Popular Culture Outside of the Western World



I found this image on LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs’s blog and, even though my research have not been very fruitful as to where it comes from and whether it is actually a real picture, I thought it captured really well the conversation we had this week about We Need New Names and the double-sidedness to Darling and her friends’ knowledge about Western popular culture. Diggs captioned the picture “Afro Comic Con”. This image was very powerful to me because of the background, exposing the un-material lives of the people walking towards the viewer. Their bare feet on the ground also points towards the men’s lack of material things the Western world often take for granted, such as clothes and shoes.

Yet, they all put on a piece of clothing representing them as superheroes, subscribing them to knowledge they might (or might not) have, just like Darling knows Céline Dion but has never heard “Wow” before. This image raises questions as to how knowledge, especially one coming from the United States, is shared within the world and why certain specific things, such as the renown american geeky culture of comic books and superheroes. Also, how are these figures symbolized in a completely different culture and country? Is the american ideology of militarism passed over with these images of strong and manly individuals fighting for freedom and defending fellow citizens from harm? This made me think about Bornfree and Messenger in We Need New Names, on promoting values that does not necessarily have a graspable meaning in a world where everyday needs become villains because of their scarcity.


3 thoughts on “Popular Culture Outside of the Western World”

  1. I agree: this photograph is interesting–in the context of what we have been discussing–precisely because we do not know how to interpret the relationship between the clothing (an emblem of Western culture, language, and mediascapes) and the men wearing it. We cannot know what the clothing means to them, if it means anything at all (which is certain another possibility): the costumes could just be something they are wearing to protect them from what appears an arid and unforgiving terrain. What’s more, we do not know the extent of knowledge that these men have of the Western superhero–and whether a complete understanding would even be important to them. I was wondering the same thing about the children in We Need New Names. What is Darling trying to express when she mentions America or relates to it or calls it “my America”? Is she trying to evoke the position that America holds in the world; the position that it holds relative to Zimbabwe’s or Paradise’s conception of it; or her own personal understanding of America, which, indeed, seems to be different than the former two. Furthermore, what “scape” would concepts of other countries in a certain country fall under? Would it depend on how the information about that country is disseminated (i.e. through media, through word of mouth, through military action)?



  2. I think that it is interesting because it seems like they are aware of these superheroes. They may have a different understanding of them, but the costumes do not look like the superhero costumes normally available in the West, which suggests that they either made or bought superhero costumes designed elsewhere. This could tie in with the idea of indigenization – they are making these superheroes their own.



  3. Yes! This picture, your post, and the two previous comments strike me in a very personal way! I’ve spent time in India over the past few years, and this makes me think of something that happened the first time I ever visited a tourist site near Agra (where the Taj Mahal is). Walking up to the mosque at a collection of Moghul ruins called Fahtepur Sikhri, my group (I was with some friends from my language immersion program) was immediately mobbed by small children trying to sell us postcards and other knick-knacks. They kept shouting, “From which country! From which country are you!” When we replied, “America,” or “USA,” their nearly invariable response was, “Obama! Michael Jackson! Michael Jordan!” In that order, like a list of names they had practiced reciting time and time before. I have no idea where they got those names from, or what the words meant to them. It really got me thinking about the ways in which our culture is portrayed elsewhere; how all culture necessarily tends to become shrunken down to a singularity in the process of translation (or, at least, something more singular than it was at the beginning), and what that singularity then means in its new context.

    – Isabella Mckinley-Corbo


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