Race and Ethnicity Study Essay Solution
Race & Ethnicity Journal Submission 3
Films and Readings to be covered:
What the reading/film was about
What you liked about it
What you disliked or found difficult about it.
What other things it made you think about
Asian Americans (film) Part five of the PBS series Asian Americans
Asian American Film
Cultural Hybridity (film)
‘Hijab Online’ from Emma Tarlo’s book Visibly Muslim
Tommy Orange’s novel extract: There There
David Treuer – Rez Life
Flm Urban Rez. – If it is no longer available from the library, and you didn’t make your notes at the time then just skip it.
Extracts from Moira Inghilleri’s book Translation and Migration.
J.G. Herder’s Essay on the Origin of Language (note on the work on Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803)
Herder was living at a time when the European cultural context was a matter of (1) French cultural, linguistic domination in German aristocratic and intellectual circles; (2) of the culture of the lower classes and the ethnic groups was dominated by the despotic, autocratic states within which they existed.
Herder believed that Germany should discover its own literature and language by using and properly valuing the German language and rejecting French models of manners etc.; by valuing the well-spring of its peculiarly national culture, i.e. the oral literature of the people, especially the folk song; by rediscovering its own literary past and in not consigning pre-enlightenment writers to a dust-bin of the dark ages.
In this endeavor the relation between language and society was therefore of special importance to him. This interest was not, however, one which led him, as it led some later German nationalists, to erect for German culture a special place in the cultural history of Europe and the world. It led him, rather, towards an attitude in which all cultures should be seen and evaluated in their own terms and in terms of their time, place and history. While the enlightenment saw itself as the final flower of a long historical process and other periods after the Greek and Roman periods as lapses befogged by superstition and ignorance from which the enlightenment had led Europe.
Herder emphasized the need to value the cultures of all previous periods and all other cultures, including those geographically distant tribes and peoples – far Eastern, American, African. Not that he saw them as ‘equal’ – this would involve the legitimation of comparison itself – but that they were essentially incommensurable. He was a thorough-going cultural relativist. And he saw political regimes which suppressed or oppressed the cultures of their peoples as morally corrupt and ultimately doomed to decay.
Where despotic rule incorporated diverse peoples within a single political authority his view was consistently and strongly expressed that rulers should not attempt either by force or education to impose their own culture on those of their subjects of other ethnic groups. Thus he declared, what today sounds like an early but exact multiculturalist notion: “Truly, just as God tolerates all languages of this world, so too should a ruler tolerate, nay, treasure, the diverse languages of his subject nations” (Barnard, p.58.) He was, for example, especially critical of the Hapsburg, Joseph II’s attempt to Germanize the southern and western Slavs under his domain. (See, Clark, p.338) Furthermore he blames the authoritarian state for the oppression, educational and political, of the diverse ethnic groups and the lower classes (including, under that autocratic rule, the middle classes) within states, and he blames Imperialism, colonialism and slavery as practiced especially by the European powers, for what he saw as the destruction and despoiling of cultures throughout the world: “Europe is free while four continents are enslaved”. Indeed he consistently attacked Euro-centrism in culture and linked it with the unjustifiable intellectual arrogance which accompanied the enslavement and exploitation of non-European peoples.
While not directly addressing himself to political matters, the political ideas embedded in his work and ‘cultural practice’ were rigorously anti-authoritarian, democratic and de-centralist to the extent that he has been seen as close to the anarchist writers of the following century Proudhon and Kropotkin than to most of the social and political theorists of his own times. This is particularly evident in those parts of his work which he was advised not to publish in his lifetime. From an early draft of his Ideas for example we find expressly anarchistic notions such as the following: “The best ruler is the one who contributes as much as he can towards making ruler completely unnecessary for the human race.” Or again: “Governments are bad physicians who treat their patient in such a way that they are always and again needed by them.”(Clark, p. 335) It should be clear from this that such ideas made him very remote indeed from those German Nazi nationalists who were to invoke his name over a century later.
In his own time he political and cultural landscape which he surveyed was one in which the mixing of ethnic cultures was in his view the product of military conquest and domination. In speaking from oppressed cultures within Germany, in Europe and on other continents he also sought a definition of culture in which, say, the classical cultures of Greece and Rome, France, England and Germany took their place humbly besides those of India, China, Africa and South America as examples of the diversity of cultures, each developing and opening out according to their own internal dynamics, and their own historical, social and material conditions.