Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Not Just Some Old Asian Bracelet

After watching the video, "Yellow Apparel: When the Coolie Becomes Cool," in class I realized how horrible it is what people are doing to the Asian Culture. One of the things that sticks in my mind is what the Indian man said at the beginning of the video, that "every piece of culture being commodified." And once he said it, I realized that I have actually taken part in the commodification of my own culture. I remember seeing shirts that would have designs that were Asian influenced and that would be one of the reasons I would buy them. And to be honest, when I was in middle school I bought plenty of those "karma bracelets" and I definitely thought they were really cool. They weren't exactly like the one in the picture, but pretty close and have one in practically every color. So, I was consuming my culture in a way that was not right. I just thought that they were cool looking and they were cheap, so it didn't matter all the history and meaning behind the actual thing. I was doing what all the white people in the video were doing and as I think back on it now, it is pretty embarrassing.

But, that was not the only instance. Last year my roommate and I took a Henna Class at the Craft Center on campus. We took it because we just thought that henna was a neat way to "get tattoos" without really getting tattoos. All we knew about it was that it was used in places like India for things like weddings or special occasions. We were intrigued with all the intricate designs and the so we took the class. We enjoyed it a lot, but our designs were nothing like the ones to the left. We found out that henna is so difficult and there's lots of meaning behind different designs. From what I can tell it a craft that would take years and years to perfect. Tiny lines and dots make the work tedious and could even strain your eyes. But either way, it's still absolutely amazing.

So what do these bracelets and henna tattoos have to do with the compact challenge? Well these two things are great examples of re-appropriation. As discussed in class, re-appropriation is " the adoption of specific elements of one culture by another," and it is usually with a negative connotation to the minority culture. Both of the above things show how westerners have taken cultural things and made them things to sell. It is not something that should be happening because the actual things lose their cultural value and people are naive the the history and heritage behind the items. However, also stated in the video was how one young man said that it was better to be seen as "caricatures" than to not be seen at all. This is definitely true, but I still think that people should be more aware of others' cultures and not just take part in the "Ethno-Chic" style.

-Jasmine Lim (Blog#4)

"Yellow Apparel: When Coolies Become Cool" Video
Image of Bracelet:
Henna image:
In-class Lecture on May 19, 2009

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