On the Systematic Use of Normative Vocabulary

41uV3awt-uL._SX339_BO1,204,203,200_In History as Propaganda: Tibetan Exiles versus the People’s Republic of China, John Powers surveys a wide variety of histories of Tibet, written by Tibetan, Chinese, and western (i.e., American or European) authors. The story of the relations between China and Tibet — is Tibet an independent state or merely a small part of China’s empire? — can be told in many different ways, depending on the interests or agenda of the author spinning the narrative. Of particular interest to me is how Powers notes the normative vocabulary of the historians he surveys. The authors tend to systematically use normative nouns and adjectives — with positive and negative valuations attached to them — in their narratives. See the following two tables: Continue reading “On the Systematic Use of Normative Vocabulary”

Culture Shock

Picture 6A friend on Facebook posted a link the other day to an interesting art exhibition by Gade, who was born in 1971 in Lhasa (to a Chinese father and Tibetan mother).

As the series is described:

Paintings from his ‘New Buddha Series’ and his ‘Diamond Series’ reflect this culture shock with images of such American iconic pop figures as Mickey Mouse, Spiderman and the Hulk appearing in the centre of traditional-looking works. Gade points out that these figures show up in every corner of the earth. “When I visited a tiny village called Pazi at the base of Mount Xishabangma (8,102 metres) in the Himalayas, the kids there had backpacks with Mickey Mouse on them, and were drinking Coca Cola. That made me realise the incredible power of those ubiquitous emblems of Western culture and Western values.”

And it got me thinking: how is this art not an example of code switching? And how is code switching not just a synonym for culture?

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“Man from Erie, PA…”

Morrison_on_the_SunThe other day a Facebook friend posted a link on my wall from http://www.aljazeera.com concerning a self-immolation that recently took place in Washington DC.

Have you read it? Continue reading ““Man from Erie, PA…””

Kids Drink Pop, So What?

edgeI think it’s worth pausing for a moment to ask why the above photo (originally found here), recently used as the cover image on the Culture on the Edge facebook page, “works.” Given the theoretical goals of this research group (more on that under Identity), why this image of a young Tibetan Buddhist monk (or at least someone dressed up like one, of course)  drinking so casually from a pop bottle. What do we assume it “says” and about whom? Continue reading “Kids Drink Pop, So What?”