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… if we give Europe’s indigenous cable television moguls a chance, we will soon enough prove that we are capable of producing television series equally bad as those in America, and that the French secret weapon of McBaudrillard and McDerrida is wreaking just as much havoc at American universities as harmless McDonald’s in Europe. --Cees Nooteboom, 1993

A cartoon portraying the British Empire as an octopus, reaching into foreign lands
image sourced here.


A map of the Atlantic slave trade

20th century cultural imperialism

Cultural imperialism in the twentieth century was primarily connected with the United States and with the Soviet Union, and to a lesser extent with other countries that exert strong influence on neighboring nations. Most countries outside the US feel that the high degree of cultural export through business and popular culture--popular and academic books, films, music, and television--threatens their unique ways of life or moral values where such cultural exports are popular. Some countries, including France, have policies that actively oppose Americanisation. Some American cultural producers such as Reader's Digest have responded to or altogether avoided such resistance by adapting their content (or the surface of it) to local audiences.

China has, in various periods over the 20th century, pursued repressive policies towards the indigenous cultures and religions of Tibet and Xinjiang, and has encouraged Han Chinese immigration into those regions, for example, through the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. This has been widely viewed as cultural imperialism by exile and dissident groups abroad and their supporters. The nationwide promotion of a standardized Chinese language has also sparked debate, both in Mainland China and Taiwan, about whether this constitutes a form of cultural imperialism over regional dialects.

Representatives of al-Qaida stated that their attacks on US interests were motivated in part by a reaction to perceived US cultural imperialism.

It should be noted that 'cultural imperialism' can refer to either the forced acculturation of a subject population, or to the voluntary embracing of a foreign culture by individuals who do so of their own free will. Since these are two very different referents, the validity of the term can been called into question. The term cultural imperialism is understood differently in particular discourses. E.g. as "media imperialism" or as "discourse of nationality" (Tomlinson, 1991).

Cultural influence can be seen by the "receiving" culture as either a threat to or an enrichment of its cultural identity. It seems therefore useful to distinguish between cultural imperialism as an (active or passive) attitude of superiority, and the position of a culture or group that seeks to complement its own cultural production, considered partly defective, with imported products or values.

The writer Edward Said, one of the founders of the field of post-colonial study, wrote extensively on the subject of cultural imperialism, and his work is considered by many to form an important cornerstone in this area of study. His work highlights the inaccuracies of many assumptions about cultures and societies and is largely informed by Michel Foucault's concepts of discourse and power.

Canada is also grappling with the ever-potent influence of the U.S. Aside from the fact that American businesses are purchasing Canadian industries and resources, the Canadian population is continuously exposed to the American media. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_imperialism#20th_century_cultural_imperialism [Jun 2005]

European imperialism

Imperialism is a policy of extending the control or authority over foreign entities as a means of acquisition and/or maintenance of empires, either through direct territorial or through indirect methods of exerting control on the politics and/or economy of other countries. The term is used by some to describe the policy of a country in maintaining colonies and dominance over distant lands, regardless of whether the country calls itself an empire.

Insofar as 'imperialism' might be used to refer to an intellectual position, it would imply the belief that the acquisition and maintenance of empires is a positive good, probably combined with an assumption of cultural or other such superiority inherent to imperial power. See The White Man's Burden.

In recent years, there has been a trend to criticise imperialism not at an economic or political level, but at a simply cultural level, particularly the widespread global influence of American culture - see cultural imperialism. Some dispute this extension, however, on the grounds that it is highly subjective (to differentiate between mutual interaction and undue influence) and also applied selectively (Coca Cola being imperialist and black tea not). The debate continues. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperialism [Jun 2005]

A history of the slave trade

The Atlantic slave trade was the capture and transport of black Africans into bondage and servitude in the New World. The slaves were one element of a three-part economic cycle-the Triangular Trade and its infamous Middle Passage-which ultimately involved four continents, four centuries and the lives and fortunes of millions of people.

Records of the era were kept erratically, if at all, but contemporary historians estimate some 12 million individuals were taken from west Africa to North, Central and South America and the Caribbean Islands by European colonial powers. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slave_trade_in_the_Americas [Nov 2004]

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