Henna and Hip Hop: The Politics of Cultural Production and the Work of Cultural Studies #2 Assign.


         For our second group assignment, I found this article by Sunaina Maira on cultural appropration and commodification of cultural practice. Much like what we learned from the lectures, Maira’s article is a product of research into hip-hop culture and other forms of cultural commodification and how other ethnic groups emulate and internalize its practices, presumably in order to look ‘cool’ or fit in.Like bell hook, she noted that”Black style is viewed as the embodiment of a particular machismo, the object of racialized desire, and simultaneously, of racialized fear”. She also touch on the Maddona music video in which she wore Bhindi, a symbol of  India’s cultural identity. Whatever the case may be, vultures of capitalism(or corporations) would not hesitate to exploit any cultural practices and turn it into commodity. To demonstrate this point, she cites “commodification of hip hop and of youth style in general has meant that brand-name “gear,” such as jackets, shoes, and backpacks, are taken careful note of…” .In terms of relevancy to our lectures, bell hooks, Alex kolowitz, John Galbraith, Adorno and Horkheimer all comes to mind. Close reading and logical interpretations of their works link us back to substance of this article , to the extent that consumption and corporation is concern.

     With regards to my views on her article, I think that people from different cultures should be able to peaceably and possitively benefits from that of others. In a globalized world that we live in, it would be entirely impossible for anyone to control the means of cultural appropriation and commodificaton. After all, one might argue that there is benefit to be derived from the acceptance and popularity of a certain culture when there are lots of other ethnic groups subscribing to it, which might also suggest the importance of the value or cause underlying that culture. Although corporations might have entirely different motive than someone who may be genuinely interested in learning or adopting culture of the other, individuals should enjoy the freedom and opportunity to learn from the values of others and then make conscious decisions as to whether to adopt or drop. However, motivation for learning from or adopting cultural practices of  others(regardless of what ethnicities) shouldn’t include disrespect, insensitivy or any other ill motives toward the culture one claims to admire or derive some sort of benefit from. In other words, it would make no sense for ethnic group X to claim to adopt the cultural practices of ethnic group Y while the former is steadfastly clinging on to practices that seek to deprive the latter of the benefits that ethnic group X considers their values. In other words, the attitude that ‘I want to be like you or benefit from some of your values’ but I  don’t want you to benefit from my values, carries challenges or confussion of its own. This attitude not only vitiate one’s claim about their admiration of the culture of the other, but also provide insight into the double standard and hypocrisy of the person making the claim. I may have gone off topic a bit, but I think this is one of the issues that seems to be prevalence in North America, and probably in some societies as well: the use and commodification of the ‘other’ but with reservation as to the acceptance of the other in one’s own society. I think bell hooks and others speak well to these issues.

Richard Lokeya




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