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Contesting Cultures.doc

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McGill University
PHIL 242
Zoli Filotas

PHIL 242 - “Contesting Cultures” - Uma Narayan WESTERN VALUESAND OPPRESSION - Let courts weigh Charter of Quebec Values, poll shows Majority wants constitutionality tested - BY CHRISTOPHER CURTIS, THE GAZETTE SEPTEMBER 21, 2013 - propose to prohibit people of wearing highly religious symbols if they want to receive services IRIS YOUNG REVISITED (WESTERNIZATIONAS OPPRESSION) - “To be in a group is to share with others a way of life that defines a person’s identity, and by which other people identify him or her...Asubject’s particular sense of history, sense of identity, affinity, and separateness, even the person’s mode of reasoning, evaluating, and expressing feeling are constituted at least partly by her or his group affinities.” - “Cultural imperialism consists in the universalization of one group’s experience and culture, and its establishment as the norm. Those living under cultural imperialism find themselves defined from the outside, positioned, and placed by a system of dominant meanings they experience as arising from elsewhere, from those with whom they do not identify and who do not identify with them.” FEMINISM AND WESTERN IDEALS? - Do: - (i) the ideals of universal human rights, and - (ii) philosophical treatments of freedom and equality have a special relationship to European history and to certain kinds of Western society? - Do you have to choose between feminism and anti-imperialism? “CONTESTING CULTURE” - Too many of these debates focus on what Western countries should do about outside practices. - Narayan’s paper asks a refreshing, different question, about how non-Western people should make sense of their own cultures. - In particular, how is contesting your culture related to respecting it? - if they are opposites, then it makes sense to want to keep multicultural societies and feminism apart - but Narayan sees the two as interconnected THE NATURE OF CULTURAL GROUPS PROBLEMS DETERMINING WHETHERAPRACTICE ‘BELONGS’TO ACULTURE OR NOT - Cultures are varied at any given time (“synchronically”)... - ...and they also change over time (“diachronically”). SATI EXAMPLE - “Indian feminist protests responded not only to the particular incident that captured national attention... but to the widespread adulation and public celebration her act provoked, which presented engaging in sati as conformity to ‘traditional’spiritual and religious values, and part of ‘Indian heritage’. - This construction of sati as a practice central to ‘Indian culture’flies in the face of historical facts. Even in colonial times, sati was practiced only in very limited areas of the country, and by women of some particular castes. The majority of the 8,134 satis recorded between 1815 and 1828 took place in the vicinity of Calcutta.... [S]ati was never a widely practiced Hindu tradition, let alone an Indian one.” SELECTIVE MODERNIZATION - Fierce protection of Indian traditional practices co-exists with changes in marriage, clothing, etc. ATRADITION OF CRITICISMAND CHANGE CAN BE PART OFACULTURE - “I find it impossible to describe ‘our traditional way of life’without seeing change as an ever- present constitutive element, affecting transformations that are most surprising when they seem to become “invisible” in their taken-for-grantedness.” - (Compare a related claim by Will Kymlicka about Canada and other Western countries: that openness to difference and multiculturalism are parts of our cultures.) WOMEN’S SILENCEAND OBEDIENCEAS AN INDIAN VALUE (OR NOT?) - “The shape your silence took is part of what incited me to speech.” - Mother understands silence - silence in the face of harassment and misery... - ...and as silence in front of men, which can be complained about to women... - i.e. recognition of the wrongness is built into the culture too. - So even as practiced by Narayan’s mother, the traditional practic
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