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Mike Featherstone
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Mike Featherstone

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  1. Mike Featherstone • Undoing Culture: Globalization, Postmodernism and Identity: “An Introduction: Globalizing Cultural Complexity”

  2. Mike Featherstone • It is assumed that culture has become decentred, that there is an absence of coherence and unity; culture can no longer provide an adequate account of the wrold with which to construct or order our lives. 1 • Culture, long on the periphery of the social science field, has now been moved towards the centre. 3 • It is also important to examine the ways in which globalization has produced both the modern and the postmodern, in the sense that the power struggles between nation-states, blocs and other collectivities gradually became globalized as more parts of the world were drawn into the competing 5

  3. Mike Featherstone • Heterogeneous cultures become incorporated and integrated into a dominant culture which eventually covers the whole world. 6 • Such an emergent global society is clearly far from being comparable to the conventional sociological notion of society which is grounded in the nation-state, and as in the case […] and emphasizes normative integration and common cultural values. 7 • In contrast to the assimilation, or melting pot, models which worked off strong insider/outsider divisions in which identity was seen as fixed, today there is a greater acknowledgment that people can live happily with multiple identities. 9

  4. Mike Featherstone • What this suggests is that an important part of the processes which are leading to intensified globalization has to be understood in terms of the movement of people around the world. 10 • More people are living between cultures, or on the borderlines, and European and other nation-states, which formerly sought to construct a strong exclusive sense of national identity, more recently have had to deal with the fact that they are multicultural societies as ‘the rest’ have returned to the West in the post-1945 era. 10 • From the point of view of postmodernism, modernity has been seen as entailing a quest to impose notions of unity and universality on thought and the world. 10

  5. Mike Featherstone • This is because modernity is seen as both a Western project and as the West’s projection of its values on the world. 10 • In effect modernity has allowed Europeans to project their civilization, history and knowledge as civilization, history and knowledge in general. 10 • Instead of the confident sense that one is able construct theory and map the world from the secure place of the centre, which is usually seen as higher and more advanced in symbolic and actual terms, postmodernism and postcolonialism present theory as mobile, or as constructed from an eccentric site, somewhere on the boundary. 10

  6. Mike Featherstone • This conscious mixing of traditions and crossing of boundaries highlights the ways in which the rest, no so obviously visible in the West, have always been part of the West. 11 • All these factors should be grounds for rethinking the category [‘organic ethnic communities]; yet it is the fact that blacks are both inside and outside the development of Western culture within modernity which is the biggest problem. 11 • […] slavery is the premise of modernity, something which exposes the foundational ethnocentrism of the Enlightenment project with its idea of universality, fixity of meaning and coherence of the subject. 11

  7. Mike Featherstone • Postmodernism and postcolonialism have pointed to the problem of cultural complexity an the increasing salience of culture in social life through the greater production, mixing and syncretism of cultures which were formerly held separate and firmly attached to social relationships. 12 • The radical implications of postmodernism and postcolonial theory are to question the very idea of the social, the unity of modernity and the metanarratives of the Western Enlightenment tradition with its belief in universalism and progress. 12

  8. Mike Featherstone • This suggests a spatial relativization of the West in a world which ceases to be its own projection or mirror image. 12 • Works such as [Edward] Said’s (1978 [Orientalism]) emerged from the fact that: • (a) more people are crossing boundaries and have multiple affiliations which question taking-for-granted stereotypes; • (b) there has been a shift in the global balance of power away from the West to the extent that it cannot now avoid listening to the ‘other’, or assume that the latter is at an earlier stage of development. 12

  9. Mike Featherstone • It is no longer possible to conceive global processes in terms of the dominance of a single centre over the perepheries. 12 • Rather there are a number of competing centres which are bringing about shifts in the global balance of power between nation-states and blocks and forging new sets of interdependencies. 13 • This leads to a number of important questions about the image of culture we have long operated with in the social sciences. 13

  10. Mike Featherstone • This image may have presented an oversimplified view of a culture as something integrated, unified, settled and static; something relatively well-behaved which performed the task of oiling the wheels of social life in an ordered society. 13 • If this image is now seen as inadequate to capture the current phase of globalization with its nation-state deformation processes, how did it arise and become so influential? 13 • It has meant that ‘the rest are increasingly speaking back to the West’ and along with the relative decline of Western power it has required that the West has increasingly been forced to listen. 13

  11. Mike Featherstone • It is no longer as easy for Western nations to maintain the superiority of adopting a ‘civilizational mission’ towards the rest of the world, in which the others are depicted as occupying the lower rungs of a symbolic hierarchy, which they are gradually being educated to climb up to follow their betters. 13 • Hence globalization makes us aware of the sheer volume, diversity and many-sidedness of culture. 14 • Syncretisms and hybridizations are more the rule than the exception – which makes us raise the question of the origins and maintenance of the particular image of culture we have long operated with in the social sciences. 14