Friday, December 31, 2010

J. P. Singh's "Globalized Arts"

J. P. Singh is associate professor in the communication, culture, and technology program at Georgetown University. His books include UNESCO: Creating Norms in a Complex World; International Cultural Policies and Power; Negotiation and the Global Information Economy; Information Technologies and Global Politics (with James N. Rosenau); and Leapfrogging Development? The Political Economy of Telecommunications Restructuring.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Globalized Arts: The Entertainment Economy and Cultural Identity, and reported the following:
Behind every piece of art is a policy – an emperor’s wish, a city’s museum, or a nation’s film. Sometimes the policies are indirect; Florentine Renaissance gained from the Medici family patronage but also from that of the Church and a general encouragement given to creative enterprise.

Globalized Arts displays policies that give people a cultural voice, which emancipates or liberates, but also policies that only reflect some elite notion of culture. Page 99 of the book describes how the post-colonial governments in the developing world did not care much for any kind of cultural policies when they ousted their European rulers. Culture connoted something ‘backward’ while a Nehru’s India or a Vargas’ Brazil sought to ‘modernize’ and ‘progress’ through science and technology. We have come around a full circle now as we celebrate telenovelas and Bollywood and an India or a Brazil takes ownership of these symbolic expressions and crafts policies to encourage them. P. 99 and the other pages in the book describe the cultural politics of our times that prioritize certain types of expressions from arts and entertainment while demoting others.

Symbolic expressions or Globalized Arts also give rise to deep-seated anxieties among people about losses to their ‘local’ ways of life. Often the cultural policies seek to protect, not encourage, certain expressions from invasive ‘foreign’ ones. For example, just about every country has domestic content laws governing television programming, which decree that the domestic TV studios must produce local content allowing the nation to view its own images. The term Hollywood (incidentally part of the book’s cover design) often invokes cries of cultural homogenization. In fact, headline grabbing cultural fights at the global level pit commerce against culture, Hollywood against ‘art’, World Trade Organization against UNESCO, a global North against South, and Europe against the United States.

Globalized Arts begins with the cultural anxieties of our times and ends with the politics and policies at the global or the national level that address our discomforts about our evolving collective identities. These politics can be deliberative and democratic, but quite often they are not. The anthropologist Arjun Appadurai notes that the book’s “global context of culture policy” is situated between “critique and celebration.” Economist Tyler Cowen points out that the book deals with both the benefits and the drawbacks of cultural globalization. I provide many a betwixt answer to argue for creativity, cultural voice, and art.
Read an excerpt from Globalized Arts, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue