Cultural Identities and Cultural Imperialism.

Is our local culture in danger? Are we being imperialised from afar? Barker discusses such arguments in the reading ’Cultural Identities and Cultural Imperialism´ (Barker, 1997). Barker (1997) focuses his view on the role global television plays within cultural imperialism and examines the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments surrounding this theory.

Some theologists argue that “the purchase of US programmes, international co-productions dominated by American themes, US-dominated information services and local adaptations of American formats for domestic consumption” (Barker 1997, pp. 183) are contributing to the limitation of indigenous productions. American produced television is also argued to publicise pro-American and pro-capitalist values within their broadcasting (Barker, 1997).

Such actions are argued to contribute to the homogenization of cultures. By disseminating pro-American values on a global scale through television it is feared local and foreign cultures and customs may eventually erode. This feared cultural erosion and domination of US, pro-capitalist culture is often referred to as ‘Coca Cola culture’ (Barker, 1997).

The limitations of such an argument has been discussed and debated at length. For example Barker (1997) makes the point that even if audiences all over the world are watching US produced television this does not necessarily equate to every member of the audience having the same experience or understanding the text in the same way. Different cultures may be influenced by television in different ways, according to how important television is in their lives in the first place. Barker goes on to say that “While the production and circulation of television programmes are dominated by the USA there is evidence that audiences decode programmes in sophisticated and multiple ways which reduces the ideological impact of these programmes” (Barker 1997, pp 205).

An interesting theory to consider of course. While cultural imperialism has its limitations it is definitely not a theory to dismiss altogether. Rather the debate theologists have taken part in over the decades makes for fascinating reading on both sides of the spectrum. The ‘Coca Cola culture’ is something to keep in mind.

Reference

Barker, C 1997, ‘Cultural identities and cultural imperialism’, in Global television: an introduction, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 182-206.

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