Cultural imperialism

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Cultural imperialism

Postby Richard » 22 Aug 2016 14:47

In today's DA lesson, we talked about whether Western ideas of how to organise and present information may be becoming dominant, meaning that alternative ways of organising may be becoming less common and be viewed pejoratively. An example I gave for how this could be investigated was to conduct a historical comparison of Thai business and government communications. My argument went that, say, 50 or 60 years ago Thai communications (both in business and in government) probably reflected Thai conceptions of how to organise text, since Western influences may have been minor at that time. Since then, with the growth of Western influences, business communications (even in Thai between or within Thai companies) may have changed to become more Western-like. The civil service, however, is one of the most conservative areas in society and so is far less likely to have changed, and therefore Thai government communications are likely to still be similar to those of 50 years ago in terms of content and the way content is organised.

Can you think of other ways in which this theory can be tested?
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Re: Cultural imperialism

Postby Woravut » 25 Aug 2016 08:20

I am not sure about your argument "...50 or 60 years ago Thai communications (both in business and in government) probably reflected Thai conceptions of how to organise text", since those who could write, worked in government, or had contact with foreigners were, I guess, educated abroad, especailly in English and France about 100 years ago. When they came back, they would write the way they had been trained when studying in those countries. Contracts and treaties were written in English or Frensh so that it could be understoond by the two parties. (I guess one of the influential documents has been law, and I guess the way Thai law were written was influenced by French. I don't know when the first Thai modern law was written, but I guess such written text could have much influence on how contracts have written.
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Re: Cultural imperialism

Postby sgtowns » 29 Aug 2016 11:31

We can probably research whether or not "Western ideas of how to organise and present information" have influenced communication in Thailand in several different ways. Has Hollywood influenced Thai movies? Have US and UK journalism styles influenced Thai newspapers? What about novels and literature? Marketing and advertising? Pop Music? These are all potentially areas where Western influences might be found.

But, I would guess that some types of discourse are more susceptible to change than others, so we should probably take this into account in our research. For example, I would guess that Hollywood has a much bigger influence on Thai movies than say, speeches by American presidents influencing and affecting speeches by Thai Prime Ministers.

Another issue we might want to keep in mind is that "Western ideas of how to organise and present information" are constantly changing as well so it might be difficult to make comparisons. I am guessing that there are many studies that look at how Western discourses in fields such as business or journalism have radically changed due to recent technological advances (for example). So, if there have been changes in Thai communication over the years, it might be difficult to determine the reason behind the changes. Has Thai discourse changed because of Western influence, or because of the broad use of new technologies? Or are the changes in Thai discourse because of changes in Thailand itself, such as the fact that Thai people are better educated now, or because Thai people have more money to spend on media, or that Thailand is more modern, etc.?

Unless we want to argue that the use of technology and media, being more educated, and becoming more modern are all forms of Cultural Imperialism as well...
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Re: Cultural imperialism

Postby daronloo » 29 Aug 2016 17:19

I find this posting quite timely, as I was reading some works by Joseph Sung-Yul Park some weeks ago about language ideologies about English in South Korea.

Park argues that some of the ideologies that have been promoted through the global status of English are (1) the necessitation of English, (2) the externalization of English, and (3) the self-depreciation of Korean speakers (even those who are very proficient in English) (2009). Perhaps point (2) is what is seen in the case brought up by Richard. In Park's (2009) study, the externalization of others is fueled by nationalistic grounds, and also through the attitude of 'jalnan cheok', which means 'pretending to be smart/good, boasting' (p. 52). This may also be a reason for why English proficiency remains low in Thailand - because of the effort to maintain Thainess (Kaur, Young, & Kirkpatrick, 2016). Or it could also be due to the practicality of a well-established format for information presentation. This is quite interesting, in my opinion, because one of the ideologies attached to English is the cosmopolitan nature of the language (see Pennycook or Block for further discussion). Despite English being attributed as 'convenient' and 'practical' (because so many people speak the language), the Thai civil service still retains its (cultural) identity. It would be interesting to see why certain facets of language use are able to resist the domineering effects of the English language.

Reflecting on Park's (2009) study (another one to consider is one that was done in 2011), perhaps another way of examining this issue is through the analysis of various media (ethnography?). Park's study on language on ideology involved analyzing different types of media: print, online, shows, and also face-to-face interaction.

Kaur, A., Young, D., & Kirkpatrick, R. (2016). English education policy in Thailand: Why the poor results? In R. Kirkpatrick (Ed.) English Language Education Policy in Asia (pp. 345-362). Switzerland: Springer.
Park, J. S. Y. (2009). The local construction of a global language: Ideologies of English in South Korea (Vol. 24). Walter de Gruyter.
Park, J. S. Y. (2011). The promise of English: Linguistic capital and the neoliberal worker in the South Korean job market. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 14(4), 443-455.
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Re: Cultural imperialism

Postby naratip » 31 Aug 2016 15:05

Daron could u pls elaborate more on the following sentence...

"This may also be a reason for why English proficiency remains low in Thailand - because of the effort to maintain Thainess (Kaur, Young, & Kirkpatrick, 2016)."

I wonder if there is a relationship between promoting Thainess and L2 proficiency. To my understanding, promoting Thainess in L2 is a matter of linguistic ownership when ones want to project their identity through the use of the local form of English.

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Re: Cultural imperialism

Postby daronloo » 31 Aug 2016 20:58

Perhaps I should explain more of Park’s (2009) ideology of self-depreciation. This ideology is fueled by the notion of hierarchy and nationalistic identity. Society has maintained the discourse that Koreans may never reach the accepted ‘standard’ (because they are apologetic and humble?). What this has led to is the longevity of the English craze. This includes cases where Korean English learners had gone (beyond) the extra mile - by having surgery on their vocal tract to help them sound more ‘English’.

Hence, even if a Korean is fluent and competent, he or she will retain the guise of not being proficient. This is a valuable ideology as it gives a sense of the Korean identity, and it necessitates the presence of English language educational establishments.

I found this Korean ideology very similar to the concept of Thainess. Kaur, Young, and Kirpatrick (2016), who draws on the work of Hamilton (2002), mentioned that Thainess is the idea of preserving one’s sense of identity, and to distinguish the local community from external forces which are considered ‘unstable’. Probably in an effort to maintain Thainess and in enacting Thainess, English proficiency has remained low.

We know that identity is an integral construct in one’s commitment towards a language, or language learning. How I see it is that when we enact Thainess and use a localized version of English, we are drawing a line between us and other users of English. We are marking ourselves as a particular user of English, and our proficiency level may not be to the ‘level’ that is accepted by the central powers (who decide what good proficiency is).

So yes, there is a relationship between Thainess and language proficiency, and maintaining Thainess and using a localized version of English may not necessarily resonate with the global discourse that dictates what acceptable proficiency is.

But the conservative in me made me wonder if I am pushing this a little too much. Probably it is best not to mix constructs together, even if they are from the same broad area.
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