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How the Human Beings Make Their Own Culture, and Could Therefore Change It

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Said, E 1982, ‘from “Opponents, Audiences, Constituencies, and Community”’ rpt. in Harrison C & Wood, P (eds) 1992, Art in Theory. 1900- 1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, UK, pp.1086-1088.

Classen, C 1996, ‘Sugar Cane, Coca-Cola and Hypermarkets: Consumption and Surrealism in the Argentine Northwest’ in Howes D (ed), Cross Cultural Consumption: Global Markets, Local Realities, Routledge, London, pp.39-54 plus notes pp.195-208.

Edward Said (November 1935 – September 2003) is a Palestinian born in Jerusalm. He is university professor of Comparative Literature at Columbia University and an influential cultural author (Said 1982, p1086). His book Orientalism (1978) addresses his ideas on Orientalism in his own words, a Western style of Eastern cultures (Said 1982, p1086). His work generally ties to the imperialist societies and represents the issue of politics. In 1983, he published ‘from “Opponents, Audiences, Constituencies, and Community”’.

Constance Classen (1957 –) is an award-winning writer and researcher based in Montreal, Canada. She holds a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from McGill University and is the author of various essays and books on the cultural life of the senses such as ‘Worlds of Sense: Exploring the Senses in History and Across Cultures (Routledge, 1993)’. In 1996, she published ‘Sugar Cane, Coca-Cola and Hypermarkets: Consumption and Surrealism in the Argentine Northwest’ (Canadianicon 2012).

Those two readings provide examples of how the human beings make their own culture, and could therefore change it. This paper briefly shows noninterference and interference in the every world life and how those two may have occurred in the global consumerism context. In the essay ‘from “Opponents, Audiences, Constituencies, and Community”’, Said does not directly define culture, but he does use some textual signs refer to that culture was a synonymous with the ‘humanities’ or ‘literature’. The essay’s intention seems to be the uncritical situation of ‘noninterference’ and ‘specialization’ that might inform and represent almost entirely current academic and theoretical world and, at the same time, the exposure of a new ethos of interference from a critical consciousness.

Said first discusses the idea of “noninterference”. He (1982, p1087) states that “the particular mission of the humanities is, in the aggregate, to represent noninterference in the affairs of the everyday world”. There is a dynamic cultural force that has focus on the life of humane mind in the academy, politicians has focused on running our society on a significant scale, and the general people having the actual experiences that underlie all the theories that the academics and politicians use to make their decisions. In this reading, noninterference for Said mean that academics, especially in the humanities, function as if their fields are free from interference from the everyday world and as if academics are free from having to interfere themselves and furthermore. Said (1982, p1087) also advocates that there be more exchange of ideas among various segments of society, because “noninterference for the humanist means laissez-faire: ‘they’ can run the country, we will explicate Wordsworth and Schlegel”.

It is Said’s declaration that non-interference and rigid specialization results in a social context where control is easily garnered over individuals and communities not enabled with the technical language and literature studies of a given discussion (Said 1982, p1087). Noninterference in signifying the possibility of inquiry free from the every world, help to cover over but also continue relationships academics often ignore and some would choose to deny. This assertion implies that there is a limit to what most human can learn. Said (1982, p1087) future argues that people need to breakdown the borders between areas of specialization to make critical inroads on exclusionary forms of power, furthermore, this power would arise from the based system of ‘journalism and the production of information’. He states that

Instead of noninterference and specialization, there must be interference, a crossing of borders and obstacles, and a determined attempt to generalize exactly at those points where generalizations seem impossible to make. Said 1982, p1087

The secondary reading ‘Sugar Cane, Coca-Cola and Hypermarkets: Consumption and Surrealism in the Argentine Northwest’ is reading about the impact of global consumerism in a specific context. Classen in this essay has depicted that global consumerism embodies a form of cultural imperialism imposed by the developed countries that might not overwhelm or disruption the traditional local culture. However, Classen wonders that the foreign products were often co-opted and re-invented within the local contexts, sometimes in surprising and inconsistent fashions. Classen provides some examples of how definition of noninterference and interference may have occurred in the consumption of the values of consumer culture in Northwestern Argentina.

On the one hand, Classen considered Northwestern Argentina import foreign consumer products is a kind of ‘laissez-faire’ without cultural disruption. Classen (1996, p40) described that “one of ‘surreal’ aspects of life in Northwestern Argentina is that produced by the influx of foreign consumer goods into the region in the late twentieth century”. For example, Classen (1996, p41) described that there were German toys, English china and Brazilian coffee in the stores, and the theatres offered performances by renowned European musicians. In the late twentieth century, street vendors not only sell traditional local goods, but also aspirins, cassettes, razors, artificial flowers, and posters of foreign rock stars (Classen 1996, p41). More than that, Classen (1996, p41) pronounced that people who live in certain remote areas may lack running water,Coca-Cola is carted up to the most isolated mountain villages on the backs of mules. According to Classen, “such imports could usually be incorporated into the local way of life without much cultural disruption” (1996, p41). Therefore, all of these previous examples are good for Said’s theory of noninterference, meant a kind of ‘laissez-faire’.

On another hand, Classen provided ‘Santa Claus in the summer in Northwestern Argentina’ as an example of Said’s definition of interference. Santa Claus is traditional North image of wintry Christmas that has become increasingly prevalent in Northwestern Argentina. Today, Santa Claus often involves extreme ironical relationships between subtropical Northwest climate and its features associated with winter in Northwestern Argentina. Classen wish to highlight some of the successes, however, inconsistencies, miserable and failures that could result from skirting the hard divide between wintry Christmas and sunshine of an Argentine December.

Classen’s writing ‘The hypermarket’ as another excellent example in which might vindicate Said’s interpretation of interference. Classen (1996, p48) describes that American breakfast cereals are introduced to the supermarkets of Northwest Argentina at a price of seven dollars a box. “Uncertain as to how to consumer the exotic breakfast cereals, Northwesterners at first ate them straight out of the box as a snack food. Later they were discovered to mix well with yogurt, and yogurt now comes packaged with its own topping of cornflakes or puffed rice”. Classen (1996, p49) also described the logo of the “Hipermercado Libertad” on which the American Statue of Liberty become logo stylized image, which mean Libertad not represent the freedom of speech, but represent the freedom to shop. Interference in those two examples addressed that people in Northwestern Argentina might often rely on the social and government controlled mediums to gain knowledge or culture, and sometimes they used this to their consumption culture and plays on this ideas. However these ideas generated some ironical and odd results. Therefore, it could be seen ‘interference refers to a generalization of information when a generalization seems impossible to make’ (Said 1982, p1087), which was described in Said’s essay.…...

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