Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Are we proud that Asian/African girls are crowned Miss World/Universe?

My recent article on beauty (available below) was read by considerably conscious and learned people and I was lucky to get important feedback. Also the list of the members of the group created in the facebook to further this discourse is getting longer. By now they have exceeded 70. If you are also in the facebook please join and show your solidarity to this effort by joining Oriental Media Discourse Group. Having said this, I would like to give some clarifications about the perception of beauty dealt earlier.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Construction of Beauty: a post-colonial and neo-Marxist discourse

Is beauty a Myth?
It may be very difficult for the people to understand that Beauty is a myth. But, it is indeed solely a myth. Myths differ according to the cultures and beauty can differ from one’s eyes to the others’. So why, Wordsworth said beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. However, even our eyes are deceived. We are preoccupied by myths. Everything we see is framed by these myths and our sights are also guided, even without knowledge. There are important myths about the beauty of both male and female in the contemporary world. In this write-up, I would like to observe beauty myth created by media in light of colonialism and Capitalism.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Facebook, capitalism and the Imperialism

I was hanging around facebook till midnight. I occasionally do so when I have a lot of burden. Actually, facebook is providing me a wonderful place for diversion and also many times, it is a leisure time activity. It is also facilitating my social networks. In fact, I have met many friends with whom I had lost the contacts.

However, the coin has the other side as well, the grimmer and darker side. Many people will be writing about the pros and cons of facebook or similar social networks in the days ahead or some of them are already pursued. Here, I would like to see some of the grim sides of it (actually we always see negative sides better than the other.)

For that, let me begin with some of the comments that I wrote for one of my friend’s picture in facebook:
We are having discourse about encoding and decoding, signifier, signified and signification and denotation and connotation. How are you stuck in the discussion of a spelling error? Look the other way around. And it will become -----(here I had reversed the letter order of the name- deleted for privacy).... Does it have any meaning- maybe but deeper. Look from critical discourse analysis and feminist studies.

In these comments, I invited some serious discourses about how we look the world. What is constructed as beauty, good or elite in this world? To use Roland Barthes’ words, what are the myths that have been naturalized so that we feel them as true and fear questioning them? How are the interests of the bourgeoisie or the dominant class imposed upon us and how do we respond to them? In this era of global capitalism, what are the truths imposed upon us? What are the colonial legacies that we are still used to and what are newly being imposed? These questions obviously seek explanations and it is bestowed upon the scholars to answer them (Of course, the meaning of scholars will have to be deconstructed here to mean for those who are real scholars, not the guards of the dominant ideology.)

Actually, I was inviting my friends to have similar discourses. It was the eve of one of my exams and I was spending the precious moments in facebook! Than one of my friends wrote that Name carries many things and spelling error matters. It was my comment:
I think attachment to name is also seeking identity in the signifier. You know the name (omitted for privacy) doesn't necessarily mean for you. It is just because we understand. If all NOMA Regional Masters Program people begin telling you Indra, you will be Indra. So name is nothing. The person who you are is very important.
You know, that's why, I am not anymore using my family name. It attaches you to certain caste, creed, religion and nationality. I don't want to be bound by these things.

Of course, this question is worth pondering. Here comes Foucault, who told that people don’t have an inherent identity. It is constructed or created. Same is with the name or any other identity we belong to. And, of course it is temporary and changeable. So, I can be identified with any other name in later days. Foucault has the similar view about power. He says power is not possessed, it is exercised. The society or the people give somebody the premises to exercise power. There is optimism in Foucault’s analysis that where there is power, there is resistance.
The discourse that can be linked with my decision to use only given name is contrary to Foucault. Of course, regardless of whatever Foucault said, we can’t live without identity- that is the bottom line. But to tell in Marxist terms, there are two classes in the world- bourgeoisie and proletariat. By not using my family name, I will be free from other attachments like nationality, religion, caste or creed (My given name also comes from Hindu God Indra, but there is the bottom line- I can’t live without identity.) With this decision, it will be easier for me to be identified one among these two classes. Then, I wrapped up the day’s comments and countercomments with the following:
I am indebted to facebook but sorry that it is an example of media imperialism. The owner of facebook is being richer and richer while millions of people across the globe are spending their precious hours hanging around facebook for no good reason. This is the thing we should very seriously think about.

I think this is the most important of the ideas. I want to work separately in the myths about beauty, religion and culture in later days – hopefully they will appear in these pages. Here, I have raised two of the important ideas the imperialism and the economic implications.

The comment speaks many things about imperialism – like televisions and newspapers with global coverage or circulation, the facebook is being one of the few such social networks - we can say there is condition of oligopoly between facebook and myspace (it doesn’t matter if there are a couple of others). They have imperialized the world. They have established that we can’t live without them and that they have the power to show us the path. They are the pioneers and we are the followers.

Each visit by its members is counted in financial terms and world wealth is being accumulated in the hand of a handful of persons. According to Forbes magazine (May, 2008), Facebook has the annual transaction of 5 billion and its CEO made USD 1.5 billion last year. It is unimaginable but possible only in this extreme world imperialized by the West and ruled by global capitalism. This is not being envious because Mark Zuckerberg makes USD 1.5b a year but that how the money is and can be accumulated in a few hands. It is obvious in any other businesses as well but it is, conventionally, no business at all. As Zuckerberg makes so big money, millions of people across the world are starving to death and suffering from malnutrition. Possibly, soon there will be time the capitalism will have to answer these questions- how long a few people can live happily when their fellow human beings are starving to death?

Here, I would like to deal with another economic implication. I have seen many friends and even fallen myself victim to such trend of spending hours and hours in facebook without genuine cause. I guess millions of people are falling victim to such trend and the precious hours that could be spent in many other creative works are wasted. Thus, in economic terms, there can be two possible meanings of facebook trend- to the one hand world wealth is being accumulated in a few hands while many others are deprived of economic activities because they devote these hours for facebook.

There are dozens other negative effects - the cultural implication can’t be exaggerated which I wish to write in later days. I will expect my friends to come up with their wonderful ideas. To borrow Stuart Hall, we will find meaning through discourse.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Let's Redefine Media discourses

Dear Friends,

The Oriental Civilization is no less richer than the Western civilization which is dominant across the world these days. Many Western values have been guiding us through in our daily lives. For the last five hundred years or more explicitly since the Renaissance in Europe, they have gone far ahead. They ruled the world in terms of military power followed by the global expansion of market resulted from the industrial revolution.

However, the globalization and explicit cultural intrusion of the West in the Oriental cultures came after the Second World war. We have been injected the virus of so-called modernity, demolished or forgotten our cultural values and beliefs. Media as the agent of 'modernization' are at the top. The global expansion of news agencies, advent and expansion of 24/7 news channels since the 1990s, globalization of media ownership, market and content have largely contributed in promoting the world order which is vertical from West to East and North to South.

Though, there have become some efforts to bring about balance in this vertical flow if Information and cultural products, they have been less than enough. It may be an ideal period in the history to redefine our Eastern standards as the Eurocentric Western philosophy (And in the latter days, US Centric) is falling apart. And the world is turning to Asia, Africa and the Latin America- to India, China, Singapore, South Africa, Venezuela and Cuba. However, the odd is that when the West is turning to the East, we are just following their olden trends and trying to 'modernize' ourselves. This is ridiculous, impeaching and an impediment to the self development.

So, through this blog, I would like to invite the intelligentsia for the renewed discourses in Oriental philosophy and particularly globalization of media and cultural production.

Dhaka, November 14, 2008

A Critical Assesment of Theories in Gender Development*

1. Understanding Sex and Gender

Many People confuse and mistake the term gender with sex. Some think that these two are interchangeable words. However, they are distinct. Sex refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that make us male or female. Sex differences can be defined as differences on genetic or anatomical composition and function. According to Stewart et. al. (2003:3) although biological sex is important, recent researches have shown that men and women have relatively few attributes of behavior or communication which are innate and are determined by our biological sex.’ The sex is almost common in any animals in the world- male and female.

Gender is however socio cultural construction that makes us man or woman. In fact, the socio-cultural definition of man-like and woman-like behavior form our gender. Unlike sex, gender is specific and unique to human beings. It refers to the social construction of masculinity and femininity. Stewart et. al. (2003:4) have defined gender as ‘what culture makes out of raw material of biological sex.’

Thursday, November 13, 2008

First Update from Dhaka

I wonder why I could not make even a single entry in the last three months. Especially, as I arrived Dhaka on September 2, I should have mentioned about that. It marked a shift in my life. Back in Nepal, I was a Communications Officer of a reputed NGO and Lecturer in two prominent colleges in Kathmandu. I took the decision of giving up these all the perky jobs to achieve something and flew to Dhaka to join Regional Masters in Journalism, Media and Communication. It is a regional program jointly launched by Dhaka University (Bangladesh), Oslo University (Norway), College of Journalism and Mass Communication (Kathmandu, Nepal) and University of Punjab (Lahore, Pakistan). We are 26 students, six from Nepal and the rest from Bangladesh.
My experience in Dhaka is really different to what I thought it may be like before I came here. There are a lot of good people who really love Nepal and Nepalese. Too many people in the streets and many beggars sometimes create nuisances. It is far hotter than Kathmandu and the food habit is different, luckily rice and dal makes the main food. After nearly two months, we are happily settled in the International hall of the University. In the hall, we feel like home because nearly 50 Nepalese students are staying here and students operate their own mess.
The University of Dhaka is an ideal place to study. The University established in 1921 bears the pride and was known as 'Oxford of the East'. It is the residential University and majority number of nearly 35,000 students stay in the residential Halls. Most of the teachers of the University and especially in the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism are well qualified, learned and trained and the teafching styles they employ are interactive. Virtue or sin of Dhaka is that it is like the centre of pirated books. Far more variety of books than in Kathmandu are found in very cheaper price. I hope to collect a lot of books in media studies and take them back home after completing two years of study.
Stay in Dhaka or any part of Bangladesh is cheaper. That's why many Nepalese students choose this destination graduate and Post graduate courses especially in medicine, pharmacy, engineering and other faculties. Rickshaws make inevitable part of life here. It is sometimes difficult for those who came from relatively opener society like of ours because Bangladesh is somehow closed society and even drinking is prohibited.
In these two years, I am trying to see the images of South Asia that the global media are showing to the rest of the world. Globalization of news, stereotyping, othering and common practices in the South Asia are my areas of interest in media studies while Gender also significantly attracts me.
I hope to upload my articles about media studies in the separate blog mediadiscourses.blogspot.com. Please keep visiting it as well.