Friday, February 3, 2017

Culture as reproducing structures



Structures often reproduce their oppression through the trope of culture.

The concept of context is brought about to justify another oppressive policy or another disenfranchising aspect of the status quo. For the status quo, culture is a tool, one that conveniently allows the powerful to bypass critical interrogation.

To the extent that structures can render structural oppression as culturally situated, the conversation on transforming structural inequities is deflected. There are no basis for the organizing of social change as the structurally constituted inequity is constructed as cultural. The explanatory framework of culture thus emerges as a tool that reproduces the marginalization of the disenfranchised, consolidating power in the hands of the status quo.

One such example of the reproduction of the culturalist narrative to justify and reproduce violence is the "Asian cultures" frame. The depiction of "Asian cultures" as justifications for structural inequities works through the logic that Asia is different.

The argument goes somewhat like this "Because Asia is different, the interplay of power is shaped by Asian logics."

Such culturalist explanation would be fine if it served as an entry point then for organizing work that sought to transform the inequities that are perpetuated by these logics. Instead, the work of academics becomes one of reproducing these inequities by simply describing and interpreting Asian difference. Asian difference then becomes a trope for explaining the inequities in distribution of power, appealing to some Confucian or Hindu logic to justify oppressive arrangements.

For the powerful in cultural contexts, the culturalist trope serves the agendas of power. Hence, the widespread interest among the powerful in cultural articulations, framing these articulations as projects that reproduce the instrumental logics of the status quo.

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