Social theorists, especially those engaged in what has come to be known as postcolonial studies, speak of a thing called cultural imperialism. Cultural imperialism is the process by which a dominant power either imposes or insinuates its mainstream culture over or into the culture of the peoples and societies it dominates. Since the concept gained acceptance, there has been recognition that it is not new. Even in the ancient Greek and Roman empires, the imperial power culturally subjugated the colonies. More recently, we have the unabashed Anglophilia of Commonwealth countries. Bollywood femme fatales with their flawless on-screen Hindustani and their contrived videshi accented Hindi off the screen are examples of the power of cultural imperialism. A much-discussed vehicle of cultural imperialism is the American media industry. The self-appointed guardians of Indian culture often lament its videshi cultural invasion.
But these are strange times – times of changing equations. Can Indians be cultural imperialists too? What! Never! Perish the thought! We are pacifists! I can almost hear the howls of protest. But I contend that we can be brutal cultural imperialists, often even without intending to be.
The DNA newspaper published a story on the plight of certain sections of the employers of the BBC’s Asian Network (see story). The crux of the article is that members of one religious community feel threatened and disfavoured by those of two others. Let’s forget about the religious angle. It is, nearly always a red herring. Moreover, I cannot say anything about it, since I don’t know what happens behind the scenes at the august broadcaster’s studios. But there is another thing in the article that disturbs me.
It is alleged that Bollywood and bhangra music are crowding out other musical traditions – Pakistani and Bangladeshi, for instance. And this, I can vouch, from what I recall of my days in
For millennia we have rightly prided ourselves as a people who can assimilate cultures without attenuating them. We have rightly prided