Posts Tagged ‘modernity’

Freewrite #5 on Identities as a Rhetoric of Resistance

In Uncategorized on March 2, 2010 at 4:53 am

In Borderlands, I think Anzaluda reveals that the fundamental aspects of the formation of identities can be seen in the borderlands where two different culture meet, infuse and clash. The Texas-U.S. Southwest/Mexican border in particular has been a place where oppression of women, multiple identities conflict with integrity, struggles of native language are easily exposed.

She uses many rhetorical strategies in her writing, for example, the shift in the written language in particular and the usage of the poems or songs written by the natives. They both serve as her way of resistance because the mixture of language make her writing only partially understandable to the readers. It is a demonstration of the statement that “we have to meet in the middle” as Anzaluda proposed in the beginning of her book.

She first talks about the history of conflicts between the U.S. and Mexico, and she argues that borders create a border culture, where the unsafe meets the save, us meets them. The inhabitants living at the borders are excluded from the other side of the line; and even worse, from it’s own country too. Because of the fragile of the state of the borders, identities are constantly being challenged, killed and reborn.

Although she never directly mentions imperialism, Eurocentricism and modernity, she implies that the struggles of the people at the borders are inevitably resulted from those larger contexts. The ideology of male above female, the slavery of the native Mexicans, the struggles of the natives with their land–their home, the exploitation of the raw materials in Mexico and taking over the economic control by the U.S. that leads to tragedies during illegal border crossing…They are all wailings of Mexico.

Unlike Dussel, Anzaluda spends a lot of time looking at her own struggle with her multiple identities. By looking at her rebellion against the beliefs of her culture, she makes me understand the resistance of many. When we are talking about Eurocentricism, modernity, we cannot forget that it is not only the ideologies that we are dealing with, it is also the human beings from whom those ideologies are created and spread. She says that humans fear the supernatural, and that “Culture and religion seek to protect us from these two force.” It is the insecurity that humans feel created culture and religion, and then culture and religion are used to salvage, to oppress, to exclude.

“The queer are the mirror reflecting the heterosexual tribe’s fear: being different, being other and therefore lesser, therefore sub-human, in-human, non-human.” I even think when I was reading that if culture itself is a form of discrimination: As we classify what is or is not within our culture, we define what is excluded too. Culture may not be able to protect its own people without harming the others, or can it be?

The choice is clear, as Anzaluda says, either to be feel a victim or to feel strong and in control. So is it to feel secure within ourselves, we can resist to what oppress us?

She later on argues that language is the core to individual’s identity. “Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity–I am my language. Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself.” Until one can take pride in him or herself, one can be strong and in control. “The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react,” she writes.

In order to solve the problems created by modernity, Eurocentricism and imperialism, we need to move towards “a more whole perspective, one that includes rather than excludes.” We need to tolerate, and to meet in the middle. We need to acknowledge the differences of each other’s way of living. We need to create this new value system that connect us to each other and to the planet because “nothing happens in the ‘real’ world unless it first happens in the images in our heads.”

The solution is internal: we need to be less individualistic and more communistic. Because if we contribute to the greatness of the whole, each one of us will achieve more. Collectivism, or communism (without any political implication) is a more advanced individualism in the end.


Free Write #3 on Pears Soap Ads

In Uncategorized on February 9, 2010 at 1:29 am

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Picture 4

Picture 5

Before I start writing, I tried many ways to research “Pears Soap” and the impact of its advertising. I was surprised at how few scholarly sources there were on the subject. Google’s top 10 search result didn’t reveal the connection between Pears Soap ad with racism or with colonialism, imperialism. I, then, tried ProQuest. Similar results. The only articles I found are summaries to a book written on Pears Soap and colonialism.

I arranged these five ads into three groups: picture 1&4, picture 2&5 and picture 3.

Picture 1&4 both imply the message that Pears Soap (imperialism) is coming from the ocean. Picture 1 gives me a feeling that the glory of British Pears Soap is going to shine upon the land of the boy. The power represented in this image is asymmetrical: the woman is the position of power as she dresses in pieces of shells, as a goddess of the ocean. She looks very friendly as she has a big smile on her face. In the background, the sun rises with “good morning” written in the middle, corresponding to what she is saying to the boy. On the other hand, the boy, whose eyes are filled with joy and excitement, is not in any place of power because his expression looks as if he is receiving a good news/product from the “modern” world. He is topless, wearing a traditional Indian feather on his head–stereotypical backward living conditions. The contrast between wealth and poverty, modern and outdated, white and black are very strong.

Different from Picture 1, In Picture 4, the illustration is more subtle in representing the superiority of the white world. Yet, the headline is quite bold: the beginning of civilization, a message from sea. The arrival of Pears Soap landmarks the civilization of that land, regardless of the decision of the locals. Along with Pears Soap, Eurocentric imperialism is coming.

The second group, Picture 2&5 both represent racism in advertising as Pears Soap is so powerful that black children can turn into white after bath. It is interesting to notice that both ads use children as the message deliveryman. Is it because children are more innocent thus trust-worthy to the audience? Both images convey the idea that dark skin color is a result of dirtiness, lack of cleaning.

Picture 3 seems to me very different from the rest of the ads. In late 19th century, Britain invaded Sudan and Picture 3 illustrates what actually happened historically in Sudan. British soldiers wrote “Pears Soap is the best” on the rock to publicize their latest advancement during the invasion. The Sudanese are portrayed as shocked as they saw the presence of divine in the ad; to the British readers, this ad became part of their historiography on Sudan.

None of those ads, at their times, caused any protests against discrimination, racism, false representation of people in other races in society. They collectively show the common mindsets of the British at that time as very closed, opinionated and Eurocentric. As Dussel says in his article, the Western tried to irrationally claim their own definition of “modernity” to universality. But how was that possible in the 19th century? Was it merely because the restrains of resources of information that the public had no access to any otherwise? Then, how are we different today? Our understanding of the non-western world is still not in proportion to the development we achieved in expanding our resources of information. Is it because that the Western still controls the economic and political power in the world so that they psychologically regard own model of modernity success?