The Cultural Tourism Debate: Curated culture?

Good Morning everyone,

I’m excited to be your guide for this journey. We will be walking through this typical area and you will have the opportunity to see the native people as they live their everyday lives. Please feel free to take as many pictures as you would like. I will talk about the history of the area and its people and you will have the chance to interact with them, attempt to speak their language and purchase any souvenirs that you find interesting. We will make a stop at the most famous landmark of this great people and chat about it’s significance and how it came to be here.

Please note that we will be breaking for lunch around 12:00 pm, where we will be tasting this region’s most typical dishes and meeting the people who have prepared the food for us. There will be time for bathroom breaks but we ask that you keep up with the group as much as possible.

Allright, let’s get started then, first stop: Tour Eiffel

Wednesday Nov. 25th, the discussion surrounding Comaroff and Comaroff sparked a debate about the implications of cultural, or Ethnicity inc.. Our discussion centered around tribes and people of the global south using their cultural heritage and artifacts to attract or capitalize on a growing tourist interest in authentic cultural experiences. We discussed the potential for this to stunt or disrupt cultural values and understandings of a people as well as a concern for the exploitativeness of selling one’s culture. Though I cannot discount that there is an exploitive element, and that there is always a cost for exploitation, I cannot help but to defend a people’s right to engage in selling their curated culture. I would also like to draw similarities, much like Hailey did in her discussion of the Canadian Heritage Museum, to how the global north, and I use Paris here as an example, has for decades exploited and promoted their culture for tourism. This sort of tourist industry is not questioned nor denounced. People constantly travel to Europe to experience the different cultural elements: food, people, cities, language, dress, atmosphere etc. in search of the authentic experience. Should not the people of the global south be permitted to engage in this same trade of cultural exploitation for financial gain? Why should their motives and goals be questioned and northern cultural tourism be accepted and celebrated?

Beneath the ‘Ice’ of Canadian ‘Nice’

Canadians tend to pride themselves on their multiculturalism and niceness. Not only is this evident in policy in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, which designates  multiculturalism as a “fundamental characteristic of the Canadian heritage and identity,” but it is evident in our media – for example, the television show Little Mosque on the Prairie – and throughout everyday life of Canadians as well. Sure, the Canadian identity is inherently multicultural, but are we truly that nice to the diverse cultures that exist throughout Canada?

With the increasing amount discriminatory actions occurring in Canada as a result of the Paris terrorist attack, I could not help but notice the perfect illustration these actions provide for what Morely referred to as “regressive forms of reactionary nostalgia” rooted in postmodern anxieties (Morely, p.411, 2001). The physically, verbally, and virtually harmful acts inflicted upon the Muslim community in Canada could be said to be a reaction to the postmodern anxieties that had existed in some Canadians prior to the attack. These anxieties involve the nostalgia for the “lost world” of settled homogeneity in the contemporary multicultural nation of Canada (Morley 439, 2001).

Mosques being set on fire, Muslims being attacked and beaten, and death threats towards Muslims are the barbaric acts of Canadians that are ignorant and archaic reactions to the Paris attacks. The discriminatory acts are made not only towards the refugees Canada has been graciously allowing into the country, but also towards immigrants and second or third generation Canadian Muslims. These Canadians have based the arguments of their acts around the generalization that the entire Muslim community is a threat to Canada. Not only is it fallacious to act upon such generalizations about a group of people, but it is also hugely problematic in relation to Canadian national identity.

If the Canadian population chooses to pride itself on being a multicultural nation, then how is it even remotely plausible to have a portion of the population discriminating against another portion of the population that has flourished in Canada for decades? Furthermore, this discrimination completely derails any notion of Canadian ‘niceness.’ Sure, Canadians say ‘sorry’ and hold the door for others more than other nations, but if Canadians cannot extend that niceness to the very foundation of what it means to be Canadian, then its national identity as a whole is based off of a self-defeating prophecy. More than ever, the Canadian national identity is a huge question mark.  

Work Cited

Morley, D. “Belongings. Place, Space and Identity in a Mediated World,” in European Journal of Cultural Studies 4:4, 2001. 425-448

Social boundaries become physical boundaries

During Sarah’s presentation discussing how social boundaries can manifest themselves into physical boundaries, the example that came to mind was residential schools for Native Americans. Brantford, Ontario, where I live, is actually bordered by the Six Nations reserve (Onondaga, Mohawk, Cayuga, Oneida, Seneca, and Tuscarora). Just five minutes down the street from my house and about ten minutes from Laurier Brantford is the Woodland Cultural Museum which sits on the property of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School.

The school was in operation from 1831 to 1970, and was one of 16 in Ontario, 1 of 128 Indian Residential Schools that existed across Canada. The Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School is now only 1 of 10 still in existence.

This residential school that is in the hometown where I live and grew up is a real-life example of how social boundaries manifest into physical boundaries. Before the area around the school was built up and populated, the school was essentially in the middle of nowhere. This was done intentionally to ensure the “students” were isolated enough that they would give up their culture.

Residential schools, like this one, were created for the purpose of assimilating Aboriginal children into our culture. Their existence was for the sole reason to strip this group of their culture and ensure it essentially never existed. It is because of this effort that their traditional oral language is struggling to be kept alive. While everything is based on story-telling from their elders to the younger generations, many are not carrying the language on. Aboriginal children in residential schools were forced to learn a new language and completely forget any aspect of their rich culture.

While there is much controversy around the Six Nations reserve and those who live on it (as mentioned above), the residential school is just one piece of the many issues surrounding the Six Nations reserve and those who live on it. The other issues from education, to security, to land claims, and so on, cannot be addressed here.

But, I have visited the Woodland Cultural Centre numerous times and learned much about the Aboriginal culture (which seems like a simple thing since it’s in my backyard). It’s actually quite fascinating and all based around traditional story-telling (which as a writer, is totally up my alley). What has happened in this process is a solidification of my belief that it is inhumane to simply eliminate or disregard entire populations that we don’t necessary “like” or that differ from our ideals. I’m not convinced that our country or the international feels the same way given the number of world issues we are currently involved in. But the one question I keep asking myself, is what ever happened to judging people on their individual beliefs and values? Does isolating a culture or religion and robbing people of their identities really still seem like a good idea and a path to peace? Or is peace the guise we use to gain permission to carry out a hidden agenda designed to pursue self-interests?

Some helpful links:

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The Politics of “Doing Good” and Operation Christmas Child

operation christmas child.jpg

With Christmas just around the corner I have found myself constantly surrounded by philanthropic initiatives focusing on brining joy and cheer to those around the globe. One initiative that stands out to me during this season is the initiative Operation Christmas Child by the non-profit Christian charity Samaritans’ Purse. Highly integrated into the educational school system and local community, Operation Christmas Child is a popular initiative that seeks to bring Christmas presents to children in under privileged communities around the world. Having spearheaded an Operation Christmas Child fundraiser in high school I (at the time) perceived this charity initiative as nothing more than a form of “doing good.”

More recently, I have come to be critical of such initiatives as although they are a gesture of “good deed”, these forms of philanthropy often serve the ideals of a particular cause and reinforce hegemonic ideals of the west. After seeing an advertisement for Operation Christmas Child on my newsfeed on Facebook this morning I began to see similarities between the charity and the way in which Fouche addresses the One Laptop Per Child Program in his article From Black Inventors to OLPC. 

Just as Fouche (2013) describes the OLPC program, Operation Christmas Child can be seen as reinforcing racialized assumptions of African children as those in need of help and assistance from the west. The advertisements for Operation Christmas Child employ stereotypical representations of African children to reinforce the mantra of “if only they had…” (Fouche 2013). By employing mediascapes that juxtapose images of sad African children with images of happy African children holding their Christmas present Operation Christmas Child attempts to reinforce the need and philanthropic mission of their organization while simultaneous reinforcing racialized views of the “developing-world”.

Additionally, Operation Christmas Child, like the OLPC program, relates to the “one way bridge”, as discussed by Fouche (2013), where the west plays the role of the saviour, going in and saving the developing-world with very little agency being possessed by those in need. Very few, if any, of the gifts that go into the Operation Christmas Child boxes have a direct link to needs as expressed by those in the communities. Often the boxes present children with toys and cultural products that reinforce western ideologies of individualism and consumption. Operation Christmas Child becomes problematic to me in this way as it not only reinforces racialized representations, but also reinforces ideologies of Christianity and Capitalism. By giving children in need “Christmas presents” Operation Christmas Child is exploitively promoting Christianity. Additionally, Operation Christmas Child organizes their gifts through categorizing children by gender and age ranges. These notions are extremely westernized and not necessarily applicable to the cultures of those receiving the gifts. Who’s to say that a girl in Africa shares similar interests to the stereotypical categorization of “girl” in the western world?

Overall, like the OLPC program, Operation Christmas Child in an exemplar of the contradictions and tensions prevalent in philanthropy. Although it may be done with the best of intentions, it is important to be critical of underlying ideologies as often the acts of “doing good” can be highly politicized.

Works Cited

Fouche, Rayvon. From Black inventors to One Laptop Per Child: Exporting a Racial Politics of Technology, in Race After the Internet, Lisa Nakamura and Peter A. Chow-White (eds), NY: Routledge, 2013. 61-84.

Lion’s Mane

In our class presentation, we discussed how historical events affect the current perception of certain members of society today. Primarily, our readings focused on the history of slavery and how it reflects current perception of “black” people’s abilities to use the internet. By focusing on their literacy and accessibility, the reading for this past week claimed a negative stereotype which associates black members of society needing some sort of “salvation” or help from the “western world”, to be able to engage in an increasingly digitally-dependent, global community.

We argued that there are also misconceptions in determining a “black here” and “black there” based on the labels created by society: this false understanding of different communities which are both within and outside of Western / European boarders, stigmatizes different black communities. More Westernized black communities are seen as more literate and contributors to online platforms. This contrasts a black community which is physically distanced and socially disengaged from “digital communication”: we also argued that “digital communication” is seen as surrounding Western and Euro centric communities, in this argument.

I realised that a “cultural memory” can impact my understanding of myself as well as create stereotypes of who I currently am in society. I created an art piece to reflect my current position in society, based on my biological associations to different communities, and my current social, political and economic positions in a Western society today. Having immigrant parents, and being a physical minority in society, many assumptions are made about my position in society, my opinions, and my beliefs. This makes me a subject to your ideoscapes about what communities you associate me with.

In my art piece, I negate many cultural links that I have experienced being associated to, as well as embrace who I am and what I position myself to be in society.


Technology and culture

While doing research for my presentation last week, I was able to explore the Amish culture and their relationship with technology. What I found were stark contrasts in comparison to our Westernized relationship with technology.

The main difference is how technology is viewed from each perspective. The Amish are extremely selective in their use of technology, television, radios, and computers. They do not use electricity from public utility lines but rather prefer to use batteries charged from solar energy. For those in the Amish culture, the restrictions on technology are rooted in the belief that technology, if not regulated, can undermine worthy traditions and break down their culture. This is particularly true for mass media which they believe will introduce foreign values into their culture and diminish it. Prior to embracing a new technology in an Amish community, leaders within the community will first discuss whether a type of technology is going to be helpful or detrimental to their community. Everything for the Amish culture revolves around preserving their traditional way of life.

This is a very different viewpoint for those in Western culture that often rush to get the newest technology and assume that is often better and inherently good. An example from the article by Panagakos and Horst is that 1/3 of high school students show addiction to cell phones. They exhibited signs of panic and paranoia about missing texts or being disconnected from their cell phones and social network. What actually occurs is what seems like a breakdown of social networks when there is a temporary removal of technology because it is so embedded into our daily lives.

While one culture turns away from most new technology, the other embraces it with open arms. Though there are good and bad aspects to all technology, I do think that as consumers we need to be skeptical of what downsides may be present with new technology. For example, issues of surveillance, loss of privacy, and policing which came up during the class discussion. While this is a much longer decision for another post, it is worth thinking about the potential downsides that the Amish culture is weary of.



The Question of Identity in Cyberspace

Online Identity

In Return to Cyberia, Panagakos and Horst (2006) analyze and evaluate the experiences of transnational populations in relation to their use of/and desire to use communication technologies. Panagakos and Horst (2006) conclude the article with a call for further engagement with the use of ICTs for migrants suggesting that, although one should be wary of technological determinism, ICTs have profound impacts on how transnational migrants negotiate and imagine their social worlds. Although the article does present a unique insight into the use of ICTs by transnational populations, I found myself conflicted as to whether or not these ICTs are in fact beneficial to the construction of identity.

When addressing the use of ICTs Panagakos and Horst (2006) suggest that the Internet provides a beneficial outlet for transnational populations as an alternative to mainstream media that “utilizes such exclusionary ideologies to perpetuate stereotypes of minority populations.” The authors go on to suggest that in a society like that of America, where skin colour and ancestry have a vital influence on how an individual is viewed, the internet enables transnational populations to “shed their skin” (Panagakos & Horst 2006). Panagakos and Horst (2006) suggest that “shedding their skin” online can have profound effects on personal identity, group identity and agency. I find this argument extremely problematic for three reasons.

Firstly, in their discussion of ICTs Panagakos and Horst (2006) present the Internet as a democratic utopia similar to how it is discussed in the advertisements by Lisa Nakamura in the article Race in Cyberspace. The claim is made that within the online world there is no race, no ethnicity, no difference. This is problematic for me as I do not believe that anyone can truly “shed their skin” online. Panagakos and Horst (2006) frame the online world as a utopia of complete safety and anonymity, without looking at this notion critically. Your online identity is not completely detached from yourself, it is merely an alternative construction of yourself, and thus will never be completely free of the impressions of one’s race, ethnicity, etc.

Secondly, I found the argument made within the article to be quite technocentric. Although Panagakos and Horst do reference some negatives to the use of ICTs, their overall argument lacks careful critique and analysis of the impacts of these technologies on the construction of identity. What impact does “shedding one’s skin” in cyberspace have on one’s self perceptions and self identity? Throughout the article Panagakos and Horst (2006) argue that identity can be shaped and constructed though the use of ICTs, but they don’t acknowledge the negative effects attempting to distance an individual’s online identity from their race, ethnicity, etc. may have on the construction of the self.

Lastly, I find this argument problematic as Panagakos and Horst (2006) go on to contradict this claim later in the article. On one hand they argue that “shedding one’s skin” can have profound effects on shaping identity, on the other they suggest that the Internet serves as a tool of empowerment for communities of transnational migrants driven by their common identities, ideologies, and localized interests (Panagakos & Horst 2006). This presents a paradoxical argument about the impacts of ICTs on the construction of identity for transnational populations.

Overall, although Panagako and Horst do present valid arguments for many of the positive features of ICTs for transnational migrants, a more critical examination of the implications these ICTs may have on the construction of identity is necessary to fully understand the potential effects of ICTs on transnational identities.

Works Cited

Nakamura, Lisa. “Where Do You Want to Go Today? Cybernetic Tourism, the Internet, and Transnationality,” in Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity and Identity on the Internet, NY, NY: Rutledge, 2002. 255-263.

Panagakos, A. and Horst, H. “Return to Cyberia: Technology and the Social Worlds of Transnational Migrants,” in Global Networks 6:2, 2006. 109-124.

Digital Community and Barney’s Vanishing Table

Counter Strike: Global Offensive

Counter Strike: Global Offensive

Hey everyone! For this week’s blog post I thought that I might further explore some of the examples from my personal life that disagree with Barney which I raised during my seminar. To remind all of you of Barney’s position please review the following passage:

“Technologically-mediated communication may indeed mitigate the negative impact of dislocation on community, especially in contexts where community is reduced to its communicative, dialogic aspects. It is not so clear that communication can adequately compensate for the loss of a common world of things, particularly communication mediated by technological devices that are also complicit in that loss. Phrased differently, it is not clear that community can bear the loss of focal things and focal practices with the same resilience with which it has borne the trauma of dislocation.” (Barney p. 63)

As I am sure all of you are aware: I absolutely disagree with Barney’s argument. As large reason for my personal feelings are my very own experiences as part of digitally mediated communities. While I could go on about this for quite some time (these things, in one form or another, have been a part of my life as long as I can remember beginning with the Nintendo Entertainment System) I will limit my example to recent years.

Currently I am part of a fairly strong community that revolves around the game Counter-Strike Global Offensive (CSGO). CSGO is a competitive online multiplayer team based first-person shooter game where two teams of five players (in competitive type game play) compete over specific objectives for a number of rounds (best of 16 usually). For those of you whom are less familiar with video games to explain it simply two teams of players basically try to shoot each other virtually until one team wins. As CSGO is a competitive team game playing with other people effectively is an important part of the experience (very similar to many other team games and sports) which lends itself to community building. The people that I consistently play with I have (for the most part) only interacted with in the digital realm. Given my past experience with digital communities I would not be surprised if I end up meeting them at some point in real life (if this is even the correct term to use). I have become good friends with them and would consider these ties as strong as any real ties (again remembering that this is a problematic term).

My experience within CSGO stands in stark contrast to Barney’s claim as the game has replaced the real-world table that Barney argues vanishes within digitally mediated community. While I do agree that in many ways community is altered (and not always for the better) by digitally mediated community, I do not think that Barney is entirely correct. I would assert again that I think that it simply changes, rather than diminishes, within digitally mediated communication.

Hopefully all of you find this example useful and I will see you all soon.

Works Cited

Virtual vs physical in the world of community


As I read Panagakos and Horst this week, as well as Rachelle’s post about the nature of community, I have been thinking about virtual communities vs communities situated in physical reality. While I agree with our conclusion that Barney was overstating the case when he suggests that “community is impoverished, not necessarily eliminated, by technologically-sponsored wordlessness” (63), I do think that there is some sort of “outer limit” to the virtual community. Are there elements of the physical community that might never be duplicated in a virtual community?

This passage from Panagakos and Horst caught my attention, and although they were referring to individual relationships, I think it also applies to communities: “The chronic mobile phone user may talk to several people a day and some multiple times, but may have few opportunities for meaningful physical human interaction – eye contact, physical touch or being able to read mood and emotion through facial expression and body language” (113).

Communication mediated by technology can be a great thing for creating and maintaining relationships and communities, especially when physical proximity is difficult or impossible. Let’s look at an example from my life. I have a virtual community of friends on Facebook, and recently a couple of these friends lost a parent. The ability to send comforting messages and condolences via Facebook was very helpful for those mourning, because they really felt supported by their network of friends from far and wide. Sending an e-mail or phoning a mourning friend is perhaps the next level up in the virtual support possibilities. All of these are valuable relationship and community building activities. But can anything really be as effective and meaningful as getting in a car or on a plane and arriving on a friend’s doorstep with a meal, a box of tissues and an unlimited supply of hugs?

What about attending a funeral? This question came to mind because when my friend’s father recently died, the funeral was shared live online for those who couldn’t attend. This was a great way include the members of the community who physically couldn’t attend the funeral, but I wonder how my friend and her family have felt if we all had decided to stay at home and “participated” in the funeral via a live feed? Actually, my friend’s own sister and her family decided that they would watch the live feed instead of physically attending her father’s funeral (causing much discussion among those who did physically attend the funeral!).

Are there other elements of physical community that are important and just can’t be virtually duplicated? Eating together? A feeling of physical solidarity (a rally, a ceremony, a funeral)? A message of respect conveyed by the physical effort of actually being present? I think we established in class that virtual communities constitute a real community and can pay a powerful role in people’s lives. Communities can be placed on a spectrum, with virtual community encompassing many of the important elements, but still missing a few of the powerful features, of a physical community.

Rememberance Day and Empire: Exploring the Construction of Just War In Canada

The Poppy Campaign

The Poppy Campaign

The White Poppy

The White Poppy

Hey everyone. Seeing as yesterday was Remembrance Day I thought that I might post something on the topic that I think connects to our course content. Over the past decade or so I have become increasingly concerned with the strong and overt connection between Remembrance Day in Canada and an overt expression of militarism. This concern has grown so much that I now make a very conscious choice to not wear a red poppy as I do not want to support the further development of the military industrial complex. Support for the notion that this phenomenon does occur can be found in Hardt and Negri’s Empire:

“Just war is no longer in any sense an activity of defense or resistance, as it was, for example in the Christian tradition from Saint Augustine to the scholastics of the Counter-Reformation, as a necessity of the ‘wordly city’ to guarantee its own survival. It has become rather an activity that is justified in itself. Two distinct elements are combined in this concept of just war: first, the legitimacy of the military apparatus insofar as it is ethically grounded, and second, the effectiveness of military action to achieve the desired order and peace.” (Hardt and Negri p. 13)

Of particular interest (and concern!) is the notion that within Empire war, or the use of military force, has become something that is justified in and of itself. It is my argument that our society has constructed the dialect surrounding soldiers in such a manner that they cannot be questioned in any critical way without social repercussions. This unquestionable status extends itself to the use of military force itself: to question what the military is doing is to question the solider (which has become unfathomable). While this social construction is the product of many forces (as so many globalized issues, as we have learned, are) I feel that our current interpretation of Remembrance Day contributes to this complex social construction.

To illustrate my argument consider the roots of Remembrance Day. At first it was meant to commemorate the cost of war for all people involved. This commemoration, then, included not just the soldiers of a particular nation but all military forces. Additionally civilians and volunteers were also included in the tradition. To explore this in a brash manner I would assert that the overall intention of the tradition was to remind people of the horrible costs of war and try to prevent it in the future.

Now consider the original meaning or intention of Remembrance Day compared to today’s ceremonies in Canada. Currently the day is focused almost exclusively on the ideal of the Canadian soldier. There is seldom talk of any other armed forces (especially any members of a group that we might consider the other) let alone of civilians or the overall cost of war. Our current practice is very different from the day’s original intentions and is deeply rooted in the political construction of the soldier. I would argue that this change in practice is representative of the development of force within Empire that Hardt and Negri talk about.

So does this mean that I do not support veterans? Of course not! Our current level of social support for veterans (and most people in some kind of need) is abysmal. I would argue that instead of taking a day to contribute to the political construction of the soldier (and thus the socialization of the young into militarism), we should instead actually put our money where our mouth is and make sure that veterans (and all people) have the support that they need. No one should be forced to experience any kind undue physical or emotional distress as long as society can do something about it. Additionally, while I do support veterans, I do NOT support the creation of more veterans without a damn good reason (please excuse my use of harsh language). I would urge all of you to critically consider how you would like to engage with Remembrance Day next year instead of (possibly) just participating because everyone else is or because someone told you that it was important.

Works Cited

Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri. Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.

N.A. “The Poppy Campaign.” N.D. The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 63. Accessed 12 November 2015 <;.

N.A. “The White Poppy.” N.D. One World Week. Accessed 12 November 2015 <;.

P.S. I am aware that I have already written about Empire once. I am hoping that this entry will be acceptable as it is a very different topic that is relevant to what is happening right now in Canada, and because our investigation of Empire spanned two weeks. I do acknowledge that this may not be acceptable but decided that expressing my thoughts on the matter to all of you was more important than the time that I may have spent doing one more blog post than I potentially needed to. I do intend to check in with Prof. Rambukkana to see if this is acceptable.