Posts Tagged With: Concordia University

FREE Hairnet Café


I was reading a really interesting article on Global News email alerts today about a woman who used a cheap shampoo for 30 years and caused wax build-up in her hair! Well, my hair friend, just creating my dreadlocks the first time back in 1999, I used beeswax, and the buildup in my hair was so thick that it caused me to go to a hair salon called O’mari’s in Montréal when I was living there and the barber cut off my hair to look like one of the singers from Boyz to Men (he really had no choice). Only the hair close to my scalp was not murky:

So, my friend, the 30-year build up from cheap shampoo my friend, I would then use products that would also cause build-up on my hair. Even with the locks that I started in March of 2012 with the help of Mariam Ibrahim who has written a great book that I helped to edit:

I would use products on my hair and then have just realised pretty much within the past six months, that my hair, and even afro-textured hair, pretty much wash and go and really does not require a lot of product, nor washing. Some of the people with straight hair, because most people with curly hair or frizzy hair know this, but most people even with straight hair, as I have been told by straight-haired people themselves, probably wash their hair more often than they actually should. Mariam Ibrahim herself, told me after I asked her: “how often should I wash my hair?” Yes, a common question I know, however, Mariam’s answer was not common. She said: “whenever it feels dirty.” Yes, this is true. And even many people know this about the skin on their bodies. Many people will wash their skin too often, then wonder, why they have dry skin? Well, if you wash your skin, face, clean your nails, etc., based on the theory that simply dirt, literal dirt, grime, buildup, etc., needs to be removed, then I would imagine, as I experience myself, that you will not have dry skin.

Why would this be important? Well, many people complain even about things such as wrinkles. As I grow older, I think about this. I am almost 50 years old, and not to brag, but I really don’t have wrinkles. But, it’s not necessarily because I am black, it has more to do with the fact that I use Castille soap which has an alkaline level to egg white, and I also dilute it, I’m not a construction worker, I’m a writer, I’m not exposed to any harsh chemicals as even some hairdressers themselves could be, therefore, I am really not exposing my skin to anything particularly damaging. It’s not that much different, in order to be a little funny, then if you have a piece of favourite clothing. If you barely wear your favourite clothing, it will last longer. If you wear it out, just like shoes as well, a lot, it will start to look raggedy.

All of this is meant to start an online forum that is absolutely free, called the Hairnet Café.

This is a revival of a café similar to the vibrations of the universal voices, not just curly hair talk, but straight hair talk, all different colours, as well as American spellers, and people with absolutely no hair. Let’s talk about hair, skin, nails, etc. If we get some advertisers on here, you may find out about some of the best places all over the world you can go to look the way you want to. If we have some great do-it-yourself types out there, you may receive some wonderful free tips.

This would be an on-going free Hairnet Café that is universal, where actually I began this idea in 1998 in Montréal, Québec inspired by Mariame Kaba who was talking black hair and writing it while I was just thinking about it:

Mariame Kaba

Also, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Chris Rock’s “Good Hair” documentary in 2009:

But this time, the conversation I would like to be universal, not just about black folk! All folk have the same issues. Listen to notable academic Grant McCracken who also wrote another inspiring book I read while doing my original research on black hair politics back in 1998 and here is the book first, then a video from TEDxHarlem:

https://www.amazon.ca/Big-Hair-Grant-Mccracken/dp/B006CDNDEE

Grant McCracken discussing culture in corporations.

Donna Magazine encourages your comments and let’s see where this discussion takes us! I will be moderating the comments. British, American, and other written languages are welcome to respond. If you have a good comment and I can figure out the language that you are communicating in with Google Translate, it will be approved.

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Becoming an Educator: Teaching the next generation of journalists and media Professionals (Published on CABJ.ca)


Image result for Cartoon character of a black female teacher

It took me five years to teach in Toronto. My first teaching experience was at Carleton University in Ottawa as a Television Teaching Assistant. I later went on to teach in Kampala, Uganda at Makerere University (the oldest African university) and while I was a graduate student at Concordia University.

I had grown up in Toronto, however, once I reached the age of 18, due to work and school, I spent time outside of the city. I returned to Toronto for my longest stay in any one city since the age of 18 in 2001. I returned to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), as well as worked with Canoe.ca, Young People’s Press, the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, freelance talent work, Media Research Institute, Share Newspaper, Pride Newsmagazine and New Dreamhomes and Condominiums Magazine to name a few. I really wanted to make the transition to teaching, and 40-year veteran of journalism Robert Payne helped me to make that transition.

I went to him for career coaching and he let me know in 2005 that there was a job opening in teaching at Centennial College. I applied for the full-time job and although I did not get it, it opened the door for me to teach my first course in Toronto at Centennial in Magazine Journalism that started January 2006.

This experience springboarded into working at Seneca College, University of Guelph-Humber, Humber College, Trebas Institute, George Brown College and Ryerson University. If I did not have my master’s degree from Concordia University in Montréal, I would not be able to do this work.

The landscape for what a lot of post-secondary institutions are asking of journalism educators is changing. Mike Karapita at Humber College calls it “credentializing.” There is a movement for educators to become more educated, and this is a big reason why I am currently doing my Ph.D. in Education at OISE/University of Toronto. I started May 2010.

The next generation of journalism educators has many challenges ahead of them. It is still a competitive market that grows even more competitive because those that are untrained in the field continue to make strides. Journalism education needs more of an emphasis on how young journalists can be entrepreneurs and successfully run their own freelancing business. This is effective from a tax perspective, as well as a job security perspective. Job security is an elusive thing these days; however young journalists can stay on top of this by working for a variety of employers.

If you would like more information on this topic, you can email Donna Kakonge at dkakonge@gmail.ccom.

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The Politics of Hair (Proposal to Ryerson University)


Everybody Does Something to Change Their Appearance for Advancement - Photo Courtesy of Stockexpert.com

Everybody Does Something to Change Their Appearance for Advancement - Photo Courtesy of Stockexpert.com

The politics of black hair shows in books like Tenderheaded to the Princess of Wales plays ‘Da Kink in My Hair and Hairspray to movies like Beauty Shop to songs played on Flow 93.5.

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Afro Forever: Research Paper on Salon Utopia for the M.A. in Media Studies at Concordia University


Cover Art for What Happened to the Afro? - Photo Courtesy of Dreamstime.com

Cover Art for What Happened to the Afro? - Photo Courtesy of Dreamstime.com

Donna Kay Cindy Kakonge

Advisor: Dr. Martin Allor

Committee member: Dr. Kim Sawchuk

Outside Examiner: Dr. Lorna Roth

August 12, 1999

Afro Forever

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With this Ring Movie Event in Montréal, Canada


Ameesha Joshi invited you to With This Ring‘s event
With This Ring | Montreal Premiere
Monday, April 3 at 7 PM
Concordia University – Hall Building in Montreal, Quebec
Going
Interested
Not Interested
Back to where it all began! We’re thrilled to be finally showing our film in Montreal AND at Concordia University. We first met while studying at Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema and starte…
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End Piece: an uplifting experience (Originally Published in Concordia University Alumni Magazine)


Since I was seven years old I knew I wanted to write. My master’s degree in media studies from Concordia helped me reach that goal — and much more. Continue reading

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Artwork from Salon Utopia


Here are four pieces of the artwork I did for a website I had called “Salon Utopia” that I did as part of my graduate studies at Concordia University in Montreal.

Betsy was the receptionist of the virtual Salon Utopia

Betsy was the receptionist of the virtual Salon Utopia

Example of people talking in online forum
Example of people talking in online forum

Portrait of myself as a baby
Portrait of myself as a baby

Example of people who would come to virtual Salon Utopia Example of people who would come to virtual Salon Utopia

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Hair Chat



In Beauty, Culture, Health, Writing (all kinds) on June 19, 2009 at 04:18

Four lovely women, a fifth one coming later, volunteered their time on a January afternoon in 1998 to sit down at Salon Utopia and chat about hair. Here are the details of their chat which will hopefully stimulate your own discussions.

LOCKS:

Naila (with locks): People ask me what is that…what you mean what is it…can you comb that out…I’ve had people from Jamaica asking me about my locks…what do you mean what is that?

Malene (with an afro): Have you forgotten what it’s like when you relax your hair? Continue reading

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End Piece: an uplifting experience (Originally Published in Concordia University Alumni Magazine)


In Education, Media Writing, Writing (all kinds) on March 27, 2009 at 00:19

Since I was seven years old I knew I wanted to write. My master’s degree in media studies from Concordia helped me reach that goal — and much more.When I entered the master’s program in 1997, I was quite depressed. I had been living and working in Uganda, but health problems had forced me to return to Canada earlier than expected. I was staying with friends I knew from my undergrad years in Ottawa. The only place that came close to providing me a sense of home was Toronto; I just hated Montreal. I wasn’t doing any writing, the medication I was putting pounds on and I was generally unhappy with myself. Continue reading

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World of Words (Originally Written in 2009)


Image result for Concordia University

Since I was seven years old I knew I wanted to write – and I knew a master’s degree in Media Studies from Concordia would help.

While I did my master’s degree I had the opportunity to organize my thoughts and improve my writing by doing many essays. My “fait de complet” was a 90-page research paper relating to racial politics. I read the equivalent of five pages of bibliographic material for that paper. My reading comprehension skills improved. Reading philosophers like Heidegger in my media studies classes four times was good training. Taking Iain Cooke’s new technology course gave me marketable skills.

The opportunity to be part of small class discussions and do presentations was all good preparation for getting a job.

My degree at Concordia was a springboard for interesting things.

I’ve been a freelance writer and independent contractor for 11 years professionally – some of that work done during the two years I spent doing my degree.

I keep my calls in the evenings short so I wake at 6 a.m. The night before I start my freelance writing, I get my Yahoo email and MSN Messenger ready. I open a Word document and date it, keeping the document in my Media Research Institute electronic folder.

I work from home in the early mornings and it helps to pay my rent. I’m finished work by the time most people start. This leaves my day free for other writing projects.

The writing I do is for the automotive industry and I am learning a lot. I’m still getting used to having the morning coffee ready.

Writing is hard work and not everyone is making J.K. Rowling’s big bucks.

In my spare time, I’ve written four books and plan to publish them.

The first book I ever wrote was completely done by hand in a notebook. I knew about computers, but there was something intimate about putting pen to paper. I’m hoping to self-publish it with a place out in Vancouver. The first time I self-published was when I had 15 copies of my research paper/thesis printed and sold three of them for $50 in Montreal. I made back my investment and broke even.

I have always wanted to write. All my career decisions have led me to achieve this goal. Recently, I’ve worked with the Ontario provincial government. I worked with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for more than a decade, with many opportunities to write. I was a journalist fulfilling many different roles. Speaking of roles, I’ve even done acting and landed a commercial with The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care in Ontario. As I read my lines, I dreamt of writing the script.

That’s probably why writers write. There’s so much I do not know – but what I do know is that writers have a brief moment of destiny building with the words they put down or speak. It’s not much different from a carpenter who builds a house or parents who create a child. It’s a powerful thing.

As the cost of living gets higher in a city like Toronto, it becomes harder to really only write. Other sources of income are needed – and if I were to write my complete CV from the time I started delivering newspapers at the age of 10 – it would be 10 times longer than this.

What keeps me writing is the fact it’s a challenge, a friend, and a personal outlet. It’s a challenge – I’m always trying to earn a living. It’s a friend – writing has been my constant companion since I wrote my first story on dinosaurs. It’s an outlet – it keeps my hands busy.

A big part of my identity is tied to being a writer. I have Concordia as one of the many places and people to thank for that.

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Truth, Objectivity and Ethical Space


Image result for Documentary

Exploring what is documentary in many ways opens up a discussion about the ethical elements of it. Rotha notes dramatization aspect. Schelesinger notes honesty and plain facts understanding of the word documentary. Ruby raises the question: is documentary art or reportage?

There is a larger global moral dimension: cultural imperialism:

I believe that the filmic illusion of reality is an extremely dangerous one, for it gives the people who control the image industry too much power. The majority of Americans, and soon the majority of the world’s population, receives information about the outside world from the images produced by film, television, and photography. If we perpetuate the lie that pictures always tell the truth, that they are objective witnesses to reality, we are supporting an industry that has the potential to symbolically recreate the world in its own image. Technology grows out of a particular ideology. The western world created image-producing technologies out of a profound need to have an irrefutable witness – to control reality by capturing it on film (Ruby, Ethics, 317).

How does documentary contribute to cultural imperialism? How does it compare and contrast to other forms of media imperialism, such as the fiction films?

Linton sees the documentary as having a greater ethical dilemma than a fiction film.

Pryluck notes that filmmakers share similar problems with ethics with research physicians, sociologists, psychologists, etc. How important are the ethical considerations in media to you?

Things I Cannot Change opened up many ethical questions that keep arising: How responsible are filmmakers to the ongoing lives of the subjects? What level of involvement does the filmmaker have in their subjects’ lives? What limits exist on what can or cannot be used of footage shot or sound recording? (Nichols, Ideology, 237).

John and Judith Katz’s model for examining ethics in autobiographical documentaries involve looking at consent, disclosure, motive, and construction.

Linton’s model for examining ethics in a documentary is based on relationships: filmmaker and self; filmmaker and larger community; filmmaker and subjects; filmmaker and audience.

Filmmaker and Self:

Role of the filmmaker: Is a documentary filmmaker an artist or a technician?

Does he look at filmmaking as a matter of ‘doing his own thing,’ as a freedom from constraints, as an obligation on the part of the artist (based on self-interest) to simply survive? Or does he recognize a responsibility to his fellowmen collectively, an obligation to use film as an instrument for social change, and on that basis ‘to select subjects for their significance,’ as Grierson and so many others have advocated” (Linton, Moral, 17).

Has the filmmaker’s ethical problem become more or less significant over time? Do documentary filmmakers care more or less about morals now, compared to the past?

Motive:

Even when confidant and disclosure seem appropriate, the filmmaker who ‘pries’ for no socially redeeming purpose other than his own personal or financial aggrandizement seems suspect. In our culture, it is not acceptable to ‘use’ people without good cause” (Katz and Katz, Ethics, 127).

Rosenthal questions – why bother to make the film at all? He notes three answers filmmakers give: to state and publicize a problem, to further one’s career, and the most common response is that the public has a right to be informed about a matter of public concern.

Ruby raises the questions: Is it acceptable to use someone’s life to illustrate a thesis? Are the considerations different when you are seeking to aid someone you regard as a victim by using that person in your film, as opposed to using a subject in order to expose him as a villain? (Ruby, Ethics, 316).

Filmmaker and Larger Community

Prosocial relevance:

Rosenthal thinks documentaries do have social relevance for ameliorating social problems.

Against social relevance:

Ruby and Winston think documentaries’ money could be better spent and directed to practical solutions for social ills. Documentaries are just entertainment for the middle class. “Power comes more directly from the end of a gun than it does from the lens of a camera. Few revolutions were won in a movie house or on the six o’clock news” (Ruby, Ethics, 317).

Can a documentary be used for social change?

Media representation:

Ethnic minorities, women, gays, third- and fourth-world peoples, the very rich and the very poor are telling us – the middle class, middle-aged white males who dominate the industry – that our pictures of them are false. Some wish to produce their own representation of themselves and control or at least monitor the ways we now image them (Ruby, Ethics, 309).

Can middle-class, middle-aged white men tell the stories of people who are not like them?

Filmmaker and Subject:

Rosenthal writes that the relationship between filmmaker and subject is the central issue when it comes to ethics.

Linton poses an ideal situation: “in the filmmaking situation, collaboration of filmmaker and subject should be predicated upon equal openness and honesty” (Linton, Moral, 19).

What should be the nature of the relationship between filmmaker and subject?

Aibel notes distance compared to the total involvement of Sunny Yi (and any kind of relationship in between these poles can exist).

“It is important that the filmmaker respect his subjects as individuals and that he does not demean them, for in demeaning his subjects he demeans the viewer and himself as well” (Linton, Moral, 19). For example, films did about developing countries.

“’Every human being, however immature or defective, who has any mental capacity at all is a person and is worthy of respect’” (Linton, Moral, 19). This quote comes from Errol E. Harris.

Consent:

“Margaret Mead stated the case bluntly: ‘the more powerless the subject is, per se, the more the question of ethics – and power – is raised’” (Pryluck, Outsiders, 262).

Some filmmakers like Mamber, do not see any immorality if there is consent by the subject.

Howard S. Becker notes what makes consent an ethical problem is that subjects never know exactly what they are getting themselves into when they consent. Filmmakers, as well as scientists, don’t always know what the outcome of the research will be (Gross, Katz, Ruby, Image, xiii).

Linton’s comments how powerless consent can make the subject. When the subject has given consent, they relinquish control over their own image; they become a performer, rather than a co-participant in the creative process.

Subject power and participation:

Jean Rouch shows his material to the people he’s working with and it serves as the impetus for further filming. An example of Rouch’s stuff is Chronique D’un Été (Pryluck, Outsiders, 264).

What recourse does a subject have when they have been poorly portrayed?

Linton goes on to say that the other consideration concerning filmmakers giving subjects power over their own image, the subjects will most likely work to portray themselves in a favourable light only, and this would be a distortion of the truth.

Exploitation:

Linton writes, “the exploitative nature of the usual documentary can be attributed to the nature of the power relationships of the filmmaking process” (Linton, Moral, 20). Increased subject participation may address this power imbalance.

So the basic question is, what is the duty of care, or responsibility, owed by filmmakers to those they film? (Rosenthal, Challenges, 246).

There is a “political exploitation,” this point comes from Brietrose: “The filmmaker is in the business of using his or her subjects – most often to make a substantive point, to achieve a strategic objective or to fit into a pattern of argument or exposition that transcends individual lives. Film subjects are thus a means to an end, but it is generally the filmmaker’s end, not the subjects.’”
Rosenthal brings up another area of ethical concern between filmmaker and subject, that of “economic exploitation.” He notes that fact that filmmakers are making their living from their work, and building reputations that convert into an economic gain. They don’t pay their subjects for their work, they gain a relationship based on friendship and sometimes bullying.

Filmmaker and Audience:
Ruby in the Rosenthal anthology highlights the fact that filmmakers have a moral obligation to their potential audience (Ruby, Ethics, 310). He raises a number of questions: Where does the documentary artist’s responsibility to the audience lie? If documentaries actually aren’t accurate representations of reality, should the filmmaker tell the audience that it’s not? Is the documentary artist being more ethical if methods and techniques are revealed? Does that knowledge cause us, the audience, to regard the film differently? (Ruby, Ethics, 313-4).

Another power relationship exists between filmmaker and audience, and this involves the camera.

Emile de Antonio in James M. Linton’s article “The Moral Dimension in Documentary” note the significance of narration and sound manipulation.

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Becoming an Educator: Teaching the next generation of journalists and media Professionals (Published on CABJ.ca)


Image result for Cartoon character of a black female teacher

It took me five years to teach in Toronto. My first teaching experience was at Carleton University in Ottawa as a Television Teaching Assistant. I later went on to teach in Kampala, Uganda at Makerere University (the oldest African university) and while I was a graduate student at Concordia University.

I had grown up in Toronto, however, once I reached the age of 18, due to work and school, I spent time outside of the city. I returned to Toronto for my longest stay in any one city since the age of 18 in 2001. I returned to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), as well as worked with Canoe.ca, Young People’s Press, the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, freelance talent work, Media Research Institute, Share Newspaper, Pride Newsmagazine and New Dreamhomes and Condominiums Magazine to name a few. I really wanted to make the transition to teaching, and 40-year veteran of journalism Robert Payne helped me to make that transition.

I went to him for career coaching and he let me know in 2005 that there was a job opening in teaching at Centennial College. I applied for the full-time job and although I did not get it, it opened the door for me to teach my first course in Toronto at Centennial in Magazine Journalism that started January 2006.

This experience springboarded into working at Seneca College, University of Guelph-Humber, Humber College, Trebas Institute, George Brown College and Ryerson University. If I did not have my master’s degree from Concordia University in Montréal, I would not be able to do this work.

The landscape for what a lot of post-secondary institutions are asking of journalism educators is changing. Mike Karapita at Humber College calls it “credentializing.” There is a movement for educators to become more educated, and this is a big reason why I am currently doing my Ph.D. in Education at OISE/University of Toronto. I started May 2010.

The next generation of journalism educators has many challenges ahead of them. It is still a competitive market that grows even more competitive because those that are untrained in the field continue to make strides. Journalism education needs more of an emphasis on how young journalists can be entrepreneurs and successfully run their own freelancing business. This is effective from a tax perspective, as well as a job security perspective. Job security is an elusive thing these days; however young journalists can stay on top of this by working for a variety of employers.

If you would like more information on this topic, you can email Donna Kakonge at dkakonge@gmail.ccom.

Categories: Beauty, book reviews, Business, Contact Information, Creative Writing, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Events, Health, Living, Media Writing, Movie Reviews, Writing (all kinds) | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Distinctions: Space and Power


Distinctions - September 8, 2010

This essay will explore how four authors have made distinctions of social space and of power in the social world. For instance, Pierre Bourdieu’s “Social space and symbolic power” from his, In Other Words, theorizes on how social space is created and how groups exist in social space.

Similarly, Dick Hedbige’s “Towards a cartography of taste 1935-62,” from Popular Culture: Past and Present, consider some of the changes in British social and cultural life during 1935 to 1962. He attributes the changes to two factors, “Americanization” and the “leveling-down process.” John Frow’s “The concept of the popular,” from his Cultural Studies & Cultural Value, points out flaws in Bourdieu’s theory, such as working from a top-down model of social domination, and also theorizes what the “popular” means. Mica Nava’s “Consumerism reconsidered: buying and power,” from Cultural Studies 5 discuss the relationship between people and commodities and shows how consumerism can be used in a political way.

In particular, I will show how Bourdieu contrasts with Frow on distinctions of social space and power, second, how Bourdieu and Hebdige share similar theories about space and power, third how Bourdieu and Hebdige differ with Nava in their distinctions of power, and fourthly, how Nava and Frow share similar theories on distinctions of power. Through the differences and similarities in the authors, we will see how Nava and Frow are more relevant to understanding distinctions of space and power in today’s social world, the ‘global village.’ Throughout the study of these distinctions, the relevance of Nave and Frow’s theories become apparent.

Bourdieu theorizes on how the social space is divided, by using terms such as “habitus.” He says that the “’sense of one’s place”, or the “habitus,” and the “’sense of the other’s place’” creates a social distance (Bourdieu 128). This knowing of one’s place and knowing of another’s places is a social space distinction. Bourdieu’s argument, however, does make allowance for the person who watches the “Simpsons,” drinks beer and bowls, and also listens to the opera. He states:

Agents classify themselves, expose themselves to classification, y choosing, in conformity with their tastes, different attributes, clothes, types of food, drinks, sports, friends, which go well together and which they also find agreeable or, more exactly which they find suitable for their position (Bourdieu 131-132).

Bourdieu only recognizes that people choose their tastes based on their social position. This does not consider that many people have tastes that do not fit neatly together; someone who drinks beer and bowls can like the opera too.

For Bourdieu, the distance between different groups’ social space is distinct, while Frow seems to suggest a less ordered social space than the one proposed by Bourdieu. For Frow, the social space is divided between the popular and the dominant culture that he frames as a political conflict. His use of the word ‘popular’ encompasses a social space, but within that space there is diversity. Bourdieu, on the other hand, says that the social world is neither chaotic nor completely structured. However, Bourdieu’s vision of social space distinctions is more structured than Frow’s. The distinctions of Bourdieu are also emphasized by his use of the word “class.” Frow instead refers to differences of culture. In an advanced capitalist society like ours, Frow believes that there are not strict class differentiations because we have a media and an education system that break down strict class lines. “These institutions have thoroughly transformed the system of ‘postmodern’ relations to cultural value” (Frow 86). Therefore, Frow is more aware than Bourdieu of the effect that mass media and mass education have on blurring the distinctions in our social space.

Clearly, Bourdieu’s position seems to assume a total acceptance of one’s sense of place and that of the other: unlike Frow, there is no political conflict involved in Bourdieu’s theory. For Frow, popular culture is in opposition to the power structure of the dominant culture. Frow, for instance, maintains that culture forms are not fixed (something not recognized by Bourdieu), a text is not fixed, and a text is not bourgeois in the sense that it cannot be anything else. Also “’there is no one-to-one relationship between a class and a particular cultural form or practice’” (Frow 73). Class structures intersect and overlap. For example, Tiger Woods (African-American and Asian) plays golf (associated with the white upper middle class). Golf then does not become fixed to what is most commonly identified as golf. Frow’s theory, therefore, more modern than Bourdieu’s and takes into account the cross-cultural and other-class considerations in the “global village” of today. However, though Frow disagrees with Bourdieu on many points, he agrees with Bourdieu’s key thesis “that the primary business of culture is distinction” (Frow 85).

Although Bourdieu differs from Frow in his construction of social space, he is similar to Hebdige. Bourdieu says that commodities such as playing gold, red wine, champagne, and whiskey are distinctive signs that differentiate group or classes of people. This leads to a social space that is symbolic, “ a space of lifestyles and status groups, characterized by different lifestyles” (Bourdieu 133). Similarly, Hebdige divides social space in relations to taste and uses commodities to describe a social space. Hebdige also depends on language to form a cultural value and uses the same distinctive signs as Bourdieu to exemplify the relationship between class and commodities in an excerpt from Evelyn Waugh’s The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. The reader forms and identity of the character based on his dislike of commodities like plastics, Picasso, sunbathing, and jazz. Hebdige, in particular, illustrates the distinctive force of words. He writes of words that embrace a meaning that creates a social space. These words from a language of value:

Specifically, we have seen how a number of ideologically charged connotation codes could be invoked and set in motion by the mere mention of a world like ‘America’ or ‘jazz’ or ‘streamlining.’ Groups and individuals as apparently unrelated as the British Modern Design establishment, BBC staff members, Picture Post and music paper journalist, critical sociologists, ‘independent’ cultural critics like Orwell and Hoggart, a Frankfurt-trained Marxist like Marcuse, even an obsessive isolationist like Evelyn Waugh all had access to these codes (Hebdige 213).

The cues Hebdige speaks of creating distinctions. These codes are embodied by language. Language is also part of the significance of commodities in creating and symbolizing their value. To a lesser extent, Bourdieu sees language as distinctive signs. His use of the word “habitus” is one that encompasses a social space. He also uses words, such as “petty bourgeois,” which encapsulate a meaning that distinguishes social space.

Similar to Hebdige and Bourdieu, Nava examines the distinction of social space in relation to commodities. In Hebdige, commodities have their identifications, their selling points: streamlining became associated with the new and the future; the Cadillac became a symbol of the American dream. For Nava, social space is a relationship between consumer and commodity. Like Frow she sees a political element in this construction of social space. In the social space discussed by Nava, commodities make distinctions. Hebdige also examines this in part by Bourdieu and. Nava, however, concentrates her theory on distinctions of power. The main concern for all authors is distinctions of power; these distinctions of power will be with Hebdige’s view.

The dominant group, through the “leveling-down process”, sees in the ‘other,’ namely America, as well as Hebdige’s discussion of power. Hebdige exemplifies the power of American culture in Britain by discussing the introduction of rock music to the BBC. The BBC, as an ‘official point of view,’ was late in accepting rock music in its programming:

Despite the relaxation in the tone and style of the BBC broadcasting allegedly affected by the advent of commercial television in 1954, rock n’ roll was deliberately ignored and resisted by the BBC radio networks (Hebdige 202).

When the BBC finally did accept rock music, the ‘official point of view’ of the disc jockeys still influenced it with their commentary. This shows the power of the ‘official point of view’ that Bourdieu speaks of. Hebdige also discusses the power relationship between people and commodities.

Hebdige puts forth the view of Hébert Marcuse in One Dimensional Man that there is a passive consumerism. Marcuse uses examples of a black person who owns a Cadillac and a typist who is made up as if she were the daughter of the boss to show how people, especially those of disadvantaged groups are influenced by the power of commodities. The struggle of one class to become part of another by consuming the commodities of the higher class was a popular theme in the discourse of the 50s and 60s. Hebdige sees a top-down approach to the power structure of the 1930s to 1960s. Nava has a different view on the power structure that is in agreement with Frow.

Nava, like Hebdige, also discusses the view of Marcuse in relation to the more dated view of the power relationship between commodities and people. In relation to Hebdige, Nava sees the lower classes as exercising much more control, and resistance to the dominant group. Nana cites Marcuse as well as Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (which supports Marcuse). Nava downplays the point Marcuse makes that “people recognize themselves in their commodities” (Nava 160) and that these commodities form a social control. Marcuse takes the power out of the hands of the people and puts it into the commodity. For Nava these ideas held by 50s and 60s cultural theorists do not respect ordinary people:

The pertinent features of my argument which emerge from this picture of the cultural theorists of the fifties and sixties are then, first of all, a lack of respect for the mentality of ordinary people, exemplified by the vie that they are easily duped by advertisers and politically pacified by the buying of useless objects. Their pursuit of commodities and their enjoyment of disdained cultural forms are cited as evidence of their irrationality and gullibility (Nava 161-162).

Nava further states that people have more power, especially those who seem to be most at prey – women, children, and the less educated. This power is apparent if you consider the fact that as many as 90 percents of new products fail in spite of advertising (Nava 161).

Consumerism, or the relationship between class and commodities, can be understood “as a form of defiance, a refusal to remain marginalized in class terms” (Nava 165). People show their power with product boycotts as a form of defiance against ‘the power-bloc,’ for example, the product boycotts against South Africa. This same consumer power has been used in the environmental movement where “according to the Daily Telegraph, 50 percent of shoppers operates product boycotts of one kind or another…” (Nava 168). Nava writes of a relationship to commodities that is selective buying, “the buying of products which conform to certain criteria” (Nava 168). This is exemplified in the purchasing of green, or environmentally friendly products. Such purchasing power forms a class identity.

Nava’s position is agreed upon by Frow. For Frow, not only do commodities (or texts in this instance) become part of the culture, but also these texts are passive in themselves. In Frow, we have a popular culture struggling against the dominant one, yet there is an acceptance of the power held by the dominant culture. He also is suspicious of Bourdieu’s idea of a spokesperson and institutionalization, which is a top-down model of social domination. Moreover, he notes that consumers of popular culture are not passive dupes and do hold power which they exercise. His view of the masses is one of empowerment. Frow also locates power more with people than with texts. The “texts are ‘discursively limited or bounded’ and thus ‘offer’ a relevance that is taken up by the reader’s criteria of relevance” (Frow 63). This means that classes embrace commodities that fit into their schema, or social allegiances. The expression of this opposition to the dominant class is expressed by commodities, for example, the wearing of torn jeans, listening to rock music, or going shopping are all symbols of resistance to the ‘the power-bloc’ (Frow 62).

Different from Frow, Bourdieu is concerned with symbolic power and how it relates to constructing the social space, and he seems to have an individual emphasis on this. He speaks of the ‘official point of view’ and how much power that holds.

To change the world, one has to change the ways of making the world, that is, the vision of the world and the practical operations of which groups are produced and reproduced (Bourdieu 137).

Bourdieu goes on to say that symbolic power is exemplified in the power to form groups. He bases this power on two conditions, of which one will be discussed. This condition is more relevant to the topic of distinctions of power. The condition is that symbolic power has to be based on symbolic capital. Bourdieu says, “symbolic capital is a credit, it is the power granted to those who have obtained sufficient recognition to be in a position to impose recognition…” (Bourdieu 138). Bourdieu sees the power of creating a group as associated to the “process of institutionalization” (Bourdieu 138). For Bourdieu, people speak through a representative, while in Nava’s work she writes of a collective buying power, for example, people against apartheid and people against environmental destruction. In Nava, we have the masses exercising a great deal of power and re-creating the social space in a mass movement, different from the view of Bourdieu. For her, this change of the world was able to take place without any clearly identified spokesperson.

This essay has discussed four essays by Pierre Bourdieu, Dick Hebdige, John Frow, and Mica Nava. The purpose of this essay was to show how these authors discuss distinctions of social space and power. What resulted through this discussion was that Bourdieu’s theory contrasts with Frow’s, Bourdieu and Hebdige share similar arguments, Hebdige and Bourdieu differ with Nava in their distinctions of power, and Nava and Frow share similar theories on distinctions of power. Frow and Nava have theories that are more modern than Bourdieu and Hebdige. Their arguments are more relevant to the global village of today where distinctions of social space are sometimes blurred and the masses exercise power that therefore doesn’t come from the top-down.

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Afro Forever: Research Paper on Salon Utopia for the M.A. in Media Studies at Concordia University


Cover Art for What Happened to the Afro? - Photo Courtesy of Dreamstime.com

Cover Art for What Happened to the Afro? - Photo Courtesy of Dreamstime.com

Donna Kay Cindy Kakonge

Advisor: Dr. Martin Allor

Committee member: Dr. Kim Sawchuk

Outside Examiner: Dr. Lorna Roth

August 12, 1999

Afro Forever

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Categories: Writing (all kinds) | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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