What Evidence do you see of a Japanization or Africanization and Similar Processes in the UAE Culture?
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the most westernized countries in the wider Arabian Peninsula. In this regard, it offers a practical example of how western cultural values influence the social and economic aspects of the country’s growth. Although western cultural tendencies are predominantly part of the current UAE social and economic makeup, the influences of other cultures are also present.
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The effects of multiple cultures on the UAE social life have stemmed through the country’s inclination towards cultural hegemony. However, some observers deem the hegemony of cultures as a threat to the cultural diversity because of its potential to wipe out the cultural attributes of smaller groups of people who rank low on a country’s social hierarchy. However, this threat is perceptive and subjective because the UAE has transformed itself from a small desert region into a cultural hub that many global cultural groups call home. For example, there is evidence of Africanization, Japanization, and Indianization of the UAE society. However, Indian culture has had the most profound influence on the country compared to the other two subsets of global culture.
The influence of the Indian culture in the UAE is visible through the acceptance of Indian cultural values in the UAE social scene. The same aspects of culture have been integrated into the country’s linguistic makeup because some Indian words have been incorporated as part of mainstream languages spoken in the UAE. The huge influence of the Indian culture on the UAE partly stems from the large population of Indian workers who live in the country. They provide the audience and influence that the Indian culture continues to have in the UAE.
The huge population of Indians in the UAE has created an opportunity for the community to impart their values in the country and to develop strong social networks that provide the infrastructure through which the Indian culture permeates the UAE society. Consequently, several Indian-based associations, such as the Indian Association and the Goan Cultural Society, operate in the UAE. Indians have also changed the social makeup of the country through the freedom to worship.
This influence is evident in the construction of temples in cosmopolitan cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi. At the same time, the Indian community in the UAE has had an influence on the UAE social scene through the establishment of Indian restaurants, which exclusively serve Indian food. Consequently, locals have accepted Indian food as part of the UAE’s cultural scene, thereby allowing residents and foreigners to sample foreign delicacies and learn more about the art of making the food.
Lastly, the popularity of cricket among Indians living in the UAE also demonstrates the cultural diversity of the UAE, which the Indian community has propagated in the UAE through its sports culture. Hinged on these pillars of the society, the Indian influence on the UAE culture continues to grow.
Comparatively, the influence of the African culture in the UAE is not as profound as that of Indians. However, its lack of popularity does not mean that the cultural subset is not integrated into the UAE social fabric because different sections of society celebrate the African culture. Notably, the Africanization of the UAE culture has happened in small sections of the UAE society, as seen through events held in the country to celebrate Eastern and Western African cultures.
They are organized by stakeholders from both within and outside the UAE through a cultural integration model to celebrate African heritage and cultural products. For example, African cultural fairs that are held in the UAE have exposed some locals to elements of indigenous African heritage, thereby giving them an opportunity to learn about African lifestyles and integrating some of them in their lives. The same cultural integration has also happened through art where UAE residents interact with artists from Africa and learn about their craft.
Through the same framework, residents have sampled African music and food in restaurants, nightclubs and social places in the UAE where African culture is celebrated. Although Africans predominantly frequent most of these social places, such gatherings provide an opportunity for people who want to sample African cultural products through music and to get a sense of how the African culture feels like.
The influence of the African culture in the UAE is similar to that of the Japanese. However, the influence of the latter culture on the country has been achieved through language integration. For example, proponents of UAE-Japan integration have introduced language exchange programs to teach more UAE residents about Japan and its culture. Consequently, some UAE residents are learning the Japanese language as a course in their education curriculum. Evidence of Japanese cultural influences in the UAE is also visible through the popularity of the Japanese pop culture in the UAE art and theatre scenes.
The influence of the Japanese culture in the UAE has partly been popularized by the acceptance of Japanese doctrines in the country. For example, Japanese martial arts have been popularized in the UAE film and theatre industries. At the same time, Japanese who live in the UAE also host events that celebrate their culture. These events are well attended by residents from the UAE who are curious to know more about the culture, thereby fostering integration.
The extent of synchrony has spread further to the UAE education system where Japanese–based cultural products, such as martial arts, are taught in institutions of higher learning. In the same setting, events such as design technology and tea ceremonies are also held to teach locals about the Japanese culture. The influence of Japan in the UAE has also been evidenced in the art scene where notable Japanese personalities have sold their art by interacting with locals in a broader cultural exchange program where both sets of culture learn from one another. Broadly, the influences of India, Japan, and Africa show that the UAE is a cultural melting point in the Middle East.
For Tomlison, Cultures are a Mixture of Many Others. Does it mean that Cultural Imperialism is a Meaningless Concept?
According to Tomlison, most cultures are products of several other smaller cultural subsets. This analogy has emphasized the importance of understanding the role of cultural imperialism in modern society. This concept simply refers to the cultural aspects of unequal relationships of communities around the world. Stated differently, imperialism stems from the dominance of a powerful national ideology over another one, which has less influence. Cultural imperialism is often associated with economically powerful states of the world, such as the United States (US). This type of imperialism may manifest in different ways, including (but not limited to) an expression of dominant feelings, values, formal policies, and brute strength (such as military force).
There is a general understanding that cultures have always influenced one another through community interactions. In fact, some of the richest cultural identities celebrated in the world today emerged from the basic process of cultural convergence between two or more communities. Sudan, Athens, and Mexico are a few countries that enjoy a “rich” social makeup because of cultural convergence. The cultural superiority of these countries has happened even when one community dominates another one economically or politically. In other words, cultural exchange has always happened even in contexts where imperialism or inequality fosters. In such contexts, a semblance of tolerance for cultural diversity often occurs.
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Based on the arguments provided by Tomlison above, cultural imperialism appears to be a meaningless concept because it is based on the fundamental assumption that globalization creates the homogenization of cultures. However, this reasoning is flawed because although internationalization may seem like it is creating “sameness” in cultural identities; it is having the opposite effect in that it is providing a larger framework for accommodating cultural diversity.
Therefore, globalization provides a broad framework through which different cultures can interact and borrow from one another. Based on this understanding, critics of globalization and the internationalization of cultures fail to understand that there is no “sameness” of culture, because there is no room for the dominance of one identity if diversity is celebrated.
The best example to use in showing the meaningless nature of cultural imperialism is the internationalization strategies adopted by multinational companies when they venture into new markets. For example, in an Indian campaign developed by IBM, the American company assured the local population (Navajos) that they would be protecting and celebrating their culture if they used the company’s keyboards. A similar explanation for cultural integration is also seen in Saudi Arabia because military officers stationed in the country have accepted traditional Muezzin as a daily social practice. Muezzin is associated with the local Islamic practice of praying five times a day.
These examples show that cultural diversity is being appreciated through globalization. Although it is important for critics to voice their concerns about the possible spread of cultural imperialism in a globalized society, it is also vital to understand that internationalization has brought a strong sense of richness and diversity to different countries. For example, in the UAE, the acceptance of western culture has not necessarily propagated the ideology of cultural imperialism because it has made the country richer in terms of diversity. Therefore, the UAE is seen as a pioneer in the Middle East in terms of global leadership in not only the economic advancement of the Middle East but also its social growth.
The threat of cultural imperialism can only have merit if globalization is viewed from the point of view of a tourist. In other words, there is a general sense of commercialization of cultures to produce standard tourism products.
Therefore, a person who visits a foreign destination as a traveler is likely to experience cultural hegemony, which could add to feelings of cultural imperialism. However, for cultural imperialism to occur this way, the person who experiences it has to be in the “privileged” position of a tourist. Since tourists are a monitory group of people in society, they cannot provide the basis for drawing conclusions or making generalizations about the concept of cultural imperialism.
The above insights show that the concept of cultural imperialism is inherently flawed because it is premised on the assumption that there is a “sameness” of cultural ideologies, which is not the case. Instead, the global culture is a mixture of many others. Therefore, while it may seem like there are similarities in cultural ideology; the global culture is actually a collection of different cultural identities. This reasoning also makes the global culture flexible enough to accommodate cultural diversities that exist in society. Therefore, the potential for cultural clashes is minimized.
Although it is important to understand the diversity of a global society, it is also essential to note that the impressive variety of the global cultural system is declining because of cultural synchronization. This trend is without historical precedent, thereby making it difficult for experts to predict its effects on the global cultural landscape. Therefore, people who view the world as one holistic cultural space are likely to support the view that cultural convergence is happening faster than any other time in history. They are also likely to agree with the view that this is a new phenomenon.
Overall, it is important to understand that cultural imperialism is becoming a meaningless concept as researchers continue to demystify what the global culture looks like. Indeed, as highlighted in this paper, the concept of cultural synchronization has no historical precedent and cultural imperialism is losing meaning in this context.
What Does the Article by Tyrell tell us about the Capacity of Nonwestern Countries to resist Western Culture?
The article by Tyrell teaches us that nonwestern countries have a strong potential to resist western cultural influences. Evidence exists through the Indian cinema industry, which has shown tremendous potential for nonwestern countries to resist the cultural influx of western cultural dogma in the film industry. Notably, the Indian cinema industry provides evidence that although millions of dollars can be spent to promote western cultural ideologies in a foreign land, locals would still treasure their cultural values. This phenomenon shows that nonwestern countries have tremendous potential in resisting western cultural influences.
Here, the opposition to western cultural philosophies in the Indian film industry can be largely attributed to the failure of stakeholders to underestimate and misinterpret the role played by Bollywood on the local population. Tyrell links this problem to its failure to align with first world and third world dichotomy of cinematic understanding because it does not fall in either of the two groups of theories. Therefore, the capacity for nonwestern countries to resist western influences has created doubt regarding the potential for Hollywood to continue dominating the global cultural space in the future.
Should we expect to see Hollywood’s Influence Decline in the Future?
Hollywood’s influence on other cultures is a classic example of the Americanization of the world. The US culture is unique to others because of the identities, values, and norms it propagates. For example, Tyrell attributes it to a culture based on civic norms that promote the dignity and values of all groups of people, despite their religious, ethnic, or cultural backgrounds. Regardless, of whether Americans practice these values and norms, or not, there is a consensus that Americanization is premised on promoting individualistic, democratic and capitalist values. Notably, these cultural principles have been espoused through Hollywood and the larger American film industry. However, several researchers have opposed their dominance.
For example, there has been opposition to the Americanization of the European culture, as was witnessed through the hostility of some European countries against imported cultural products from America. In the Middle East, the opposition to US cultural values has not been as profound. Relative to this assertion, the impact of American social and cultural values in the UAE and the larger Middle East has been researched through the influence of film (Hollywood).
Particularly, Tyrell has analyzed this effect by reviewing the impact of a film called “Dallas” on the national identities of Middle East cultures and found that it has the potential to dilute the cultural pillars of associated countries. Consequently, the commercialization of American cultural values on other nationalities is a form of cultural imperialism. One French Minister of culture has been quoted saying as much.
We should expect to see Hollywood’s influence in the UAE and the wider Middle East decline further because people tend to resist cultures that undermine their local values. Particularly, this outcome has been observed in situations where there are cultural conflicts. At the same time, the influence of Hollywood’s cultural dominance in the Middle East is expected to decline because American corporations that support the industry are primarily not motivated to drive the agenda of cultural dominance but rather to maximize their potential to make a profit. In other words, they are not culturally inclined but rather have an incentive to be secular.
Again, the motivation to be secular is primarily driven by the potential to maximize profit as opposed to advancing the American cultural philosophy. Tyrell gives an example of the difficulty that a content producer who is overly American may experience when selling the same content to a global audience because people are likely to reject the content if it does not align with their local cultures. Therefore, the content producer may find it necessary to abandon the “American” label to sell more content to a global audience. This example shows the opposition that Hollywood is experiencing when advancing American cultural ideologies throughout the world. Therefore, its influence could decline in the future.
What Do We Learn about Cultural Globalization through the Indian Cinema Industry?
The popularity of Bollywood in India and other developing countries have prompted people to rethink what they know about cultural imperialism through cinematic influences. Notably, Bollywood has shown the potential of using alternative cinematic approaches to advance unconventional cultural dogmas with widespread commercial success. Therefore, similar to the way Hollywood has dominated the cultural narrative of the world in the past few decades, Bollywood has shown the same potential, except that it is promoting the Indian culture, which is fundamentally different from the generic Americanization of popular culture.
Here, it is important to understand that India is not the only country, which has achieved significant success in the development of alternative cultures in the film industry. Indeed, Mexico (through Telemundo), Brazil, South Africa, Hong Kong, and China are a few other countries that have shown a similar potential in changing the cultural narrative of popular culture, which has been historically dominated by the American film industry.
Broadly, the success of the Indian film industry, relative to the success of Hollywood in the commercial global space, teaches us that third world countries could also provide a significant force of cultural domination, as has been the case with America in the past decades. Indeed, Bollywood has established itself as a successful international film industry with sophisticated distribution and production capacities that would propel it to become a dominant cultural force in India and around the world.