W120
'America' abroad: the good, the bad and the ugly (MAC workshop II)

Convenors:
Irene Stengs (Meertens Institute)
Jackie Feldman (Ben Gurion University of the Negev)
Stream:
Workshops
Location:
0.3
Start time:
27 August, 2008 at 9:00
Session slots:
2

Short abstract:

'Americanisation' is used all over the world. Its connotations and implications show that it is not just a universal solvent of locality. Highlighting local settings and discourses we problematise Americanisation and examine the fine texture of the relationships between America and 'the rest'.

Long abstract:

America's economic, political and cultural force frequently result in its being thought of in 'big' terms: multi-national corporations, anti-terrorism, international finance and Hollywood. Yet while Americanisation is a concept used all over the world, its connotations and implications demonstrate that it is not merely a universal solvent of local cultures. 'America' is transmitted through diverse channels, is assigned a role as the cause of manifold phenomena, and becomes the object of an amazing multiplicity of desires, envies and animosities in various local contexts. Americanisation might be understood as both a point of reverence and a screen of projection (Oldenziel 2004). Thus, understanding Americanisation implies embedding the concept in concrete historical, political and cultural settings. Highlighting such settings, practitioners and discourses we seek to problematise Americanisation, and examine the fine texture of the relationships between America and 'the rest'. Through ethnographic studies of 'small', less visible, localised cultural sites the workshop will expose the concept of Americanisation as an ambiguous, contradictory and dynamic cultural construct. We invite contributions towards a genealogy of the concept and an anatomy of its practice: where and when did it originate? What material objects, persons, practices and institutions are associated with America in various local cultures? What positive, negative and ambivalent values does Americanisation connote? How do discourses of Americanisation serve to legitimise various political, economic and religious processes? What elements of power, knowledge and (material and other) culture are expressed through the notions of Americanisation, and what forms of exchanges and influences do they hide?