Category: Identity

Aussie Culture

Foreign cultures are often watered down or altered in order to fit the cultural norms of a given society, though this isn’t always the case. During my time abroad in Australia, the only form of Latin American culture I noticed was the occasional Mexican restaurant(to many Aussies, synonymous with Latin America) that was the equivalent of Chipotle. It made sense because frankly, there were little to no Latinx people in Brisbane, the Australian city I was located in. Many of Mexico’s traditional plates are intended to be spicy, yet when I ordered the spiciest options at these restaurants, they were always lackluster. This heavily contrasts my experience in California and specifically Los Angeles, as Mexicans are the majority and that is reflected in the city’s culture. Los Angeles is one of the main epicenters of the Mexican diaspora and this has created a very raw, and authentic export of Mexican culture. Thus, it is evident that the existing population controls, whether directly through policymaking or indirectly through their purchases, the extent of a foreign culture’s influence and presence.

Another interesting point is seeing that in recent years Australia has attempted to make ‘fusion food’ apart of its identity. Because the nation is so young, it does not have uniquely Australian dishes. With the influx of migration from Asia, South Africa and other countries, the general culture has shifted towards fusing these different palettes and deeming them Australia. Yet, many Aussie journalists have criticized this cultural development because it erases the identity of foreign cultures and is also used as a tool to show Aussies are open to multiculturalism, disregarding Australia’s extremely racist past.

Student Experiences in Europe

As someone who is European and has studied in the United States, it was interesting to read about the stories of American students studying in Europe. I feel like before I went to college in the United States, there were a lot of topics that I had not actively thought about, including racism and sexism. One issue that people in the United States, and students at Dickinson, seem to be actively advocating for is LGBTQ+ issues. American students indicated that in many cases they encountered a liberal environment within the EU in terms of LGBTQ+ acceptance. Before leaving the Netherlands, I had not given the issue to much thought, since same sex marriage has been legal in the Netherlands since I was a young child. I learned about the law that legalized same sex marriage in my history class, when I also studied the abortion law legalizing abortion since 1984. For this reason, I never considered either LGBTQ+ rights or abortion as an issue, until I came to the United States. After coming to Dickinson, I remember I was talking to my sister about the fact that no one in the Netherlands ever seems to be advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, as opposed to in the United States. On the one hand, I believe that there really is less of a struggle for LGBTQ+ acceptance in the Netherlands, which would explain why less people are campaigning for it. On the other hand though, I know from stories of friends and family, that there is still a long way to go in terms of acceptance for LGBTQ+ rights within Dutch society.

Before coming to the United States I had also not given as much thought about the issue of racism, unlike I do now. Many of the American students indicated that they faced a lot of racism within Europe, which I can definitely see. Obviously institutional racism exists in the Netherlands, but I believe people tend to blame ‘cultural differences’, rather than critically evaluating the structures of institutional racism, for example in the case of Muslims in the Netherlands. The current protests in the Netherlands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter further underscore the ways through which racism is a part of Dutch society. I remember when I was in high school, we were taught about Dutch colonial history – which is referred to in the Netherlands as the Golden Age, even though the Dutch obviously looted the many countries it colonized. This terminology has been debated the last few years, with musea changing names and descriptions of art work from that period. However, there definitely still is a long way to go.

I often think about how to change societies structurally. Having studied both in the United States and in India, I realized how difficult it is to govern a country and create structural change, in a state so large and with so much diversity. Instead, in the Netherlands, it seems to me that it would be easier to change certain aspects of the society, because everyone watches either one of two news channels, and supports the same national sports teams, and buys groceries at the same six supermarkets. Obviously, the size of the Netherlands makes it much easier to govern. However, I do believe that, given the lesser diversity, issues that should be recognized and debated are not, as people are not realizing the existence and importance of issues.

How does consumption stymy global flows of culture & identity?

This question is complicated to answer. I do not think that consumption stymies global flows of culture and identity. I think that consumption commodifies culture and identity, leading to conversations such as the ones had on NPR. In this regard, consumption can ease the flow of culture across borders, but have unintended negative effects. The discussion about Rosalia and Antonio Banderas being labeled as “Latinx” is important because of that colonial background and the power dynamics it represents. Seeing the conversation through an American lens, the difference may not be as important. They both speak Spanish and their work may seem familiar to those of Latin American descent.  However, from a Salvadoran point of view, the idea that a person who does not share the specific types of oppressive experiences that many Latinx people do is recognized in the same space is a little upsetting.

Adding identity to the mix can complicate matters more because people’s identities can vary from place to place and over time, as mentioned by Banderas in the article. However, identifying with a group of people more than another does not necessarily mean that they share the same culture.  Moreover, commodifying culture can be dangerous because only the parts that are profitable make the jump. This is apparent when certain public figures such as artists or sports players speak out against social injustices. Many times, they are met with comments of “you should stick with doing what you do instead of opening your mouth about xyz.” From this point of view, it is clear that only certain aspects of a culture are respected, and those tend to be the ones that sell. Commodification of culture is objectification, and it can further dehumanize certain groups of already marginalized people.

Identity

Identity is complicated. There are so many things that go into making us who we are. There are things in our control and those which we have absolutely no authority over. Similarly, I believe there are both internal and external aspects.

In Eguchi’s ethnography they described their experience as a gay Japanese American. They wrote about how the colonial views on Japanese men feminizing them shaped their identity, however, they also explain how they chose to challenge those stereotypes through their “exaggerated performance of femininity”. Looking at Eguchi’s experience it is hard to tease apart which parts of their identity may be endogenous or exogenous, though only they could truly say.

When reflecting on my own identity I still find it challenging to distinguish what parts have been shaped by internal vs external factors. The community I grew up in has certainly molded my identity. Being a part of a small, mostly white, religious community shaped who I am, but so have my responses to living in such a community. Growing up with the same 30ish classmates for 13 years made me a very community-based person, but also taught me how to be independent. In response to interacting with the same people for over a decade, I learned the best way for me to deal with emotion is by being direct. While being community-based is a direct result of an endogenous factor, being direct was an internal response to growing up with the same small group of peers.

In trying to answer the prompt, whether identity is endogenous or exogenous, I think I’ve ended up less sure in my answer than when I began. However, I don’t think there is truly an answer to this question. Rather, I believe everyone’s identity has been shaped by an inordinate number of things, events,  circumstances, decisions, and so forth and that the line between external and internal can be rather blurred.

Can you identify with any of the experiences?

I am able to related to some of the experiences detailed in this presentation as, in some cases, I experienced the exact same thing and in other cases I experienced things that are along the same lines.

Because I am biracial, the situation I am in often changes how I am viewed. When I am surrounded by others of varying ethnicities, I appear ethnically ambiguous. However, when I am surrounded by Caucasians, I tend to appear more Asian. On the flip side, when I am surrounded or viewed by Asians, I often appear more Caucasian. This has led to me being on the receiving end of many different types of microaggressions which vary depending on the context.

When I appear more ethnically ambiguous, I am often asked where I am from. My usual response is that I am from the suburbs of DC. This often prevents people from asking anything else as DC, like many other cities, is known for being racially diverse. However, sometimes people do not accept this answer and they often ask what countries my parents are from, where I was born or other similar questions.

When I am surrounded by Caucasian, and therefore appear more Asian in comparison, I often see people staring or pointing at me. In some cases, people have said ‘Asian’ things as I walked by or pulled their eyes back. This was something that happened when I went to visit a school in the Midwest.

In comparison, when I went to China, I viewed and singled out for looking Caucasian. This led to restaurant staff replacing the utensils (they assumed that I was unable to use chopsticks). People also came up to me and asking if they could take a picture with ‘the white girl’ and talking about me in Chinese (assuming that I did not know what they were saying).

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