Thursday, April 01, 2004

I think I had some idea that this was going to be largely about my opinions and thoughts concerning foreign affairs. I still intend for it to be a large part of this project. However, I think I should embrace this kind blog mentality of spontaneity and write whatever happens to be coming to the surface at the moment.

To that effect, I just want to say a couple things about Tagore.

As Indian culture becomes an increasingly prevalent substrate in the American cultural makeup, I want to point to certain nodes which may otherwise be glossed over, both by the average American, and the average Indian alike.

I would suspect that most of the dining experiences people have, when they go out to eat Indian food, they are eating north Indian Cuisine. This may not be entirely true, but for someone who has eaten at a lot of Indian restaurants, this seems to be the case. Also, the two most popular transmissions of culture seem to be bhangra and Bollywood. No knockin either of those.

I have found that in my own experience, the two of the most amazing artistic efforts in India have both come from Bengal. I am referring to the work of filmmaker Satyajit Ray, and poet Rabindranath Tagore.

I will save a more detailed analysis for another time. Suffice to say, these two represent what individuals like Godard or Celan might represent in America. I know I just said a bunch of stuff that requires justification. I will get to that later.

The main issue I am attempting to address here, is how post-colonial cultures really gain prominence on the international scene as a coefficient of marketability. As a result, developing states are thought of as having legitimate cultural production based on the availability and visibility of pop-cultural events. Bollywood is significant because it has a star system that mimics that of hollywood, bhangra succeeds because of its crossover with hip hop and garage culture. These are legitimate, no doubt. Nonetheless, they have the effect of doing what any other market based art form has; that of subsuming avant-garde moments in native cultures or, in the case of Tagore populist moments. Those of us familiar with the western film canon will surely mark the importance of the nouvelle vague, but when Bollywood comes to the fore, how many are prepared to discuss the contribution of the APU TRILOGY?

I am not sure what the end of this is, but it seems to me to go to that question which has not yet been answered: How do developing, post-colonial cultures define themselves in a way that can reduce the reliance on Western modes of transmitibility to determine what is constitutive or foundational, and what is derivative. This may drive towards a problem of authenticity, I admit. Though it may equally reveal why it is that these post-colonial cultures are best known in the west by the demands of the market.

I leave it open for now

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