Author Archives: Jordan

Postcolonial Theory Questions

Recently, I have been extremely interested in the idea of postcolonial theory as well as other ideas associated with it. For instance, do you all think such a thing as domestic colonialism exists?

The only example I can think of for this type of colonialism would be the Iranian Revolution with the supporters of Khomeini arguing for Islamic Fundamentalism and supporters of Reza Shah arguing for westernization. What do you all think?

Jordan’s Bridge to the Blog

In class on April 7th, poetic terms such as enjambed line, end-stopped line, caesura and scansion were discussed as well as was the sonnet style of poetry. It was asserted during this same discussion that sonnets were usually about unrequited love. We took this assertion and used it in our analysis of Natasha Tretheway’s eighth section in her Native Guard sequence: June 1863.

This poem struck me as relating to the “eagerness” on line 10 of the poem to an unrequited love of recognition and of doing something that matters. In the first two full sentences of the poem it is stated, “Some names will deck the page of history as it is written on stone. Some will not.” The reference to stone can only be assumed a grave. With this interpretation, it is necessary to note that in 1863, segregation and racial inequalities were prevalent- even after death, so the “deck[ing] of history” refers to how people are mourned and remembered differently. History tends to remember the ultimate source of authority and negate even the slightest existence of anyone stemming from lesser power. Regardless, people continue to involve themselves in issues with the hope of remembrance. In the final sentence, “Death makes equals of us all: a fair master” the ridiculous notion of a difference in types of memory is combatted by Tretheway’s assertion that, in the end, we are all remembered, regardless of the way, and we are all dead.

I believe that Tretheway, while recognizing the disparities in the way we, as a society, remember individuals, is trying to show how our unrequited love for warfare and our insane importance on being remembered shield us from the fact that the ways we go about achieving these concepts, often times, lessens the importance of our actions. I am reminded of civil rights leaders and war heroes in this assertion and the increased benefit they could have brought to society if not dead. Our society is so focused on recognition through any and all measures (including death) that we misinterpret the benefits associated with life.

Does anyone else agree? How is unrequited love referenced in a selection about death?

Jordan’s Postcolonial Analysis of Vienna by Billy Joel

Postcolonial criticism can be defined with regards to European domination and its effects. More specifically, this technique of criticism can be broken down into how the colonizers asserted their ideologies and how the colonized responded and adapted. When consulting popular culture, it’s not difficult to see this theory in action, including in the 1977 hit: Vienna by Billy Joel.

For those of you that haven’t heard it, or totally missed the message in the song, Vienna is about a young adult who spends their time trying to force success into their life. Taken at face value, the song could be Joel’s way of warning that person to “slow down.” However, if looked at metaphorically, the person Joel is speaking to in Vienna could reference colonizing nations and their extension of liberal ideals. Vienna, itself, symbolizes the European view that subaltern nations would lead a better life if colonized and so it is the duty, rather than the privilege of Europeans to colonize the world. To further this thesis, I’ll do a stanza breakdown of the song.

Slow down you crazy child

You’re so ambitious for a juvenile

But then if you’re so smart tell me,

Why are you still so afraid?

As mentioned before, the child represents nations in the process of colonizing other areas of the globe. Major cultural changes must occur in order to uproot the fundamentals of a society (language, values, morals, traditions, mannerisms, dress, behaviors, etc.) and replace them with those of another. Therefore, the ambitious nature of the “juvenile” represents the hierarchies being developed by the invader countries that establish new accepted fundamentals according to the more powerful society. Joel’s next two lines reference how the fear of the unknown presented in the societies being marginalized amplifies the more powerful society’s desire to instrument ideals that are more civilized.

Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about?

You better cool it off before you burn it out

You got so much to do and only

So many hours in a day

The next stanza stresses the role of imperialism in postcolonial theory. In the 20th century, European nations extended imperial control in attempts to stimulate the mimicry of the (deemed) uncivilized societies to the civilized ones. The following lines reference a very Eurocentric view of time (24 hour days, approximately 30 day months, 12 month years).

But you know that when the truth is told

That you can get what you want

Or you can just get old

You’re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through

When will you realize… Vienna waits for you?

In this stanza, Joel argues that anti-colonialism maintains itself as an important aspect of postcolonialism because while postcolonialism discusses the influence of the invader countries, the resistance or adoption of traits in the societies being colonized plays a crucial role. The first two lines discuss the success of cross-cultural hybridization and the third and fourth lines bring up the tendency of the abandonment of subaltern nations by their colonizers causing major detriment to their society.

Slow down you’re doing fine

You can’t be everything you want to be before your time

Although it’s so romantic on the borderline tonight

Too bad, but it’s the life you lead

These stanzas suggest the normalizing judgment used to determine the difference of subaltern societies from those European nations atop the hierarchy. The romance referenced in line 2 refers to the blinding view that the colonization of the subaltern is ALWAYS good for that society regardless of the current system. The European system is normalized to be the standard for a good quality of life regardless of the society being colonized’s quality of life.

You got your passion, you got your pride

But don’t you know that only fools are satisfied?

Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true

When will you realize… Vienna waits for you?

Passion, and pride, and satisfaction refer to the results of successful marginalization of cultures into Europeanized ones. The Europeans in this stanza are described as being fools for being satisfied because they are unaware of the identity crisis this type of marginalization can instill in a culture.

Billy Joel’s Vienna articulates both sides of postcolonialism by incorporating Eurocentric behaviors through his depiction of the child in his song, and effects of colonialism on developing nations through his advice to the child.

Sidenote: For those of you who haven’t heard Vienna, I highly recommend giving it a listen. It’s a fantastic song.

Globalization and American Exportation of Democracy

During our lesson on post-colonialism today, we talked a lot about cultural appropriation, cultural colonialism, and globalization. After having defined the terms in class, I thought I had a decent understanding of what they all were, but I’m still left with a question. Would the American exportation of democracy into other (emphasis on the Americanized/ self-centric term “other”) countries count as globalization? More specifically into American involvement in the Syrian conflict?

We agreed that globalization was the spread of more economically linked ideas throughout the world, however, are political systems not heavily tied to the economy? For instance, a true democracy probably would not occupy a command economy. Are we appropriating these by becoming involved in the conflict through our Americanized view of what is best, government-wise and economically, for all people? Simultaneously, is it possible that our involvement and exportation of democracy abroad is not as virtuous as we might be conditioned to think? If more countries used democratic systems, these same countries would be more heavily inclined to using market and mixed economic systems. This then would lessen sanctions on trade as the government has less of an influence on the production and sale of goods and would further stimulate the world economy (thereby stimulating the American economy).

If considering these points, is the exportation of democracy considered a use of globalization?