A Global Culture of the Hyperreal

The article “Life As a Fake Beauty Queen in Small-Town China” published on the Atlantic website last week, contains some absurd images of the exportation of a hyperreal (as Appadurai uses the term)European and American culture to China. This exportation of culture is very literal– the story focuses on beauty pageants held in China where the models are imported from Eastern Europe and Latin American to become fictionalized “Miss Americas” or “Brazils” or “Canada.” Their biographies, names, and costumes are assigned regardless of the model’s true national or racial identity to create sensationalized characters. The writer, Meredith Hattman, connects these staged pageants to the “knock-off culture” of China extending from fake Starbucks or Apple store to an Eiffel Tower replica abandoned in a small Chinese town. Apparently, caucasian men are even payed to appear at store opening ceremonies for new businesses to lend their Western validity.

Appadurai would use phenomena such as these to expose a disjunctured mediascape that creates imagined ideologies of countries. What is described as happening in China by this article is not Americanization or globalization, but a “global culture of the hyperreal” being created by cultural imaginaires that have been uprooted from the context of their specific historical referential field. These images and pieces of culture are then fed to another historically and culturally situated country of people who live out an imagined American or French or Brazilian culture that does not exist.


3 thoughts on “A Global Culture of the Hyperreal”

  1. This is a really interesting article, and I like that you tied in Appadurai’s idea of the hyperreal and imagined worlds. If Miss America and Miss Brazil, etc. are not in fact American nor Brazilian, nor are the stereotypes they represent very related to the countries that they are supposedly representing, are they transnational, or Chinese? I wonder how these foreign models would think of their work and what they represent, versus their Chinese audience.


  2. What an interesting and bizarre example of Appadurai’s mediascape in action. I especially dig the image of the Tour Eiffel replica abandoned by a grassy, muddy field. The “knock off culture” encapsulated in this picture definitely complicates the way that we think about how cultural ideas and images flow around the globe.

    – Xanthe


  3. Really interesting use of Appadurai’s idea of the hypperreal. Appadurai claims that the hyperreal causes the death of the original thing that it depicts. Maybe that means then that by exporting these depictions of national culture to other countries, we’re chipping away at the original national culture and replacing it with a transnational image.


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