SEMINAR QUESTIONS

  1. What is “cultural imperialism”? Who or what exerts it?
  2. Is the study of “cultural imperialism” different from the study of “culture and empire,” or “imperial culture”? If so, in which way(s)?
  3. Why did the theories of cultural imperialism emerge when they did?
  4. Is the study of “cultural imperialism” different from studies of “acculturation,” “assimilation,” “syncretism,” “cargo cults,” and “creolization”? If so, in which ways do they differ?
  5. Saying that “cultural imperialism is old,” or that it “dates back to Spanish and Portuguese conquests,” is an answer to a question. Then what is the question? Is the question an interesting and important one?
  6. Does cultural imperialism differ from capitalism, neoliberalism, or globalization?
  7. Can you find evidence of cultural imperialism actually existing and succeeding? If so, then why and how does cultural imperialism work?
  8. If cultural imperialism successfully worked, then why has military force been used by the US to impose its aims on other nation-states?
  9. Do the following examples disprove, or prove, cultural imperialism? Examples: a) South Asian professors in Western universities, writing in English; b) South Asian computer specialists working in Silicon Valley, California.
  10. Does the existence of “reverse cultural flows” entail “reverse cultural imperialism”? Examples of such “reverse flows” could include the spread of Reggae to North America, the proliferation of sushi restaurants, and the adoption of Maori tattoo patterns.
  11. If preserving “local cultural diversity” is the aim of critics of cultural imperialism, does this presume the existence of untouched, homogeneous cultures and locales that remain apart from the world capitalist system?
  12. What makes “cultural imperialism” cultural ? Is not imperialism always cultural?
  13. What is “culture” for the theorists of cultural imperialism? In other words, with which assumptions about culture—with what culture concept—are these theories of cultural imperialism operating?
  14. In criticizing theories of “cultural imperialism,” are anthropologists also abandoning their previously influential theories of assimilation, acculturation, cultural domination, nativism, and invention?
  15. Do anthropologists tend to reject cultural imperialism as a suitable theory, while sociologists and members of other disciplines tend to have supported the theory? If so, why might that be the case?
  16. How do politics and economics intertwine to shape institutions, ideologies, and social consciousness? What are the consequences, both expected and unintended, of such intertwining?
  17. Do the media “capture” people? Is the “brainwashing” role of media not an extreme position to support? What assumptions about people do such positions entertain? On the other hand, what assumptions operate in theories of agency, of the knowledgeable individual?
  18. Can we discuss “imperialism” without naming the imperial power at the centre of imperialism? Why would we?
  19. To the extent that some critiques of cultural imperialism are critical of “Americanization,” then who is “the American” in their theory? What does “American” mean in Americanization?
  20. If cultural imperialism is not just about media, or not just about “Americanization,” then doesn’t cultural imperialism become too broadly defined to be workable as an analytical framework?
  21. How is an image of US “goodness” perpetrated/perpetuated despite widely available contrary information? Where are the social sciences in all of this?
  22. Are most governments “subservient” to the US, and if so, why?
  23. Does acknowledging the singularity of US power, especially since the demise of the USSR, mean that one is buying into “American exceptionalism”? In other words, can theories of cultural imperialism become imperialist theories, or is the question a specious one?

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