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Americanization Effects on the Middle Eastern States Research Paper

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Thesis statement

Cultural imperialism has significantly been a major player in the loss of cultural diversity. This research focuses on the effect of cultural imperialism of Arab states particularly the Americanization and its effects on the native Arab culture. Different aspects of social and religious dimensions of the Arab culture have been affected by Americanization. This research will show to what extent this statement is true and analyze the merits and demerits of Americanization.

Introduction

Americanisation is the spread of American culture and its assimilation into different indigenous cultures. It results from the perception that the American culture is superior and is a sign of modernity. Americanization results in the loss of indigenous cultures and can be said to be in effect a dimension of cultural imperialism. The American culture is considered an example of exceptional-ism as it has degenerate originality. This resulted from the multi-cultural background of the people found in the USA. American culture is flexible and symbolic in nature as it is a derivation of the many indigenous cultures of Americans. American culture is distinct because of its background and the liberalism that comes with it.

Cultural imperialism describes activities that go beyond the narrow colonization of a geographical territory (Dresch and Piscatori 5). It may involve soft areas of culture such as food, arts, and dress, or maybe on more volatile areas such as politics and religion. An interplay of the aforementioned hard areas with the soft areas makes imperialism inextricably correlated. The invasion of one area such as business will affect other areas.

The urge to combat imperialism is also related to politics, religion and national identity. According to Hamm and Smandych, cultural differences are sanctified by their correlation to the roots of culture. A threat to culture, therefore, becomes a threat to God and the individual’s core identity (24). For Americans, traditions are of little interest, in fact, Americans are not interested in the past or in the present. They have a distinctive culture, a fact which is potentially problematic when representative brands seek global markets. American culture is highly heterogeneous as a result of the high number of immigrants. The individual culture and history, in essence, become less important. Instead, Americans value more democracy and a chance of participation in policy-making. Culture, therefore, becomes a minor player in planning and determines the cause of action (Petras 24).

The contemporary political climate is, however, turning against the American imperialism. History has delivered the world to an anti-colonialist political stance. Post-colonialist intellectual discourse to that effect is prevalent. Businesses cannot operate under the illusion that the world is a bigger version of the United States (Hamm and Smandych 34). Welcoming and openness to American outreach are now becoming a downward trend. Americans assumed that the whole world would like to live as they do. Klein predicts that the superiority of America will consume all other indigenous cultures if left uncontrolled. This will efficiently be done by the colonization of our mental space (15).

Research objectives

Americanization of different aspects of the Arab community has raised critical issues of debate. The underlying issue is the objective of maintenance of originality of the Arab culture particularly with the interference of the American culture. This research seeks to unearth different ways in which Americanization has impacted the Arab culture of the Gulf countries. It will focus mainly on the economics, religion, and tradition of Arab culture. The research will answer the questions about how the importation of American culture has affected the Arab culture. Anti-Americanization sentiments and initiatives will also be addressed in the research. The research will answer the questions; how has Americanization affected the culture of the Middle East? Secondly, how has America used the media to spread the cultural imperialism agenda? And lastly, of what benefit has Americanization been for Middle Eastern states?

Method and material

This research relies on a wide array of discourse analysis on the topic at hand. A more elaborate literally resource is not easy to find as this field is not deeply researched on. The research will, therefore, relate different literal resources to the implication of application of the same principles on the case of the Middle East. This will arrive at a conclusive deduction of the effects of the application of policies of Americanisation.

Background

As America came to be a world superpower it increased its expansion westward. The expansion was motivated by the countries to own interest and relationship to the states in the western hemisphere. New areas, however, are now being of interest to Americans as the country is directed towards ultimate economic superiority. Attempts to establish foreign influence in the gulf are historically dated to the times when Napoleon had occupied Egypt. Britain has since been of significant presence as a negotiator for treaties with the Arab tribal rulers to bind them to refrain from piracy.

As the world is speeding towards globalization, imperial states have been abolished, or should I say, have been masked by a new paradigm of modernization. Imperialism has taken the new face of cultural superiority and America now aims at conquering the world by changing one person at a time. Elteren notes that this is becoming effective particular considering the unsuspecting and attractive manner in which they perform implement their strategy (169). Many countries are now striving towards modernization and in the meantime losing their identity and implementing American policies on their citizen.

This new aspects of modernization that involve loss of cultural identity has led to conflicts in the public and political arena (Elteren 17). Islamists have challenged secular and western-oriented leadership and policies (Feldman 132). There is a great attempt to instill an appreciation of the Arabic culture on the people. Salient confrontation and political unrest have been identifiable with the process of boundary formation and maintained not only geographically but also culturally and socially. This is intended to re-establish personal and group identity in a world that is increasingly becoming alien to cultural difference.

The old Arab culture had a significant distinction between men from women. The extent of upholding the distinction was so strict, and the women rights were minimal. With the advent of the spread of Americanisation, the youth are seeking alternative and a more liberalized culture- more rights and equality for men and women. It is because of this that Americanisation, though viewed as a negative aspect of globalization, is widely accepted by the youth. They crave the opportunities that come with the American culture and see it as the future of their lives.

Effects of Americanisation

Americanization of economics

In the case of Arabian cultural imperialism, there is a lot of insensitivity to the original culture as is the case of other countries. There is the pull towards the quality and style of popular brands coupled with the effect of democracy and promises of freedom (McChesney 7). However, this is repelled by the materialism and the depreciation in moral values that come with them. The inanimate American objects that come with higher quality are more welcomed than the American tourist. The presence of American is viewed as a work of corrupt government official who is more oriented towards self-enrichment than the idealistic perspective of the nation (Feldman 144).

This produces a mixture of resentment and contempt for America basically because of the rise to prominence of America. Other people want to recover from the disasters that have been in the Middle East and move on with the process of modernization in a peaceful environment (Klein 8). Prominence or not, the effect of cultural imperialism is more than the dimension of mere market dominance. It is wrong to assume that America could invest billions of dollars in the war against Iraq without some personal interests other than peace (Klein 13). To gain insight into the perspective by which individuals have developed resistance to American expansion, it is important to determine the emotional and psychological impact of this unwanted visitor.

This discussion Americanisation goes beyond the geography and economics of cultural imperialism (Dresch and Piscatori 5). The factors shaping resistance to cultural imperialism are the same that caused resistance to the colonialists. In corporate circles, customers feel that American businesses take more than they are giving. Secondly, is the perception that by opting for American products, a local product is being sacrificed? The small businesses are threatened, absorbed or completely disappear because of the dominance of the American businesses. This shows that Americanisation has the effect of lowering the local businesses by dominating the completion.

The Americanisation also has the effect of corrupting the social norm. The brands introduced committed assaults on the local community by introducing trends that are not morally accepted in society. This is portrayed in their lack of coherence with the local culture. They fail to recognize the local customs and misuse of symbolic aspects of religion. In the Middle East, the color white is misused in most advertisements, a fact which is insulting to the religion. They also fail to recognize local preferences as being different from American preferences. Some studies classify this as American ignorance and insensitivity; I say it is proof of the American arrogance. However, Americanisation can be credited for its creation of economic ideas through which the citizen of the Middle East can improve their lives. This includes aspects such as technological innovation used in communication or engineering of infrastructure.

The American businesses have introduced a demeaning perspective of business, which focuses on hyper-consumerism. The businesses are more interested in money and not humanity. The choices that are unwanted are all suggestive that people do not matter. In most American dominated markets, people are less important than money.

Americanisation has the effect of mutilation of the political scenario of most Arab states. The dismemberment of Arab states has become a major issue in politics as it has set the stage for a radical nationalist campaign. The truncation of historic Arab liberalism is a way of creating an identity crisis (Dresch and Piscatori 13). This has deleterious effects on the stability of Arab states. Individuals in the states, therefore, have several identities which are all politically relevant depending on the context.

On the antagonists’ point of view, Americanisation has resulted in the establishment of democracies and has ensured the rights to citizens. This has been the case for Iraq and other dictatorship governments in the Middle East. By the establishment of democracy, the totalitarian aspects of dictatorial leadership are abandoned for a system in which everyone has a voice for political opinion. Government-allied to America have gained military benefits from the military hardware. This comes in the form of support from the American government to establish internal security for its allies.

Americanization of Islam

In the Islamic religious circles, the woman’s place is in the kitchen. With Americanisation, the aspect of equality is introduced into the way women are treated even in the mosques. Americanisation has introduced a new progressive view of the Quran which is aimed at finding out why women are treated as second class citizens. This view leads to women’s exemption from what was previously thought to be legally provided for in the Quran.

Even aspects such as covering the face and hands are therefore argued not to be enforced by the Quran. Arab women are awakening to the dawn of liberalization and equality and are claiming their equal share of roles and privileges in society. Women are demanding freedom to choose dress code and are developing in careers. As a result of empowerment from rewarding careers women are catching up to men and can be found behind the steering wheel, or having an opinion on who their life partner is. This is a situation that was not found in the old generation. This empowerment of women has raised the worth of a woman in Arab society to almost match the American standards.

With the improvement of women’s role in society, Americanisation is a pro-feminists culture. It seeks to empower women and make them recognize their true value -above the male domination. American culture is also against the violence against women that is common with male-dominated cultures such as the old Arab culture. It is also evident in its advocating for confronting rape and

A new wave of Islamic reform across the Arab countries has been introduced as a result of cultural imperialism. Most of the Islamic content of websites is directed towards an analytical look at Islam. Many young Muslims who have succumbed to the wave of Americanization tend to have a different view of Islam. They look at Islam as more cultural oriented and not religious. This is against the Islamic orthodoxy and they are therefore side-lined. This generation aims at increasing Americanization of Islam to have a more reformative and conservative position to the religion so that their liberalistic lifestyle is accommodated. Whether this modification of the religion would work or not, only time would tell.

The reformist of Islam calls for justice and equality in every society in the Middle East. This echoes the Jewish concepts of Tikkun Olam, otherwise called repairing the world. Muslim scholars who are for the Islamic liberalization say that application of Islamic spiritual traditions in their attempts to repairing the world. The early attempts at reforming Islam were referred to by people who did not consider the collective expertise of the west as a paradigm to be imitated.

According to the progression of Muslim reform, the change of Islam has already begun. The face of Islam is now becoming more inclusive and tolerant, encompassing aspects of Americanization such as liberalism and democracy in religion. In the past year, few mosques across the Middle East have become responsive with promises of more equality and less rebuke for differences. This has extended to the way women are treated in the mosques. American mosques are allowing women to pray in the main hall, get in through the main entrance and not the back side.

Americanization of the media

As a result of the high cost of production programs locally in the Middle East, media companies have resorted to importing programming and formats from the west. The imported talent shows and mimicry of dramas and sitcoms or competitions are indicative of cultural hybridity or global convergence (Alterman, 21). This, however, has led to the rise of hegemonic resistance to protect the Arab cultural domain.

This will protect the society from the silent evils that come with imported media such as secularism and youthful disobedience. The Saudi ulema fought to prevent the local sale of camera phones that have the ability to circulate pictures of naked women and unmonitored communication between the sexes. Though they were not very successful, they succeed in establishing ISP filters that restrict access to pornographic and other culturally offensive websites. Saudi media companies have a filtering mechanism for the television programs sponsored by their advertisers. These serve to balance the imported culture with their equivalent of culturally authentic programming.

The media is the most powerful tool of cultural imperialism. Information that pollutes the human brain is passed through the media. In the Arab region, the main direction of flow of media is towards American media content. According to Alterman, TV programs of western origin take a major part of the broadcasting time in all Arab state-controlled TV channels. In the establishment of Arabian TV in the late 1950s, programming has been more of Arabic and less import. The trend is, however, changing to the inverse. This is however with the exception of Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria who have made major increases of local productions in their line-ups (23).

For the Gulf countries, importation of programs has deepened and intensified. This is accelerated with the development of satellite TV broadcasting. There is an ensuing need for Arab programs to be enforced on the local channel. The imported programs are predominantly from the US, only 3000 hours are allocated for locally produced programs. The importation of global cultural and media products has led to most scholars concluding that America is using the Arabic media to spread its agenda of imperialism (Lynch 76).

The majority of Arab satellite stations have become more dependent on foreign content even copying the American TV style. They have adapted successfully the American TV concepts to the Arab screens. This in addition to the proliferation of American brands such as coca cola and McDonald’s, the TV programs have become popular, and commercials marketing the programs and goods have encouraged the consumerist lifestyle of the U.S.

Measures to balance the inequality of cultural and media content, some of which are disguised in the garb of cultural measures are ostensibly aimed to protect the cultural integrity and sovereignty of the country. The first measure is to implement trade barriers on the importation of media content. If not complete ban imposed on the content, the limitation on the amount of import or increases in taxation on imported material should be imposed, this has successfully been done in Syria, Egypt, and Iraq.

Arabs have a high preference for American or imported content because of the variety with which they come. These programs have demographic variables such as gender, education, urban dwelling. The generalization of audience behavior towards American content is difficult, so providing American content, which gives all to the audience is the easiest way out. Much work is yet to be done to reveal the preference of the Arab audience before implementing an Arab dominated media broadcast. Because this has not been done, many TV channels compete with each other for imported reality programs. Most of the western reality programs imported are Arab-need to make them more acceptable to the locals. The programs are carefully prepared to fit the local audience. The aim of this strategy is to fully incorporate an Arab perspective to the western content.

Several participants from the Arab countries are chosen to represent their country in a reality program. The participants are voted for by a majority of people from their own country. The underlying fact that remains unspoken despite arabinisation of this content is the fact that the implied lifestyle in the program is not Arabic. The participants are competing on how Americanised they have been in their lives. This encourages Americanization of all viewers and voters who appreciate the lifestyle they watch in the program. This shows that Americanisation has the exponential effect on society.

An example of such a reality program is the Big Brother show which failed miserably because of a lack of sufficient arabinisation of its content. With the original American content, the show was criticized by the Islamic religious groups and Arabic elites for the harm it meant for Islamic values. The show failed to strike a balance between the entertainment and social acceptability and compatibility with the social order. Another example is the boycott of consumption of an imported juice because it was advertised in a demeaning way which was not in compliance with Arabic traditions.

This effect of conquering media is a type of regressive Americanization of the Arab media culture and its manifestation is in more sinister forms (Alterman 45). In Qatar, a campaign was launched to protest against absenteeism of Arabic culture in the media house, al Jazeera. This came to light as it was noted that there is no representation of Arabs in the line of news anchors at al Jazeera. They also had a preference for western culture for their staff. The situation was acute when the company was accused of choosing Arabs with western facial feature (El-Nawawy and Iskandar 78). The unfortunate implication of al Jazeera’s strategy was that westerners are more educated, modern, professional and authoritative compared to Qatari or other Arab nationals (Arafa, Auter, and Al-Jaber, 67)

Even if the Arabic media gains a global reach through the internet, its audience will remain constrained by the language barrier. Its role in the global public sphere will be constrained. Berenger acknowledges that the use of the internet retains some structural impediments to the diffusion of Arab messages, not least the subordinate status of Arabic to be used as an internet language (98). There are too few Arabic websites to even be considered statistically significant. Arabic media, therefore, will have little effect in exporting their content to regions with a different culture. This is unless they compromise and give in to the wave of Americanization to learn the nearly universal language of English.

Anti-Americanization attempts

It is questionable whether the anti-Americanism campaign exists. Research by Timothy Mitchell notes that anti-Americanism is elusive and ubiquitous (Lynch 34). It is elusive because there is no concrete evidence for it. The marching crowds burning American flags show little evidence of the depth of anger or reason for anger. The public display of rage may be motivated by personal purposes. Public opinion surveys in the Arab states have fraught with methodological difficulties which range from natural suspicion of strangers asking sensitive political questions to the conflation of different sources of anger.

Analysis of anti-Americanism is trapped in a standoff between explanations that consider it important to have a rational response to the Americanisation. This is as opposed to the view that Americanism is essential and is supported by some cultural, political, or civilizational pathology. Anti-Americanism is more than simple opinions on politics, which may change with the fluidity of political events. Zonis (2001) indicates that this shows sensitivity to the American changes in foreign policy. There is a strong distrust which characterizes Arab attitudes towards America. This distrust is yet so deeply entrenched that it creates a resistance to change. It is crucial that this distrust is articulated in idioms of hypocrisy.

Advantages and disadvantages of Americanization

Americanisation is beneficial as it has increased economic interactions from which the Middle East economies have gained greatly. It has promoted capital mobility and international flow of money by encouraging foreign direct investment (Steger 2005). In this respect, Americanisation can be said to be equal to the liberalization of economies. Multinational corporations have benefited from this more than any other businesses. The domestic market of Middle Eastern states has benefited by the removal of plethora caused by language difference by assimilating a unified lingual basis for businesses.

Through assimilation of technology, Americanisation has resulted in a borderless world with a trans-national economy with the increased flow of information as most nations retain their national and political identity even after adopting the American culture but benefit from the increased in interdependent countries. The American culture incorporates elements of deregulation and privatization in the indigenous cultures.

There is also the advantageous characteristic of improvement of social aspects such as human rights and gender equality. Americanisation is depicted as a driver of repression and the global movement for social and gender equality. As are the result of Americanisation women rights have been enforced in most Middle East states and empowerment campaigns have been started. Social justices and democracies have also been enforced.

A disadvantage of Americanisation is the loss of cultural independence and critical development of colonial lordship (Akande, 2002). Arab culture is unique and should be preserved for its values, skills, and indigenous knowledge. Americanization results in ruptures in the generations of the society and the end, undermine the relevance of the indigenous Arab culture.

Conclusion

Americanization is the assimilation of American culture into indigenous cultures. It eventually leads to a loss of cultural diversity. The Middle East has undergone its share of Americanization, and the effects are noticeable. Some aspects that vividly show Americanization are the demand for gender equality by women. Women have learned of their social rights and are demanding to be treated in a more “modernized”, or should I say, an American manner. Other aspects are in the media wherein Americanized programs are allocated more airtime because of their popularity. It is also difficult to get a job in international media if one is not Americanized.

Americanization is beneficial in advocating for social justices and democracies of nations. It is also common to find that American allies are stronger as they have a ready supply of arms from America. They are also politically more stable. However, Americanization is disadvantageous as it is a way of loss of cultural identity.

Works Cited

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Lynch, Marc. Voices of the new Arab public: Iraq, Al-Jazeera, and Middle East politics today. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005. Print.

McChesney Robert. “Global Media, Neoliberalism and Imperialism”. Monthly Review 52.10 (2001). Web.

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