Within your breakout room, describe your interpretation of the quote from Cunningham’s essay. Assign someone in your room to discuss the interpretation when we rejoin the full class session.
Stuart Cunningham, “Popular Media as Public ‘Sphericules’ for Diasporic Communities,” International Journal of Cultural Studies 4, no. 2 (June 2001): 131–47.
Todd Gitlin has posed the Quotation as to whether we can continue to speak of the ideal of the public sphere as an increasingly complex, poly-ethnic, communications-saturated series of societies develop around the world. Rather, what might be emerging are numerous public “sphericules”: “does it not look as though the public sphere, in falling, has shattered into a scatter of globules, like mercury?” (133).
In contrast to Gitlin, then, I argue that ethno-specific global mediatized communities display in microcosm elements we would expect to find in “the” public sphere. Such activities may constitute valid and indeed dynamic counter-examples to a discourse of decline and fragmentation, while taking full account of contemporary vectors of communication in a globalizing, commercializing and pluralizing world (134).
It follows that ethno-specific public sphericules are not congruent with international taste cultures borne by a homogenizing global media culture. For diasporic groupings were parts of states, nations and polities and much of the diasporic polity is about the process of remembering, positioning and, by no means least, constructing business opportunities around these pre-diasporic states and/or nations (136).
The internal cultural conflicts in the communities center on the felt need to maintain pre-revolutionary Vietnamese heritage and traditions; find a negotiated place in a more mainstreamed culture; or engage in the formation of distinct hybrid identities around the appropriation of dominant western popular cultural forms. These three cultural positions or stances are dynamic and mutable, but the main debates are constructed around them, and are played out principally within variety music video formats (139).
The Bengali diaspora, argues Ray, frames its cultural life around the high culture of the past, which has become a “fossilized” taste culture (2000: 143).
In startling contrast to the Fiji Indian community, which is by far the highest consumer of Hindi films, for the Indian Bengalis, Indian-sourced film and video is of little interest and is even the subject of active disparagement (145).
As a result, second-generation Fiji Indians in their twice-displaced settings of Sydney, Auckland or Vancouver have developed a cultural platform that, although not counter-hegemonic, is markedly different from their western host cultures. In contrast, “the emphasis of the first generation Indian Bengali diaspora on aestheticized cultural forms of the past offers to second generation very little in terms of a home country popular youth culture with which they can identify” (Ray, 2000: 145) (146).