Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

Weekly Links, Nov. 18, 2008

I’m still working away on my Chinese (specially focusing on spoken Mandarin via ChinesePod) as well as following the news and a selection of blogs as best I can. Here’s some of my favorite writings from the last week. Bon lecture! Articles of the Week

General News-Oriented
1.) Obama and the War on Brains. With Obama, a self-proclaimed intellectual and former university professor, in the White House, is this the end of America’s strain of Anti-Intellectualism?

Economy-Oriented
2.) A CHANGE OF BALANCE, Part 1 : The party’s over and A CHANGE OF BALANCE, Part 2: The party’s beginning…. This two part article taken from an Asian perspective closely analyzes some of the causes of the current financial and economic crisis. It proposes some possible solutions to this economic slide (namely the transferring of America’s advanced technologies to Asian countries like China) for the G20 summit in Washington.

3.) US’s road to recovery runs through Beijing. With the American economy and financial situation floundering, it undeniable that any solution to this global crisis will have to go through China.

4.) How Industries Survive Change. If They Do. This article looks at how industries and companies evolve to changing times.

Abroad-Oriented: Focus China
5.) Les âmes délocalisées. One of my favorite opinion writers at Le Monde Christian Salmon offers up a descriptive analysis of Call Centers in India and of how new “patchwork” identities of Indian employees are being virtually created, renamed, “neutralized” and “Americanized” across borders and time, even without physically moving anywhere else.

6.) SURVEY: Views on AIDS in China. This is my selection of interesting statistics from a major study relating to Chinese views on AIDS and HIV as well as the most popular media formats in the Middle Kingdom.

7.) Tom Carter’s Two-Year China Photo Odyssey. This is an interview with American photojournalist who has been traveling about China for 2 years and recently published a new book entitled, China: Portrait of a People.

8.) Lane living - the spirit of community behind the storefronts. This piece looks at the history of a peculiar architecture in the city of Shanghai. Weekly Educational Video


Yellow Apparel: When the Coolie becomes Cool Part 1, Part 2, and Part 2.** This is a student video critically reflecting on the cultural commodification of Asian culture in the United States. More and more Westerners are wearing clothes and getting tattoos whose origin and meaning stems originally from the Orient. Things and symbols of India or Asia have become an image for someone to be cool, different or trendy, but these people often forget that for much of American history the original bearers of these clothes and symbols were persecuted and harassed for being what has become so hip or cool. “White people,” to borrow overly-generalizing term from the film, can put up an “oriental” image or symbol while these people suffered to wear and be these symbols in the past. The film goes on claim that if you are Westerner wearing a Chinese tattoo or any of these other culturally identifiable markers, you are not only wearing something with specific cultural meaning, you are also “wearing evidence of a long-existing…un-equal power dynamic.” While this video is taken from an American perspective and provokes its question from this side, it must be admitted from my perspective as a Westerner living in China that, in fact, the reverse of America’s culturalcommodification is also true. Namely, Chinese people are literally “commodifying ” and “codifying” the West. Malls are lined with numerous images of Western models posing but largely lacking in Asian representation. There is no apparent power dynamic in this example, which begs the question: Why, instead of absolute rejection, do people obsess with and sometimes even identify with the culturally exotic? *

Quote of the Week

“A thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions–as attempts to find out something. Success and failure are for him answers above all.”
- Friedrich Nietzsche