Cultural imperialism

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Cultural imperialism describes a special relationship of domination which is practiced through the destruction, suppression and reshaping of the original culture of the ruled with simultaneous dominance of the culture of the general imperialist rulers. Today, cultural imperialism generally refers to an unequal and unjust relationship between rich nations and poor nations, but it can also affect corresponding power imbalances among central or peripheral nations and is also applied to domestic and other forms of oppressive relationships. Such scientific and theoretical applications of the term must be distinguished from its rather arbitrary use in day-to-day political or media business.

International cultural imperialism

Frantz Fanon

Cultural imperialism was introduced as a subject of scientific investigation by Frantz Fanon in the 1950s and early 1960s, especially with "Les Damnés de la Terre" in 1961, with which he presented a kind of 'anti-colonial manifesto' from the perspective of the oppressed.

On the side of the colonized , according to Fanon, disempowerment, degradation and the imperative to imitate destroy self-confidence and social solidarity and lead to self-contempt and alienation .

According to Fanon, "racial hatred, enslavement, exploitation and above all bloodless genocide, namely the pushing aside of one and a half billion people" refer not only to the enormous power of economic, military, political or technical means, but also to an inferiorization of the people of color which has its counterpart in a culture of superiority among whites.

Johan Galtung

The term cultural imperialism was given a lasting impression by Johan Galtung and his “Structural Theory of Imperialism”, published in 1971. Galtung initially describes imperialism generally as a relationship of domination between a central and a peripheral nation. In Galtung's model, the central and peripheral center harmonize with each other on important points, while the interests between the central and the peripheral periphery diverge.

In addition, the internal contradiction is greater within the peripheral nation than within the central nation. In addition to these three defining criteria, Galtung breaks down imperialism further into two mechanisms, five types and three phases.

The five basic types are: economic, political, military, communication and cultural imperialism - and "we have no theory that suggests that one of the types is more fundamental than the others or precedes them."

Rather, the types are even convertible into one another and, for a “perfect imperialism”, must interact fully developed in all five dimensions of this unequal exchange. In this view, direct violence or its latent threat recedes to the extent that cultural dominance emerges more strongly from the shadow of previous theories of imperialism.

If these five types are properly weighed, the result is general imperialism that is "a perfect instrument of structural violence". Thus, cultural imperialism is located in the conceptual hierarchy as a type under general imperialism and structural violence , which in turn contains sub-types, for example scientific imperialism.

Within this framework, the center of the periphery delivers and teaches its culture (for example in the form of certain educations, sciences, theories, learning content, canons of values ​​or aestheticizations and idealizations as a work of art, fiction, comics, film, music or lifestyle), as far as its own position of power is secured, and offers the “culture-seeking” periphery or central parts thereof on an unequal basis at the same time a legitimizing promise of development and participation.

Herbert Schiller

Herbert Schiller carried out his extensive and meticulous studies (above all: “Communication and Cultural Domination” 1976) on the basis of American examples, so to speak, “from deep inside the American Empire” and in this respect directed the focus of cultural imperialism research strongly on the USA.

Cultural imperialism was also perceived by Schiller in its internal effect as a kind of media- and consumption-based brainwashing. The arguments in Jürgen Weber's work “American cultural imperialism and the black civil rights movement” go in a similar direction.

Edward W. Said and Ranajit Guha

Edward W. Said's “Orientalism” and Ranajit Guha's “Subaltern Studies” are still important for today's discussions . A quarter of a century ago, both authors dealt with the deconstruction of patterns of external perception determined by colonial rule.

According to Said, the Western discourse on the Orient (i.e. the entirety of literary, scientific, popular, journalistic and other statements on this) or the ongoing colonial-historiographical imprinting of the historical and contemporary image of the 'third world' can still exist long after its decolonization understood and examined as cultural imperialism.

In “Culture and Imperialism”, Said explores the historical connection between European culture and successful imperialism and the question, “How it came about that the imperialist European could not or did not want to admit that he or she was an imperialist, and how it came about, ironically, that under the same circumstances the non-European saw the European only as imperialist ”.

Using a wide range of examples from literature, he makes clear the deeply imperialist constitution of European culture, which “when it finally took proper note of the imperial 'deceptions and discoveries' [...] it was not oppositional, but ironic and with did the desperate attempt at a new inclusivity. "

In recent times, India has given rise to a great deal of cultural-scientific impulses, in particular with 'Subaltern Studies', which the post-colonial elite historiography with its adopted Eurocentric premises has worked out as an 'Indian' retelling of colonial modernization legends. Mohandas Gandhi , Gayatri Spivak and Arundhati Roy have made other prominent contributions to this.

Neoliberalism and Cultural Imperialism

At a science conference organized by Bernd Hamm in Trier in October 2002, an international research overview was given and cultural imperialism was introduced as “certainly, historically, not an American invention”, but as an imperialist training of the most diverse cultures to a world leading culture that is not monolithic for its part , but which have a common level from which the periphery is reminded to catch up with civilization and at the same time is in fact kept at a distance. In more politico-economic representations there z. B. examines the structural adjustment policy of the International Monetary Fund in connection with cultural imperialism: devaluation of the local currency, public spending restrictions, privatization , liberalization and delimitation of the movement of capital and goods, wage freezes, price releases, patent and license restrictions and the like set self-determination in the affected 'development' Land not only come to an end economically or politically, but also destroy socio-cultural structures and capacities of autonomy, as expressed, for example, in subsistence- related independence from the world market, in local self-organization, neighborhood and community help, affordable drug copies or the freedom of home-grown seeds. Instead, a culture of catching-up capitalization emerges with a basic psychology of dependency and underdevelopment, which appears to be overcome only by reselling imitation - but in fact can never and should never catch up with the distance to the center within the set framework.

Herbert Schui analyzed cultural imperialism under the critique of science and ideology as "the New Social Science of Cultural Imperialism", whose methodological individualism dissolves all knowledge capacities of previous social science into the arbitrariness of economic rationality, making the individual internalization of their constraints the basis of a reformed social and world order and his aspired global economic imperialism provided the appropriate cultural leading figure of the neo-liberal 'Homo Oeconomicus'.

Cultural imperialism as a political guideline

In social theory and political philosophy, however, cultural imperialism is also represented offensively and affirmatively as a global political program and global future model. David Rothkopf's “In Praise of Cultural Imperialism” or Zbigniew Brzeziński'sThe Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives ” serve as examples . American values ​​are presented in these works as a strategically necessary cultural export good. They are to be enforced by the USA, the primus inter pares of a comprehensive Western community of values, in the “battle of the world's information flows” as ideas that dominate the world. Like Great Britain once the oceans, in today's information age the USA should dominate the "airwaves".

Female cultural imperialism in the colonial movement of the German Empire

There is a historical case study by Birthe Kundrus that deals with female cultural imperialism in the colonial movement of the German Empire. Kundrus shows how central “the 'cultural work of women' for the preservation of Germanness” was positioned there and how easily imperial feminism could be combined with nationalism and racism to create a nationalist participation strategy that was recognized by the majority of society.

Such cultural imperialist patterns, in which certain leadership groups (here: white educated citizens ) declare themselves and their ideas to be the yardstick for all, have been rejected several times in the international women's movement : for example by proletarian feminists before the Second World War , by non-whites afterwards.

Criticism of “Eurocentric” perspectives

In his work, the Bengali historian Dipesh Chakrabarty calls for historiographical projects against the presumptuous decree “that Europe acts as the tacit standard in historical knowledge” and transforms Indian, Kenyan, Chinese or other subordinate stories into inferior variations of this one master narrative. “Provincialize Europe” here means “to push a hyperreal Europe out of the center of historical imagination, [...] tirelessly laying the finger on this connection between violence and [civilizational] idealism [...], to grapple with ideas, which legitimize the modern state [...] in order to once again make those categories, whose global validity can no longer be taken for granted, the subject of political philosophy - just as one returns suspicious coins to their owners in an Indian bazaar. "

Social cultural imperialism

Iris Marion Young differentiates between five different forms of oppression. While exploitation, marginalization and powerlessness characterize the oppression in the organization of work, cultural imperialism is the "social" form of oppression. Violence as the fifth dimension of oppression is often associated with cultural imperialism. This is the practice of power itself as normal, while the others are set as the other ( othering ). Archives can also serve as a form of cultural imperialism and, through the selective perspective, contribute to the structural amnesia of later generations.

See also


  • Zbigniew Brzeziński : The Grand Chessboard, American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives. BasicBooks, New York 1997, ISBN 0-465-02725-3 .
  • Dipesh Chakrabarty: Provincialize Europe. Postcoloniality and the Critique of History. In: Sebastian Conrad, Randeria Shalini (ed.): Beyond Eurocentrism. Postcolonial Perspectives in History and Cultural Studies. Campus, Frankfurt am Main, New York 2002, ISBN 3-593-37036-0 , pp. 283-312. (orig. 1992).
  • Mike Davis: The Birth of the Third World. Famine and mass extermination in the imperialist age. Assoc. A, Berlin a. a. 2004, ISBN 3-935936-11-7 . (orig. 2001).
  • Ursula Drathschmidt: Portuguese cultural imperialism in Angola. Half a millennium of “Christian empire”. Breitenbach, Saarbrücken, Fort Lauderdale 1982, ISBN 3-88156-213-3 .
  • Frantz Fanon: The damned of this earth. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1966. (orig. 1961).
  • Frantz Fanon: Black skin, white masks. Syndicate, Frankfurt am Main 1980, ISBN 3-8108-0145-3 . (orig. 1952).
  • André Frank: ReORIENT. The Global Economy in the Asian Age. University of California Press, Berkeley et al. a. 1998, ISBN 0-520-21129-4 .
  • Johan Galtung: A Structural Theory of Imperialism . In: Dieter Senghaas (Ed.): Imperialism and structural violence. Dependent reproduction analyzes. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1972, pp. 29-104. (orig. 1971).
  • Johan Galtung: Cultural violence. In: The citizen in the state. Vol. 43, No. 2, 1993, pp. 106-112.
  • Ranajit Guha: On Some Aspects of the Historiography of Colonial India. In: Ranajit Guha, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Ed.): Selected Subaltern Studies. Oxford University Press, New York a. a. 1988, ISBN 0-19-505289-7 , pp. 37-43. (orig. 1978).
  • Bernd Hamm and Russell Smandych (eds.): Cultural Imperialism. Essays on the Political Economy of Cultural Domination. Broadview, Peterborough, et al. a. 2005, ISBN 1-55111-707-X .
  • Chun-Shik Kim: German cultural imperialism in China. German colonial schools in Kiautschou (China) 1898–1914. Steiner, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-515-08570-X .
  • Birthe Kundrus : Female Cultural Imperialism. The imperialist women's associations of the empire. In: Jürgen Osterhammel, Sebastian Conrad (Hrsg.): Das Kaiserreich transnational. Germany in the world 1871–1914. Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen 2004, ISBN 3-525-36733-3 , pp. 213-235.
  • Kuan-wu Lin: Western spirit in the eastern body ?: "Medea" in the intercultural theater of China and Taiwan. On the universalization of Greek antiquity Transcript, Bielefeld 2010, ISBN 3-837-61350-X .
  • Michael Mann: The violence dispositive of modern colonialism. In: Mihran Dabag u. a. (Ed.): Colonialism. Colonial Discus and Genocide. Fink, Paderborn, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-7705-4070-0 , pp. 111-135.
  • David Rothkopf: In Praise of Cultural Imperialism. In: Foreign Policy. 107, Sommer 1997, pp. 38-53.
  • Edward Said: Culture and Imperialism. Imagination and Politics in the Age of Power. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1994, ISBN 3-10-071005-3 . (orig. 1993).
  • Edward Said: Orientalism. Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main 1981, ISBN 3-548-35097-6 . (orig. 1978).
  • Herbert I. Schiller: Communication and Cultural Domination. International Arts and Sciences Press, White Plains, NY 1976, ISBN 0-87332-079-4 .
  • Herbert I. Schiller: Mass Communications and American Empire. 2nd Edition. Westview, Boulder, etc. a. 1992, ISBN 0-8133-1439-9 .
  • Herbert Schui: Neo-Liberalism and the Attack on the Humanities. The New Social Science of Cultural Imperialism. In: Bernd Hamm, Russell Smandych (Eds.): Cultural Imperialism. Essays on the Political Economy of Cultural Domination. Broadview, Peterborough, et al. a. 2005, ISBN 1-55111-707-X , pp. 149-166.
  • Iris Marion Young: Five Forms of Oppression. In: Christoph Horn, Nico Scarano: Philosophy of Justice. Texts from antiquity to the present. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2002, ISBN 3-518-29163-7 .
  • Jürgen Weber: American cultural imperialism and the black civil rights movement. A democratic-theoretical-political analysis. WUV, Vienna 1997, ISBN 3-85114-301-9 .
  • Source of the original text on

Individual evidence

  1. Frantz Fanon: The damned of this earth. Frankfurt 1966. (orig. 1961)
  2. ^ Johan Galtung: A structural theory of imperialism. In: Dieter Senghaas (Ed.): Imperialism and structural violence. Frankfurt 1972, pp. 29-104. (orig. 1971)
  3. ^ Herbert Schiller: Communication and Cultural Domination. New York 1976
  4. Jürgen Weber: The US-American cultural imperialism and the black civil rights movement. Vienna 1997
  5. Edward Said: Orientalism. Frankfurt 1981. (orig. 1978)
  6. ^ Ranajit Guha: On Some Aspects of the Historiography of Colonial India. In: Ranajit Guha: Selected Subaltern Studies. New York 1988, pp. 37-43. (orig. 1978)
  7. ^ David Rothkopf: In Praise of Cultural Imperialism. In: Foreign Policy. 107, 1997, pp. 38-53
  8. ^ Zbigniew Brzezinski: The Grand Chessboard. American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives. New York 1997
  9. Birthe Kundrus: Feminine cultural imperialism. The imperialist women's associations of the empire. In: Jürgen Osterhammel, Sebastian Conrad (Hrsg.): Das Kaiserreich transnational. Göttingen 2004, pp. 213-235
  10. Dipesh Chakrabarty: Provincialize Europe. Postcoloniality and the Critique of History. In: Sebastian Conrad, Randeria Shalini (ed.): Beyond Eurocentrism. Frankfurt 2002, pp. 283-312. (orig. 1992)
  11. Iris Marion Young: Five forms of oppression. In: Christoph Horn, Nico Scarano: Philosophy of Justice. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2002 p. 439ff.
  12. Arnd Krüger : The seven ways to fall into oblivion. In: Arnd Krüger, Bernd Wedemeyer-Kolwe (Ed.): Forgetting, Displaced, Rejected. On the history of exclusion in sport. (= Series of publications by the Lower Saxony Institute for Sports History Hoya, Volume 21). LIT-Verlag, Münster 2009, ISBN 978-3-643-10338-3 , pp. 4-16.
  13. Wolfgang Hans Stein: Archives as objects of cultural imperialisms, in: Michel Espagne (Ed.), Archive and memory: Studies on intercultural tradition. Leipzig 2000, pp. 89-121;