who probably wanted to be Daniel-san back in the day. My Hardass Asian Mom (HAM) approves of this joke: “Not all Chinese or Asian looking guy speaks Chinese, this is true.

Meanwhile: Where is my Bananarama remix???

When the Karate Kid and his Mom arrive at the airport, their lady driver is holding a sign for “Mrs. Packer.” Mom corrects the lady driver, telling her the name’s “Parker.” Ah, Engrish!

After settling into their new flat and discovering that they don’t have hot water, the Karate Kid goes looking for their super, who turns out to be Jackie Chan. Jackie Chan ignores the Kid and, instead, picks up a dead fly with his chopsticks, chucks it on the ground, and keeps eating his cup o’ noodles with the same chopsticks. (Which my HAM says would totally happen in China although she told me not to write about it, so, of course, I had to write about it.) The Karate Kid leaves to check out the local park, where we meet his love interest, Meiying. Meiying, aka Mini-Tamlyn Tomita, has the jankiest hybrid haircut–a bob with pigtails–which is sorta cute if you’re into mullets.

And what is Mini-Tamlyn doing in the park? Tuning her violin! And listening to Bach! NATURALLY.

AWKWARD MOMENT ALERT: Speaking of hair, Mini-Tamlyn asks to touch the Karate Kid’s cornrows. Eep.

That’s when the Chinese Billy Zabka comes over, all jealous, and tells Mini-Tamlyn that she should be…practicing the violin. OMG NERD!!! Then Chinese Billy Zabka beats the Kid’s ass, upping his badass quotient considerably. At which point, my HAM takes off her glasses and covers her eyes.

The next day, the Karate Kid covers up his bruises with his mom’s makeup. He looks like he knows what he’s doing. Something tells me his real-life mama Jada’s taught him a trick or two in this department and he may be a few years away from “guyliner,” which means he may be a few years away from being a total Hollywood douche-nozzle. But for now, as much as I hate to admit it, he’s kinda adorbs.

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Fashionably Colonized: Hybrid Vigor, Brazilian Models, and Global Ideas of Beauty

by Latoya Peterson

Reader Nancy L sent in an article from the New York Times with an opening that made even this jaded activist do a double take:

RESTINGA SÊCA, Brazil — Before setting out in a pink S.U.V. to comb the schoolyards and shopping malls of southern Brazil, Alisson Chornak studies books, maps and Web sites to understand how the towns were colonized and how European their residents might look today.

The goal, he and other model scouts say, is to find the right genetic cocktail of German and Italian ancestry, perhaps with some Russian or other Slavic blood thrown in. Such a mix, they say, helps produce the tall, thin girls with straight hair, fair skin and light eyes that Brazil exports to the runways of New York, Milan and Paris with stunning success.

So this is how we’re going now? What is this, the hybrid vigor myth on speed? Continue reading