Friday, May 06, 2005

Asian American Heritage Month, day 6

The Invisible Silk Road: Modern Appropriation of Asian Cultural Artifacts Note: this post is being published a few days later than it was originally written. In an homage to today's Cornell Slope Day, I'm posting a quick excerpt about Appropriation of Asian Cultural Artifacts. There's something about Asian cultural symbols and parts of our age-old traditions and heritage that seems to be so easily taken by American pop culture. Western imperialism takes it a step further by colonializing Eastern culture, destroying original meanings and history, and finding no problem with the subsequent destruction of the ancient originals. Today, while at Slope Day's non-alcoholic alternative, Slope Fest, I saw a tatoo stand in which students were hawking stenciled tatoos for the drunken masses. Among them was a small collection of bastardized Chinese words, their calligraphy mutated and their meanings mutilated. The staff at the stand were unconcerned when I immediately pointed out the glaring problems with the symbols, but I, being already loud and obnoxious about my disdain for Slope Day 2005, found my rantings falling on deaf ears. Thanks to elliott back for snapping this photo. For an in-depth discussion of how messed up these characters are, see HanziSmatter. Western pop culture is so comfortable with taking without thought to consequence -- who cares about the original meaning of a Chinese character if it looks "cool"? (And after all, Chinese languages are, by virtue of its foreigness "cool" -- Orientalism for the modern age.) There's an ever-increasing obsession with appropriating Asian culture into America, capitalizing upon the 'new-ness' and 'different-ness' of Japanese anime, Chinese cultural robes, and Indian henna. Yet, this is the same different-ness and exotic-ness that makes Asian culture more easily assimlated into America than the Asian people. I will never forget the story electroman told me of the guy who tried to argue that acupuncture, being practiced by Westerners, should now be considered no part of Chinese culture, but part of American culture.


Blogger tian said...

How can Acupuncture even be considered "American"?! I can't believe this type bullshit has been blindly accepted by the Americans.

5/09/2005 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger phillyjay said...

Most americans don't accept this and know better.Just saying.

5/09/2005 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

supposedly because so many americans resort to acupuncture and that it has become part of new age therapy, it's part of american culture.

don't ask me -- the logic didn't make sense to me either. ^_^

5/10/2005 08:44:00 AM  

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