Not Signed-In
Which clippings match 'Cultural Sensitivity' keyword pg.1 of 1
18 FEBRUARY 2009

Reconsidering the Rushdie affair: free-speech, censorship and 'The Satanic Verses'

"The history of modern Iran provides a dramatic illustration of the fallacy represented by the modern jingoism of 'better our imperialism than theirs'. For the two forms of imperialism are actually intimately related. By forcefully imposing Western values on Muslim states we are merely creating the ideal conditions for the very form of Islamic imperialism we most fear. At the same time, by maintaining an attitude of almost complete insensitivity in relation to The Satanic Verses we are feeding the cruel fundamentalism we seek to oppose. For the continued prestige of the novel in the West is itself a source of cultural humiliation for countless thousands of Muslims both in this country and elsewhere.

Most ironically of all, by persisting in their intransigent support for Rushdie's novel, Western liberals are demonstrating not their strength but their weakness. For it is by having the courage to correct mistakes and misjudgments that cultures ultimately demonstrate their strength.

In this respect Salman Rushdie's reflections on his own possible fallibility are highly significant. In his essay 'In Good Faith', he writes: 'Would I have written differently if I had known what would happen? Truthfully, I don't know. Would I change any of the text now? I would not. It's too late. As Friedrich Dürrenmatt wrote in The Physicists: 'What has once been thought cannot be unthought.' '

The flaw in this argument is that the quotation from Dürrenmatt addresses a quite different problem from that which is at issue. It is quite true that 'what has once been thought cannot be unthought' but thoughts are not words. They are essentially private and the fact that we cannot 'unthink' them is irrelevant to the Rushdie affair. For it is one of the conditions of human freedom that we can choose whether or not to voice in public the thoughts that we have in private. And having once chosen to commit our thoughts to speech or to writing we remain free to have 'second thoughts' – to revise, change or even completely repudiate what we have already said.

It is, indeed, almost a precondition of successful human relationships that we should remain free to withdraw or apologise for remarks which have proved hurtful, to 'unsay' things which we have already said and to put right mistakes or misjudgments. To place ourselves in a position where we are unable to do this is a sign not of liberty but of rigidity. Indeed, when Rushdie claims that he cannot alter or withdraw what he has written, he appears to invest himself with the infallibility which traditional religious believers normally ascribe to their gods and their divinely inspired prophets. It is just such delusions which lead to the monolithic and terrible certainties of scripture. By implicitly applying a scriptural doctrine of inerrancy to his own secular writing Rushdie has come close to making a novel – a human fable – into something as rigid and dangerous as scripture itself."
(Richard Webster, 1992)


censorshipcultural sensitivityethics • free-speech • Friedrich Dürrenmatt • fundamentalismimperialismIranIslamIslamophobiajingoismMuslim • Richard Webster • Salman Rushdie • Satanic Verses • scripturetradition • unsay • unthought


Simon Perkins
03 FEBRUARY 2009

Foundations of European Imperialism?

"In order to understand and expose the underlying global social hierarchy today, it's imperative for researchers to trace back its historical roots. Obviously this is an overwhelmingly daunting task to say the least, for the problem of racism is almost as old as Humanity itself. Therefore, we must at least try to trace it back to a more immediate past in order to comprehend the racist quagmire encompassing the world today. Now we can attest to the fact that Historical Global European Imperialism / Expansionism / Colonialism has had the most impact on reshaping the world in the last several centuries. Clearly, it has had the most influence, by far, in the world of politics, economics, education, commercialism, you name it. Furthermore without European Imperialism, "America" as you currently know it would not exist. In addition to that, had it not been for European Imperialism, White institutional control would not be so globally pervasive."
(changabula, Chinadaily BBS)

[A sensationalist (and somewhat anti–North American) but interesting perspective on the representation of East Asian people in popular media.]



Simon Perkins
10 JANUARY 2009

Reactrix Systems: walk over interactive floor ads

"Ads served by Reactrix (most often cast on the floor by overhead projectors) responded to consumers' gestures, allowing them to literally jump right into what they were selling. In one example, an advertisement for the Sci–Fi Channel's hit 'Battlestar Galactica' allowed those who stumbled upon it to learn about the show's plot and characters by touching spaceships flying by. Another let 'users' kick around a virtual soccer ball that reacted to their movements in real–time."
(Camille Ricketts, 11th December 2008)

[Reactrix Systems has apparently failed to successfully sell its interactive projection technology despite the technologies potential. The idea that consumers are able to ''walk over'' products has also received some criticism from product manufactures.]



Simon Perkins
15 NOVEMBER 2008

Essence, Identity, Signature: Tattoos and Cultural Property

"This paper examines a range of problems centring on the theorisation of cultural identity and cultural property by reference to debates about the appropriation of the Maori tattoo, or ta moko, and the authenticity of contemporary Maori tattooing practices. Through a consideration of the relationship between cultural identity and tattooing, and the question of whether tattooing is an effect of a specific identity or constitutive of that identity, it addresses the paradox inherent in attempts to protect indigenous, cultural and artefacts from (mis)appropriation: that is, that to re–articulate such non–Western cultural phenomena in terms amenable to their repositioning as property is precisely to render them meaningless or useless, in terms of their contextually specific uses and significance. Against the background of these issues, the use of ta moko as a form of signature or authorising mark of identification is taken to highlight issues concerning the complex relationship between the attribution of certain cultural practices, characteristics or properties, to a certain group, and the notions of authorship and authority that underwrite such designations."

(Stephen Pritchard, 2000)

Stephen Pritchard (2000). "Essence, Identity, Signature: Tattoos and Cultural Property", Social Semiotics, Vol. 10, No. 3.



Simon Perkins
11 NOVEMBER 2008

Bank loses face over Brian the Sumo fake

"One of the world's biggest banks has been accused of 'cultural insensitivity' after dressing up an overweight white man to look like a sumo wrestler.

HSBC, which calls itself 'the world's local bank', is running a series of billboard and print advertisements featuring the wrestler alongside the slogan: 'Fixed savings rates that won't budge.'

The campaign has upset members of Britain's Japanese community, who claim that the man's skin tone has been darkened and that make–up has been applied that appears to narrow his eyes. The pseudo sumo – a model known only as Brian – has been given a Japanese–style wig and is dressed in a traditional mawashi belt.
Although HSBC has denied making the model look as if he is from 'a specific country or region', a spokesman admitted that make–up had been applied to his face and eyes and that his skin tone had been made to appear more tanned."

(Elizabeth Day, The Observer, UK, Sunday August 24 2008)



adadvertising • approximation • bankbillboardcultural codescultural practicecultural sensitivityculturedesignfakeHSBCidentityintercultural • overweight • representation • Sumo • UKvisual analogyvisual identity


Lynne Ciochetto

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