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Culture, Globalization, Mediation by Mazzarella

by on October 10, 2011

William Mazzarella’s “Culture, Globalization, Mediation”, looks at globalization and media, its “contradictory relation to mediation”, and how it affects culture. Throughout his essay, he writes about globalization and its impact on the world. Globalization and culture are interconnected; globalization spreads culture. Mazzarella does not believe that “globalization-talk has meant the end of ‘good’ anthropology”, but that it has potential to expand on it.

Mazzarella defines mediation as a process “by which a given social dispensation produces and reproduces itself in and through a particular set of media.” He says mediation is denied because it implies distance, intervention and displacement. In a dictionary, mediation means connected indirectly through another person or thing. He writes extensively on Culture, Media, Mediation and Globalization. One of the main points that Mazzarella makes is that Media has a great impact on culture, and how we view other cultures. Media does not always portray correct images and observations about cultures so it can have some negative impacts. Perhaps it is not only that media does not always portray correct images, but also the people looking at the media have their own interpretations of the media.   Coming from different backgrounds, two people may look at the same piece of media and see two completely different things.

In the conclusion, he says mediation is at the root of all social life and we should move toward exploring its conditions and outcomes in social projects that may not recognize themselves in those terms (361) He states that the intention of his writing was to suggest that  his quetion of mediation is very general and touches on the fundamentals of soceial process.

Honestly, his writing was really confusing to me and I could not really understand what he was trying to say. I used wordle to see which words he used most to then try to read more closely what he was saying about them.

Question to the class: how has media affected views of other cultures? Do we see different portrayals of the same culture depending on who is doing the communication/ who is behind the media?

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9 Comments
  1. 242colleencarey permalink

    This article seem interesting. I read the Alia article. She wrote about media, it’s role in indigenous populations, globalization, and how these aspects are connected. In comparison to this article, media is recently starting to portray views of indigenous cultures. Indigenous cultures haven’t had much of voice in the past and this led to “outlaw” media. This refers to media that’s illegal and not supported by the government. There has been much controversy between state governments, tribal governments and indigenous people over their right to be herd and convey their cultural identity.
    Indigenous people would not necessarily and personally want to convey aspects of their identity and culture if other people behind the media were doing it accurately. So, yes, there are different portrayals of cultures depending on who is doing the communication and behind the media.

  2. In William Mazzarella’s novel, Culture, Globalization, Mediation, the relationship between globalization as well as the role that mediation plays. Globalization is integrating world markets, which is directly affecting the “status of the culture concept”(1). There are many critiques, positive and negative, concerning the effects of globalization within every realm of academia. Mazzarella’s adheres to the anthropological view referring specially to media and globalization. He conceptualizes an explanation, which would all “anthropologists to theorize the intersection between, say, cinema and ritual performance as an intermedium relationship rather than a primarily media-culture relationship”(2).
    Mazzarella attributes globalization to have led to a revalorization of the local, instead of societies becoming what he referred to as the McWorld-style homogenization(8). While “the local” are embracing cultural values, the narratives that portray them, through mediums such as “the media,” sill contains evident problems. “Accounts and analyses often imply that media are something that happened to or are imposed on already-constituted local worlds. The local, in this view, is composed of a certain set of cultural values and practices to which media must then adapt, in order to find an audience”(9). Mazzarella argues that these concepts fail to recognize that mediation is directly correlated with cultural politics, conceptualizing local worlds through the means of mediation is a framework that necessarily precedes recognizable media.
    I agree that mediation is directly associated with the media. The media portrays the local worlds and we, naturally, mediate that portrayal, making us indirectly connected to the local worlds. It becomes problematic though, when the local world presented is relatively unfamiliar, thus resulting in misinterpretations and possible mediations that constitute a false sense of connectivity. This would in turn affect one cultures view on the other.

  3. In comparison with the Alia article, i think both authors portray both the positive and negative aspects media has on different cultural groups. Alia states that there is no universal definition of “indigenous” people or groups, but there is some basic understanding of how they are identified through a unified cultural identity uninfluenced by western or colonial practices. By bringing radio broadcasting into these indigenous tribes has allowed these people to come into contact with the outside world through basic necessity. Examples of this include: radio stations for emergency purposes, literary enhancement, and political updates. An important issue with this type of media engagement has caused differences in portrayals of the cultural identities with these indigenous groups, which has led to confusion between governments and the rights of their people. Depending on who conveys information through the media, it greatly affects how people perceive and understand themselves and other people.

    • Kelcy,
      You bring up an interesting point when stating that Alia has no definition of “indigenous” people or groups, and have been portrayed in through different types of media, which generate peoples’ perceptions of what their cultural identity is comprised of. This also related to the article by Soren Hvalkof, Progress of Victims: Political Ecology in the Peruvian Amazon. In class Nancy spoke about how the Asheninka indigenous groups came down from the Peruvian mountains protesting with spears at one point to illustrate their power and influence in society. In turn the effect of the spears could have further fueled stereotypical images of indigenous people and thus potentially loosing some legitimacy. This is due to the media because individuals will correlate their cultural identity to what the media has portrayed indigenous groups to be.

  4. I would argue with this author’s idea that media and meditation are directly related, I believe that meditation is the time in which we are disconnected from society and social media and are directly connecting with our inner selves and the direct environment. When I am meditating the last thing that I am thinking about is the commercial I just watched or the current headlines or anything that is structured culturally for that matter.

  5. shanewyenn permalink

    I’m actually addressing a very similar question in my midterm paper. I’m writing about how Western movies depict the Western United States and how even though I am from Los Angeles, every time I think of “the West,” I think of cowboys, horses, guns, saloons, brothels, general stores, and vast landscapes with a few bushes and shrubs. And, on top of that, I immediately put the setting in the 1800s! For some strange reason, the media has made a more lasting impression on the term “the West” than my own personal experience of growing up in the West. So yes, even though I am part of western culture, the media’s portrayal of western culture has had a more lasting impression. Kind of a freaky thing to think about.

    • Summer Rose W permalink

      Shane,
      I find that interesting as well. Even though I live in Colorado and have lived here for almost half of my life, I do not connect it with “the West”. Maybe it is because all through education, when we learn about “the West”, we learn about expansion to the west, and gold mining. Courses that teach about the west teach more its history than how it is now. Also, when looking at photos of the west today, I think of Rocky Mountain National Park, Arches, Needles… Big canyons, red rocks, white water (?). These photos often do not have people in them, so it is easy to imagine it is a place where people do not live/very few people live – just like it was in the past. To us, when we think of the west, or when we look at photos or paintings of the west, it is still ‘wild’ as it was back when people were coming out here to mine Gold.

  6. amygraceaustin permalink

    A quote that I find most memorable in this article is the following:
    “Contrary to a widespread belief that globalization-talk has meant the end of ‘good’ anthropology, I believe that it holds the potential to revitalize the discipline, precisely as a mode of critically informed empirical inquiry, an inquiry that is attentive to the specific social conditions or mediations out of which particular representations emerge in our informants’ lives and work.”

    Before reading this article I would have very voluntarily put together mediation, media and ethnographic work, but now I see how they work hand-in-hand. Globalization, the heightened interconnectedness of civilizations throughout the world, inherently increases the spread of media and the capacity which which various cultures interact. The famous essay, “The Class of Civilizations” by Samuel P. Huntington, which I read for another class, illustrates how globalization is creating tension and conflict, particularly between the powers of “the West” and “the Rest”. With this increased tension there comes an increased need for mediation, which is what the Mazzarella article seeks to articulate.

    As the quote points out, Anthropological methodologies can be very useful within this context because ethnographers have the opportunity to work with various groups of people and can serve as bystanders and mediators. Mazzarella says that, “Given a well-chosen field site, an anthropologist has access, as events unfold, to the precarious relationship between determination and indeterminacy that structures mediation in the flow of social practice.” Here she means that anthropologists living within a community have the ability to live out social practice within the population and more deeply understand the roots of determination and indeterminacy.

  7. After reflecting on some of the broader themes and discussions of the course, Mazarella’s article is one that that personally came to mind. I recall after first reading this article I was a bit confused on what the message was here, but Mazarella brings up some good points on how the media influences our culture along with how their is a strong relationship between the two. Mazarella describes a balance between the society and media, or a mediation of the two creating a equilibrium system. I also thought it was interesting how the author continues to emphasize how media shapes culture and has become apart of it, right along with the process of globalization. It is also easy to then make the connection to understand how this relationship in turn has an impact on the environment.

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