Seeing is Believing

James Cameron's 2009 Film Avatar, image via

James Cameron’s 2009 Film Avatar, image via

The tech-savvy James Cameron film, Avatar (2009) illustrates the developing ‘Bollywoodization’ that is currently surfacing in the North American film market. Through the incorporation of “ancient Hindu concepts (p. 311, 2010)as Shaefer and Karan write, Cameron’s $2.7 billion earning film can be judged as borrowing cultural elements from Indian mythology. Cameron’s acknowledgement of such “overt Indian influences (p. 312, 2010)highlights the expanding prominence that ‘Bollywoodism’ is having in North American media. However, the question remains that is this example of ‘cultural borrowing’ a suitable incidence of cross-cultural interaction, or an exploitation that damages cultural integrity?

After India’s economic liberalisation that occurred in 1991, Shaefer and Karan note that there was an “emergence of a global network of formal and informal channels (p. 312, 2010)that served to popularise Hindi films. Ergo, the Hindi cinema underwent notable modifications in regards to how it was incorporated in global media. Through ‘Bollywoodization,’ incorporating such Hindi cultural elements was “absorbed into the conglomerate multicultural marketing toolkit (p.314, 2010),” and thus, prompts us to consider the appropriate ‘mergence’ of cultural identities in the global cinema.

This is specifically seen in the ‘mislabelling’ of Indian cinema as evinced from the British film Slumdog Millionaire. While it was widely perceived to be a ‘Bollywood’ film, audiences were wrongfully encouraged to link Western and Indian cultural values, which ultimately distorted prominent features of Indian cinema. As mentioned by Kaur and Sinha, the popularisation of Indian cinema through globalisation has induced the “proliferation and fragmentation of its fantasy space” for its “narrative and spectacle” create “diverse fantasies for diasporic communities (p. 15, 2005).” Ergo, these ‘modifications’ that Indian cinema underwent, has ultimately threatened the representation of their culture through Westernised productions.

Ravi Vasudevan astutely noted, “Bollywood cinema indicates the crossing of borders (2010, Vasudevan).” This statement most assuredly can be applied to facets of Cameron’s positive promotion of Hindi culture in global media as seen through Avatar. By drawing from the Ramayana storyline, elevating religious figures and promoting the ‘darshan’ outlook in Hinduism, Cameron aptly incorporated cross-cultural representation into the global cinema.

Additionally, Disney’s Brother Bear released in 2003 explores the Hindu notion of rebirth and karma as shown through the main character Kenai. Long story short, Kenai is transformed into a bear in order to enhance his perspective through his ‘rebirth’ as an animal. Praised for its “spiritual elements ,” (Hawthorne, 2015) this example also reinforces the range of audiences that Bollywoodism is now reaching, for even children are being exposed to international cultures through cinematic measures.

Disney's Brother Bear Incorporates Hindu Concepts, image via

Disney’s Brother Bear reaches younger audiences, image via

Through such inclusions of Hindi concepts, we can agree that the globalisation of cinema is undoubtedly not slowing down. As mentioned in Bollywood and Globalisation, from 2007 onwards, erratic yet promising alliances with Hollywood have surfaced (p. 13, 2011).” As evinced from such high grossing films such as Slumdog Millionaire and Avatar, the rising reputation of Asian film industries will continually challenge the hierarchy of the global filmmaking business. Even more so, challenge the content of what is portrayed. Kaur and Sinha have remarked that Hollywood “pushes world cultures towards homogenisation (p. 15, 2005)” which suggests that the integration of cultures is imperative for sustaining an appropriate cultural awareness in global media. Ergo the Indian film industry has the ability to flourish in its cinematic contra-flows, but the means in which it is done can ultimately nurture or deform the collective comprehension of their culture.

Karan K, Shaefer D, 2010, Problematizing Chindia : Hybridity and Bollywoodization of popular Indian cinema in global film flows, SAGE Publications, Los Angeles, USA pp. 311-314

Kaur R, Sinha A, 2005, Bollyworld: Popular Indian Cinema Through A Transnational Lens, SAGE Publications, New Delhi, India p. 15

Vasudevan R, 2010, The Melodramatic Public: Film Form and Spectatorship in Indian Cinema, Permanent Black, Ranikhet India

Mehta R, Pandharipande R, 2011, Bollywood and Globalization: Indian Popular Cinema, Nation, and Diaspora, Anthem Press, NY USA p. 13

Hawthorne M, 2015, Hindu Concepts in the Movies, Hinduism, weblog post, viewed 27th August

Judging Ethnocentrism

Issues that have risen from tensions within cultural diversity bring into question the extent to which ethnocentrism exists in Australia, and most specifically, in its educational environment. It is an urging fact that multiculturalism in Australia is not the picturesque reality for international students who engage within our educational system to only be challenged by cross-cultural interaction. As Kell and Vogl note, a crucial feature in achieving success for international students is not solely academic based, “but also their adjustment to the social and cultural environment (p. 2, 2007).Thus, it is imperative that ethnocentric tendencies are removed from preconceptions made about students from divergent cultural backgrounds.

Simon Marginson’s description of the human identity as being “open, fluid and in motion (p. 3, 2012)provides the proper outlook for establishing a positive education experience for international students. As he outlines, the strategy of hybridity allows the international student to become a “transformed self (p. 8, 2012),” by integrating cultural and relational elements to contribute to their sustainment of a “changing sense of self (p. 8, 2012).” Marginson further defines this as the ‘centering self’ as the student is actively engaged in “social encounters with diverse others (p. 9, 2012),” while being mindful that self-formation is upheld in order to develop a self-assured sense of identity.

Through this grounding of the ‘transformed-self,’ an international student’s “strong agency (p. 9, 2012)will allow them to improve “both language proficiency and cross-cultural relations (p. 9, 2012).” So, ultimately it is the extent of a student’s engagement within the Australian lifestyle that sees them learn from intercultural interactions and eventually, as Marginson puts it, “define themselves (p. 3, 2012).”

However, there are hindrances that impose upon an international student’s ability to prosper in their intercultural experience. A consequence of cultural hostility brought on by ethnocentricism, are incidences where the international student is marginalised. In International Students Negotiating Higher Education, interviews executed on international students revealed that “just under 50 per cent (p. 21, 2013)of the students had been affected by prejudice or offensive behaviour. Furthermore, Nasrin’s report on interviews with students from non-European countries states that they felt people “lacked knowledge about other countries and cultures (p. 400, 2010).” Through this lack of familiarity, stereotyping, discrimination and segregation can ultimately determine the “cross-cultural landscape (p.402, 2010).”

As Church says, “ethnocentric attitudes and stereotypes inhibit positive social interactions (p. 402, 2010),” as individuals will consciously evade cultural encounters. However, in more drastic circumstances, discrimination made in public situations can severe one’s perception of cultural acceptance. A personal experience from one Zimbabwe woman saw her be verbally abused by a woman at a Melbourne train station who ordered her to “go back where you came from.” Consequentially, she claims that this experience made her more aware of her nationality and of “being different (p. 392, 2010).”

In order to see the globalisation of education become an effective experience for international students, the barriers of communication need to be broken down. A 2006 survey concluded that more than half of students agreed with the statement ‘I don’t really feel I belong at the university (p. 21, 2013).’ Ergo, it is crucial that ethnocentrism in the Australian educational landscape is addressed by proper intercultural experiences that benefit the international (and local) student through non-presumptuous interaction. So ultimately, this ethnic enrichment will thus inaugurate Marginson’s concept of students becoming a ‘transformed self’ (p. 8, 2012) in a thriving, culturally diverse environment.

Blythman M, Sovic S, 2013, International Students Negotiating Higher Education: Critical perspectives, Routledge, New York, USA p 21

Forbes-Mewett H, Marginson S, Nyland C, Sawir E, 2010, International Student Security, Cambridge University Press, New York, USA p. 392, 402

Kell P, Vogl G, 2007, International Students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes, Macquarie University, Australia, p. 2

Marginson S, 2012, Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience: International education as self-formation, University of Melbourne, Australia, pp. 3, 8-9

The Lines Between (Technological) Borders

“Each technological development has led to increasing levels of global interrelatedness…”

Michael O’Shaughnessy and Jane Stadler have openly acknowledged in their paper (2008, p. 458) that we must embrace the inescapable blurring of the lines between national identities when it comes to technological evolvement. However, the extent to which this blurring-of-the-borders occurs has been seen as an ultimatum between cultural domination and global interaction, as particularly viewed through the means of media globalisation. So at what point should we judge interconnectedness enriched by mass media as either an opportunity for global interaction or social exclusion? 

Appadurai’s five dimensions that define the ‘elementary framework’ of global cultural flows, explore the term ‘technoscapes’ in relation to its role in becoming “central to the politics of global culture (1996, p. 301).” Due to the “sheer speed, scale and volume (1996, p. 301)” of this flow, technology can now move across “various kinds of impervious boundaries (1996, p. 297)” and as a result, leads to the global dissemination of information. In relation to the media, the forever evolving globalisation of communication suggests that technoscapes open doors to participation in the public (or rather global) sphere. Here, technology can be seen to literally prompt the global interaction between cultures and more importantly, encourage participation in generating debate about worldwide issues.

This global interaction between international identities has undoubtedly been stimulated by the availability and access of not only technology, but also the varying media platforms that exist. As discussed in Media and the Common Good, in referring to a study concerned with the effects of mass media in Kenyathe outcomes of media globalisation include its ability to “pluralise, invigorate and render the media space participatory, interactive and democratic.” Furthermore, it concluded that the globalisation process allows “global media to avail itself of media services (2010, p. 26)” to a global audience.

The term ‘media services’ can most relevantly be applied to the 2010 catastrophic Haiti earthquake that saw tragic circumstances evoke an international response. Shani Orgad writes that through fierce media coverage of this event, it attracted $9.9 billion worth of relief from the global public. Furthermore, he astutely writes that the media, in this situation, can see global collaboration bring about a “sense of ‘humanity’ as a universal identity (Orgad, 2012).” 

However, it is critical to acknowledge that this interconnectedness is not a perfect picture. O’Shaughnessy and Stadler make the obvious point that people who do not have access to such emerging technologies, suffer the ‘digital divide (2008, p. 456).’ Through this social exclusion, it also brings into question cultural imperialism and how media representations can implicate its diversity. Thus, this can lead to the “fear of cultural adsorption (1996, p. 295) as Appadurai explains, where the ‘tension’ between cultural homogenisation and heterogenisation will perpetually divide opinions on media globalisation effects.

So is media globalisation an opportunity for global interaction or social exclusion? Honestly, it seems that these binary oppositions will inevitably be subject to much debate due to the fact that globalisation is a highly complex process. Instead, we should acknowledge that technological developments both eradicate and inaugurate the methods of international relations. For as Terhi Rantanen simply writes, “the consequences of globalisation is not homogenisation nor heterogenisation, but both of these, either simultaneously or sequentially (2005, p. 116).”

Appadurai A, 1996, Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy, University of Minnesota Press, London pp. 295-301

Franceschi L, Mwita C, 2010, Media and the Common Good: Perspectives on Media, democracy and responsibility, Strathmore University, Nairobi Kenya p. 26

Organ S, 2012, Media Representation and the Global Imagination, Polity Press, Cambridge UK

O’Shaughnessy M, Stadler J, 2008, Media and Society, Oxford University Press, Victoria Australia pp. 456-458

Rantanen T, 2005, The Media and Globalisation, Athenaeum Press, Gateshead England p. 116