Archives for posts with tag: Philosophy and Culture

“In a world that is really turned upside down, the true is a moment of the false.”

Guy Debord 1968

Visual culture is defined as the way visual texts can be understood and deployed, especially in the Western tradition of art (Schirato & Webb, 2004: 105). Consumer culture is one of the ‘symbolic embodied and experiential aspects of acquisition behaviour’ (Arnold & Thompson, 2005:871). Both cultures work together within the global advertising industry to create an environment that is false and fragmented (Debord, 2002: 6). This essay will discuss the argument that visual culture is consumer culture by referring to two visual texts that are based upon specific commodity signs. The first is a work of art created for the Reebok Corporation that reifies the Reebok running shoe. The second is a work of art created as a foil for such commodity signification. With these texts I contend that consumer culture uses visual culture to authorize itself as an embodiment of power.

Research into consumer culture shows that many people’s lives in consumer society are constructed around multiple realities, and consumption is used to experience these realities which are linked to fantasies, invocative desires and aesthetics (Arnold & Thompson, 2005: 875).The process of reification in consumer culture is where a commodity is attributed with human qualities, becoming an entity that ‘thinks’, ‘is sexy’, or ‘alive’ (Pugliese, 2011). This is important when advertising a product’s life enhancing qualities, the message being that if you consume the product you will improve your life (Pugliese, 2011). Reebok’s uses fantasy and reification to advertise its latest running shoe range advertising it as pioneering and ‘whose graphic, crenelated sole not only reduces muscle fatigue but transfers energy back into the runner’s stride…’ (Wallpaper Magazine, 2011). They are referred to as ‘eye catching’ and supposedly have inspired an exhibition of artworks (2011).

 http://www.wallpaper.com//bespoke/reebok

Capitalism celebrates the individual through an illusion created by advertising (Pugliese, 2011). This illusion of individualism relies upon the contradictory mass production and distribution of goods rather than the individual and handmade. From the nineteenth century, where shopping became a recreation, to the late twentieth century where shopping promised self-fulfilment and self-realisation, it is this ‘therapeutic ethos’ to which advertisers appeal (Pugliese, 2011). They do this by promising glamour, wealth, prestige and allure (Pugliese, 2011). Art provides a means for this type of advertising because it provides the associated authority of high culture (Schirato and Webb, 2004:107) . Contemporary art as opposed to advertising has a tendency for obscurity that implies a required knowledge or literacy to understand it (2004:107). To combine the two visual cultures together, as Reebok has done, implies the exclusivity and elitism not of a top athlete but of an international contemporary artist, thereby creating the illusion for the consumer of individual accomplishment and self-realisation.

Advertising does not need to sell the image of a product or even mention the company name as long as a well-recognised logo is attached to the advertisement (Sturken & Cartwright, 2001:239). These logos are called commodity signs or signifiers. They do not sell the consumer the products functionality or quality, they sell the products style (2001: 239). These commodity signs infer the value of the commodity until this signifying value becomes more important than the commodity itself (Pugliese, 2011). Brand logos, such as Reebok designer running shoes or Apple computers and phones, compete with other similar commodities for their signs to be recognised across the globe (Pugliese, 2011). The commodity signs become hierarchical within themselves with Reebok running shoe inferring more social value than another generic or cheaper brand (Pugliese, 2011).

In the “Society of the Spectacle” Guy Debord argues that the global economy has degraded social life into one of having not being (Debord, 2002:8). The notion of social value being inferred by a commodity sign goes to the heart of Guy Debord’s notion of the ‘spectacle’, which is the visual deception that creates a world view produced by the technologies of mass media (2002: 6). The images of the Spectacle create a visually deceptive culture that provide the motivations for hypnotic behaviour (2002: 8). Jean Baudrillard continues this notion by asserting that consumer culture has become a form of simulation (Sturken & Cartwright 2001: 153). Baudrillard’s notion of simulation is when signs of the real are substituted for the real (Felluga, 2011). He states that this has caused the contemporary consumer society to be unable to discriminate between nature and artifice, or what is real and what is unreal or simulated (Felluga, 2011).

For Karl Marx, commodity became associated with class structure with the commodity itself being alienated from its system of production (Noble, 2008:101). Marx described this as ‘commodity fetishism’ where the commodity is just an object in a shop rather than having any association with its means if production (2008:101). Through this objectification there is no longer any means to see the system of exploitation that has gone into the product (2008:101). The advent of an increasingly globalised world has meant that the exploitation of many workers remains hidden in poor nations and through the commodity this exploitation becomes part of everyday life (2008:102). By being alienated from its means of production, commodity fetishism is able to infer value upon a product through conferring value and prestige upon the consumer (Pugliese, 2011). This is done through the elitism of expense, if only a few can possess it this signifies affluence, good taste and refinement (Pugliese, 2011).

The commodity signification of hierarchical branding is shown at its zenith when a brand name seeks to equate itself with something that is considered high culture and elitist. This is seen in the recent collaboration of Reebok with various contemporary international artists. Reebok invited various contemporary designers, architects and artists to come up with concepts that would create one-off artworks inspired by the Reebok design (Wallpaper-Reebok Exhibition, 2011). This lends to Reebok the authority of contemporary art and lends to the various participants the global notoriety of the Reebok brand. The pictured work is one by the French artist Ora Ito who took the imprint of the base of a Reebok shoe and created a wall-mounted sculpture made from “Hi-Macs”, an acrylic material made from wood chips and toxic resin. This infers upon the running shoe images of the consumer being socially-influential and trend setting. The sculpture’s clean whiteness completely erases any connection of the product with the production of the shoe by a third world workforce. Commodity fetishism, as Marx called it, eliminates any responsibility between the product and the producer (Debord, 2002:9).

 http://www.wallpaper.com/fashion/Wallpaper-Reebok-exhibition-London/5382

The products of the spectacle, from computers and shoes to cars, are designed to isolate and create the ‘lonely crowd’ (Debord, 2002:10). Spectators are only linked by their vision of the spectacle which keeps them from each other (2002:10). The more the spectator views the spectacle the more they are alienated, the less they live and the more they need. Their gestures become the puppet gestures of the spectacle (2002: 30). The economy of the globalised world has totally subjugated humanity to itself and the spectacle which sustains it (2002: 7). This global economy has degraded social life into one of having not being (2002:7). No longer is it sufficient to be someone, but to be fulfilled through having possessions. This idea of possessions has then shifted from having to appearing so that prestige comes from appearance (2002:7). The appearance of the commodity sign, such as the Reebok logo, gives the elitism of expense and exclusivity which signifies ‘affluence, good taste and refinement’ (Pugliese, 2011). The prestige of appearance inferred by the commodity sign is one of the dominant modes of visuality (Pugliese, 2011).

 

Nicholas Georgouras, Stick People, 2007

 The dominant mode of visuality is one that occupies a position of cultural power and authority, such as the media or a corporation. Through this, a power attempts to control meanings related to an object or image (Pugliese, 2011).  However, these visual meanings can be contested and changed (Pugliese, 2011). Through the targeting of commodity fetishism and commodity signs consumer culture can be subverted. This is called ‘culture jamming’ (Pugliese, 2011). Culture jamming sabotages advertising campaigns and parodies logos to expose the exploitation of the commodity’s producers and ridicule its promises (Pugliese, 2011). The artist Nicholas Georgouras’ group sculpture of Stick People (2007) attempts to emphasise how commodity signs become more important than the product. Being made of recycled wood and plastic tags, each of the sculptures is alienated from the other and focussed on their position in the spectacle. Each of their positions is a puppet gesture parodying the modelling gestures for each product for which the plastic tag is the commodity sign. Consumers of such products become mere extensions of the product, something to which the product can attach itself. This process of dehumanisation is what Debord calls the commodification of society (Debord, 2002: 12).

Visual culture encompasses all forms of visual media in the postmodern world (Irvine, 2011). Advertising agencies use visual culture as a communication device in all its forms. In capitalist societies, advertising is ubiquitous and pervasive. Consumer culture is veracious in its use of visual culture to establish and authorise its commodity signs and commodity fetishism. However, to state that visual culture is consumer culture would deny all the forms of visual culture that deny a capitalist society its consumer. To deny the effect of culture jamming, the effect of art forms done without thought for power or money is to deny visual culture its own legitimacy. Consumer culture is a dominant mode of visuality but it is not visual culture. Therefore, visual culture is not consumer culture.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  1. Arnould E. J., Thompson C. J., 2005, “Consumer Culture Theory (CCT); Twenty Two Years of Consumer Research”, Journal of Consumer Research; Mar 2005; 31, 4; ABI/INFORM Global, pp. 868-877,  Retrieved from: ftp://ftp.cba.uri.edu/classes/r_dholakia/CB%20-%20Dholakia/wk%203%20gender%20consumption/Arnould_Consumer_Culture_Theory.pdf  on 3 August 2011
  2. Debord G., 1968, “Society of the Spectacle”, Trans. Ken Knabb, 2002, Treason Press, Canberra, Retrieved from: http://libcom.org/files/Society%20of%20the%20Spectacle2.pdf  on 1 August 2011
  3.  Felluga, Dino. “Modules on Baudrillard: On Simulation.” Introductory Guide to Critical          Theory. Jan 31 2011, Purdue University, Retrieved from: http://www.purdue.edu/guidetotheory/postmodernism/modules/baudrillardsimulation.html on 14 August 2011
  4. Irvine M., 2011, “Introducing Visual Culture: Ways at Looking at All Things Visual”, Retrieved from: http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/visualarts/intro-visualculture.html , on 14 August 2011
  5. Noble G., 2008 “living with things: consumption, material culture and everyday life” in Cultural Theory in Everyday Practice, Ed. Nicole Anderson & Katrina Schlunke, Oxford University Press Melbourne, pp. 98-113
  6. Pugliese Assoc. Professor J., 2011, Lecture 13- “Visual Culture, Consumer Culture: Fetishism and Commodity Signs”, Vision, Visuality and Everyday Life CLT120, Macquarie University
  7. Sturken, Marita; Cartwright, Lisa. “Postmodernism and popular culture (part 1 of 2)” in Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture , Sturken, Marita; Cartwright, Lisa , 2001 , 237-261
  8. Sturken, Marita; Cartwright, Lisa. “Postmodernism and popular culture (part 2 of 2)” in Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture , Sturken, Marita; Cartwright, Lisa , 2001 , 262-277
  9. Schirato T., Webb J., 2004, “Visual Art & Visual Culture”, in Reading the Visual, Allen and Unwin, pp. 105-130
  10. Schirato T., Webb J., 2004, “Selling the Visual”, in Reading the Visual, Allen and Unwin, pp.151-168
  11. Wallpaper Magazine Editorial: Reebok- Great Leap, Retrieved from: http://www.wallpaper.com//bespoke/reebok , on 12 August 2011
  12. Wallpaper Magazine – Reebok Exhibition, Retrieved from: http://www.wallpaper.com/fashion/Wallpaper-Reebok-exhibition-London/5382  , on 8 August 2011

 

 

                   I am what I desire; and I desire what I gaze upon.

                                             Sigmund Freud (1905)

Power relationships within our societies are image-based (Sturken & Cartwright 2001). Jacques Lacan, the French psychoanalyst, asserted that humans imagine themselves as individuals within the social constructs of Western capitalism (Sturken & Cartwright 2001). An example of this is the advertising campaign known as The Champion Family. The Champions are the hyperreal, simulated family who feature in a set of advertisements directed at shoppers who shop at the various shopping malls owned by the multinational corporation known as AMP (Facebook: The Champion Family 2010). Their images are displayed throughout these shopping malls in the act of consuming products. This essay will focus on this family as it analyses how this advertising campaign affects the target audience through the technologies of visualisation and evaluates it effectiveness as a normalising process of vision.

 The Champion family are depicted as the average Australian family ‘flaws and all’: Anglo-Saxon, youthful, attractive, and comfortably wealthy. The mother, Mrs Sarah Champion, is represented as the centre of the household being in the centre of the picture. She is referred to in the advertising campaign as someone who ‘manages to juggle the demands of the household while keeping the family together’ (Facebook: The Champion Family, 2010). Mr Paul Champion is described as a ‘doting husband’ (Facebook: The Champion Family, 2010); this is represented by his close proximity to Mrs Champion with his body leaning into to her and his arm protectively around her. The older son, Will Champion, is also represented as a small version of his father. He is well-dressed in casual white shirt and beige pants with his arm also protectively and lovingly draped around his mother. The older daughter, Chloe Champion, is also represented as a reflection of her mother. Both have blonde hair, are dressed in casual white dresses with an emphasis on their smooth-skinned arms and legs. The younger children are the ‘mischievous’ twins Charlie and Annabel, representing the younger consumer. The image’s whiteness is reinforced by the repetition of the colour beige throughout the subjects’ clothing and the furnishings of the room. Even the dog, Millie, and the flowers are white.

The organisational properties of the image group the family together as a whole. In such group photographs the identity of the individual is dissolved into the identity of the group (Schirato and Webb 2004). The conformity of the Champion family’s smiling faces denotes compliance and contentment (Schirato & Webb 2004). The interior design which surrounds this group in the photography can also be deciphered through the value that it places upon the group (Communicating the Visual). As the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss posited, much can be learned by analysing the clothes people wear, and the colours, lines and textures with which they decorate their home (Schirato & Webb 2004). The cultural theorist Stuart Hall goes on to state that this displayed visuality tells us how valuable these people are within their society and how powerful they (Schirato & Webb 2004). The simulated Champion family has a name that denotes success within society. The advertising campaign tells us that, ‘when it comes to shopping, they’re champions’ (Facebook: The Champion Family 2010).

The advertising campaign tells us that this campaign is relevant to all consumers at these shopping malls because of the ‘unique and endearing characteristics of the individuals that make up the Champion family’ (Facebook: The Champion Family, 2010). ‘Templates of normality’ are used by capitalism to promote consumption by advocating the transformation of people so that they can be assessed by others as normal (Schirato & Webb 2004). The role models used become an interactive way of seeing through which the audience plays out its relationship with them and it perpetuates through the audiences evaluation of the people that surround them to create a ‘normal’ way of seeing the world (Schirato & Webb, 2004). Paradoxically, one of the most important notions of this way of seeing is that the role models are depicted as individuals.

To individualise the campaign the story of the family is then broken into its individual segments. For example, Sarah is described as a ‘fun-loving caring mother’ and the heart of the family (Knox Shopping Centre, 2010). Her job is to organise the household’s needs and, being 39 years old, we are told that she is at the age when she can enjoy spending time with her girlfriends, shopping for the latest fashions and pampering herself (Knox Shopping Centre, 2010). The shopping mall is the centre of her life because it solves all the family’s problems (Knox Shopping Centre, 2004). By individualising the family the campaign is imitating reality. This imagery represents an ideal and it is this trick of advertising that can convince the eye into thinking about the aspiration of the ideal (Schirato & Webb 2004). It mimics reality by reflecting a family moment and representing such ideals of marriage, family and happiness (Schirato & Webb 2004).

In modern Western culture such visual imagery has come to control and influence people’s perception of reality (Schirato & Webb, 2004). People are seen by institutional powers through their ability to contribute to the state. They are contextualised and evaluated through normalising processes just as selective breeding programs occur on farms (Schirato & Webb, 2004). People are trained from an early age to lead non-reflective ‘normal’ lives with reality being decided by the rules of society (Schirato & Webb, 2004). Therefore people relate themselves in the everyday context to what is seen as normal which is evaluated through such things as people’s appearance, clothes, sexuality and work (Schirato & Webb, 2004). In the Champion family the two older children are depicted as normal because Chloe loves ‘shopping, texting, facebooking and thinking about guys’, while Will likes ‘surfing, skate-boarding and eating fast-food (Knox Shopping Centre, 2010). 

In order to produce a population that is pliable, productive and reliable the logic of what is normal prevails. As the seventeenth- century French philosopher Blaise Pascal was quoted by Pierre Bourdieu: “Custom is the source of our strongest and believed proofs” (Schirato & Webb, 2004). As Judith Butler, the gender theorist, argues that there are sites in society where we can assess whether we measure up to the normalised standard by their imagery of what are considered normal, healthy, desirable subjects (Schirato & Webb, 2004), the advertising campaign of the simulated Champion family does this work upon consumers that attend the shopping malls of AMP. The relationship of the consumer within this advertising campaign is one that plays upon what Jacques Lacan refers to as the gaze or le regard (Sturken & Cartwright, 2001). This imagery has the power to articulate desire for the consumer, an ability to shop without consequence. It is an opportunity to see themselves in the role of this family; to achieve happiness through shopping. However, the integral function of this advertising campaign is to activate the latent desires of the consumers relative to their social circumstances (Sturken & Cartwright, 2001).

The simulated Champion family works its effect upon the consumers attending these shopping malls by presenting themselves as the average Australian family. They are something to which the advertising executives want people to aspire: white, youthful, well-off, and happy. By trying to convince consumers that it is desirable to conform to such standards and that through being compliant they will achieve happiness, the advertisers present their shopping mall as the place where this achievement can take place. They have given the consumer individual role models that cover all aspects of the consumers that they wish to encourage by convincing them that to be like the Champions is the expected societal ideal.  Thus the world becomes shaped by such fictitious and normalised visual ideals.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  1. http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Champion-Family/140330556023037?v=info
  2. http://www.knoxshoppingcentre.com.au/News—Events/News/Meet-the-new-faces-of-Knox-Shopping-Centre!.aspx
  3. Schirato, Tony; Webb, Jen. “Normalising Vision (extract)” in Reading the Visual, Schirato Tony; Webb Jen, 2004, 131-150
  4. Schirato, Tony; Webb, Jen. “Communicating and the Visual (extract)” in Reading the Visual, Schirato Tony; Webb Jen, 2004, 57-80
  5. Sturken, Marita; Cartwright, Lisa. “Spectatorship, power, and knowledge (extract)” in Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture , Sturken, Marita; Cartwright, Lisa , 2001 , 72-84

 “Hip-hop speaks true. It is all of us. Where we go, this is where hip-hop goes.”

  (BBC World Service 2011)

Hip-hop or rap music has become global. There is scarcely a country in the world where it does not feature. It has been transformed and globalized by the music industry, although its African-American origins survive through its transformation into re-localized cultural inflections. The sonic organisation of its poetics and beat is profoundly implicated in its cultural workings and the formation of identities  (Krims 2000). Hip-hop culture reveals how marginalised cultural practices can be used to challenge a dominant discourse such as globalization whilst using its techniques to proliferate.  This essay will attempt to analyse the culture of rap music and its relationship to globalisation and the Euro-American Empire.

Rap music is a good example of postmodern social theory, with its perceived resistance reflecting an African-American vernacular culture which persists as a challenge to dominant forces (Krims 2000). A music form was created from an African culture of call and response chants, the jazz rhyming of Cal Calloway in America in the 1930s, the love raps of Isaac Hayes and Barry White, as well as the militant style rapping of Malcolm X and Minister Louis Farrakhan (Parker 1999). Naturally rappers invent and reinvent their vernacular adjusting it to their own conventions and cultural style. Notably the evolution of message-oriented poetry set to a beat was formulated by the group The Last Poets in the 1970s (Parker 1999). This version of the Black Power movement invoked an accessible form of cultural message word-play set to a conga-drum which was a resistant discourse against racism and Eurocentric cultural dominance (Parker 1999).

This Eurocentric cultural dominance is prevalent in an English language dominated globalized world. This has produced a particular environment of raced individuals, mediascapes and economic environments (Schlunke 2008). Stuart Hall states that the hybridities and synchronicities that globalization has brought now reflect the contact zones of previously existing colonialism (Schlunke 2008). It has also brought new meanings to racial and ethnic identities through technologies such as the internet and world distribution of commodities which allows geographical and national boundaries to blur (Schlunke 2008). This allows oppositional cultures to American cultural domination to arise using similar resistance movements as those found in the United States (Schlunke 2008). In this particular case rap music reinforces these new cultural identities.

In his text Rap Music and the Poetics of Identity, Adam Krim states that the association of rap music with marginalized or aggrieved groups virtually guarantees its presence as a culturally identifying force in the ethnicized and gendered world of popular music  (Krim 2000). In November 2009 a show at the Yemeni Culture House in Sanaa, which fused a display of break-dancing with traditional Yemeni dagger dancing, was sold-out to Yemeni youth. The rapper Hagage Masaed, an American of Yemeni descent said: “Yemen is hungry for hip-hop. All the problems youth are facing in Yemen- there is no work- this is a way for them to release, an outlet (Kasinof 2010).  In November 2010, according to the UK’s Observer newspaper, a young Tunisian rapper or emcee by the name of El Général was the first to gain international attention for his raps related to the political unrest in his country. The lyrics of his Rais Le Bled stated: “My president, your country is dead / People eat garbage / Look at what is happening / Misery everywhere / Nowhere to sleep / I’m speaking for the people who suffer”, and were distributed across globalised media platforms such as You Tube (Fukishima 2011). 

This globalized process allows a cultural dominance of Eurocentric and American hegemony but simultaneously distributes the means in which resistance to this and other authorities are possible. This process was first brought to my attention when I listened to an interview with a young American photographer, Adam Sjoberg, who was doing a photo essay on hip-hop culture in places as politically and culturally diverse as Somalia, Uganda, Cambodia, Brazil and Korea (Sjoberg 2011). The stated aim of the projects that Sjoberg documents such as Breakdance Uganda, is to empower youth and break down social, tribal, religious and racial divisions (Breakdance Project Uganda 2010). The position of these young people is being from the immobile classes, one of the characteristics of the globalised world (Schlunke 2008). They are committed to their geography through familiar ties, traditional relationships and, most of all, the inability to move anywhere else because of their economic position (Schlunke 2008). However, the culture of rap or hip-hop transcends these geographical boundaries and allows these young people, not to just observe, but to reinforce their identities through the creation of their own rap cultures.

Each rap or hip-hop culture has its particular characteristics. These characteristics are based upon globalized racial dynamics and social/political contexts within nation states (Krim 2000). For example hip-hop culture in Yemen, which is an extremely conservative traditional society, shows a unique aspect through youth being seen to rebel against their traditional upbringing. In Uganda, most of the youth involved in hip-hop culture are poor and orphaned. They are deeply connected to the roots of hip-hop, and their raps are concerned with social injustice rather than an expression of youthful rebelliousness through break dancing (BBC World Service 2011). For the academic Karin Heim, hip-hop may have the ability to ease decades of social conflict. Her paper Beats not Bombs: Hip-Hop to create peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict investigates how artists use rap as a tool to help the people of Israel find common ground in the conflict.

Heim found that Middle East hip-hop artists — like the musician Subliminal, who has been described as Israel’s Eminem, and the Arab-Israeli group DAM — are using music to condemn violence, a notion that appeals to young Jewish-Israelis, Arab-Israelis, and Palestinians. Like the artists themselves, Heim found these youths use hip-hop to define their religious, ethnic, and social group identities (northeastern.edu 2011).  

Krim explains how rap musical poetics change according to local requirements although retaining its original reference to its African-American origins (Krim 2000). In Edmonton, Alberta the native Cree population use rap music to articulate location and identity through its musical poetics (Krim 2000). Therefore rap or hip-hop culture is interconnected globally and locally and intersects through its history of the musical poetics of rap.

However, even though dispersed across the globe, these localized forms of rap music are structurally dependent on a world music system based upon a centralized and commercialized form which emanates from the United States through dominant ‘musical utterances’ but also contingent musical responses. It becomes a musical theory that informs the identities of other cultures (Krim 2000). The basis for this musical theory is based upon the politics of race. It is not within the parameters of ‘white’ contexts that rap music generally lies. It is a musical genre based upon racial inequality, unlike more popular forms of music that have emanated from the United States and Britain in the latter half of the twentieth century.  As Katrina Shlunke states:”… globalisation is not a single force that overwhelms us but an environment that we are all within and in which we act (Schlunke, 2008, p.185).”  For Edward Said, power is organised through ways of showing difference (Schlunke 2008). Globalised rap culture shows ways that difference can be used to empower diverse forms and be readied to turn back upon the very hegemonic powers that used globalised means to reinforce their power.

Dilip Gaonkar and Elizabeth Povinelli suggest that circulation is important to allow a matrix within which such social forms as rap culture emerge and become newly recognisable (Osuri 2008). These matrixes are made up of compatible elements with which they are linked (Osuri 2008). The dominant compatible element of rap culture is, as Edward Said describes it, being of the status of the ‘other’ (Pugilese 2008). Even in diverse societies its musicology equates it with social inequality, racism, and oppression. Said also describes the history of the lynching of black men in the United States and its associated sexual mutilation as ‘male-defined loss’ (Pugilese 2008). He equates this practice with the rape and torture by US soldiers of Arab prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (Pugliese 2008). It is the reaction to this disempowerment; this asserted impotence that rap culture alludes to in its poetics. Elements such as the hooded youth, the menacing lyrics, the drum beat, the freedom of movement within it’s ‘breakdance’ empower its followers and allow them to reidentify themselves as individuals within their societies.

Globalisation and empires effect one’s embodiment through race and gender (Nicoll 2008). In the case of rap culture these processes also provide tools through which these meanings are challenged and disrupted (Nicoll 2008). An adverse view of rap culture uses a stereotyping of its elements in which to denigrate its form. Krim asserts that these views are usually driven by the cultural ignorance of those who wish to villainize rap based upon cultural misconceptions and racialised discourses (Krim 2000). In the chapter of her book entitled Voices from the Margins, the academic Tricia Rose states that news media attention on rap focuses on violence at concerts, gangsta rap and black nationalist lyrics (Rose 1994). Although some of these views are perpetuated through the actions of rappers themselves, rap music as a discourse brings together complex social, political and cultural issues (Rose 1994). From its beginnings rap music has articulated the pleasures and problems of black urban life in contemporary American society (Rose 1994). This life is affected by the persisting ideological, gendered system of power that works to assert and protect the interests of white people as members of a racialised society (Nicoll 2008). Cheryl Harris explains that it is through relations to property and possessions that we can understand how whiteness builds upon the policies and practices of white racism (Nicoll 2008, p.189). This discourse persists within the globalised world; it has been exported and distributed as part of the hegemonic power of European and North American nations. Just as American rappers craft stories that reflect the fantasies, perspectives and experiences of racial marginality on America (Rose 1994), so too do the array of rappers from such diverse places as indigenous Australian rural communities, Cambodian refugee camps, and Palestinian refugee camps.

The relationship of rap music within this globalised world reflects a postmodern cultural text that represents a challenge to dominant forces. Such an environment has produced a white Euro-American dominated economic, racialised discourse, but to achieve such a discourse has also led to the distribution of a means of resistance to its dominance. Marginal or socially aggrieved groups across the globe find a means of culturally reidentifying themselves through rap culture which includes poetry, art, music and dance. It empowers disenfranchised youth and breaks down social, racial and religious divisions through the transcendence and intersection of geographical boundaries and the representation of their own stories. Therefore, the interpolation of global rap gives voice to these marginalised communities in the dominant vernacular of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  1. Krims A., (2000), Rap music and the poetics of identity, Cambridge University Press
  2. Parker, M., (1999), An Analysis of Rap Music as the Voice of Today’s Black Youth, [Online: http://mmstudio.gannon.edu/~gabriel/parker.html ] Retrieved: 10 May 2011
  3. Schlunke, K. (2008), “empire and globalisation: the stories so far”. In Anderson N., Schlunke K., (eds), Cultural Theory in Everyday Practice, Oxford University Press   
  4. Kasinof, L., (2010), ‘No Terrorism Please’: Yemeni Hip Hop Refrain, In: Christian Science Monitor, [Online: http://hiphopdiplomacy.org/category/middle-east/yemen/ ] Retrieved: 11 May 2011-05-15
  5. Fukishima, A., (2011), Arab Rappers in Solidarity with Uprisings in Middle East and North Africa, In: New America Media [Online: http://hiphopdiplomacy.org/2011/04/22/arab-rappers-in-solidarity/ ] Retrieved: 11 May 2011
  6. Sjoberg, A. (2011), Loose Luggage, [Online: http://looseluggage.com/luggage/tag/shake-the-dust/ ] Retrieved: 11 May 2011
  7. Breakdance Project Uganda, (2010) [Online: http://www.myspace.com/breakdanceprojectuganda ] Retrieved: 12 May 2011
  8.  Using hip-hop to promote peace (2011) [Online: http://www.northeastern.edu/news/stories/2011/05/hip_hop.html ] Retrieved: 12 May 2011
  9. Osuri G., (2008), beauty and the bollywood star: stories of skin colour and trasnsnational circulations of whiteness. In Anderson N., Schlunke K., (eds), Cultural Theory in Everyday Practice, Oxford University Press  
  10. Pugilese J., (2008), visual cultures of orientalism and empire: the abu ghraib images. In Anderson N., Schlunke K., (eds), Cultural Theory in Everyday Practice, Oxford University Press  
  11. Nicoll F., (2008), what’s so funny about indian casinos? comparative notes on gambling, white possession and popular culture in australia and the usa. In Anderson N., Schlunke K., (eds), Cultural Theory in Everyday Practice, Oxford University Press  
  12. Rose T., (1994), Black noise: rap music and black culture in contemporary America, Wesleyan University Press