Searching for blog posts tagged with 'culture'

Reviewing for the Brighton Salon Culture Wars




I've been waiting for an excuse to get the blog together and have found one at last.

I've been involved with the Brighton Salon for the last couple of years.  Its a group of people, interested in challenging ideas, who meet regularly around Brighton, listen to visiting speakers and get stuck into important issues.  One of the best things, for me, about the Salon, is that I get to talk and think about all the things that made me interested in being an academic in the first place, but without it being 'work'.  Discussions are jargon free, focussed on current events and devoid of having to think about careers, deadlines or evaluation and assessment.  You never know quite where the discussion will take you, with a healthy mixture of people getting involved; 6th form and uni students, academics and people from the real world out there.

When Dan Travis, who co-ordinates the Salon, asked me to get involved with reviewing for the Culture Wars section of their website I saw an opportunity to put my money where my mouth is.  Dan thought the idea of historians using their skills to review contemporary cultural events was a good one.  I wanted to take this one step further.  I always talk about teaching as a collaboration between students and faculty, and that's certainly what I aspire to, if not always deliver.  On the whole I've done pretty well out of that collaboration, my research is constantly reformed and shaped by the interests and input of students.    So when facebook told me that one of my students, Ash Arcadian, and I were going to the same gig I jumped at the chance to rope him into some co-reviewing.   The review is here

I'm really interested in developing this sort of project further, and the Salon are too. So am looking for students who want to do some reviewing, music, art, theatre etc etc, that will use their academic interests to shed an interesting light on current events.  Hows that for transferable skills?




More reviews and launching the Sussex Trauma Group




I thought I'd share a couple more reviews that I've done for the Culture Wars website.  I'm particularly pleased that I have been able to persuade another of my students, Emily, to co-review Gethsamane with me.  I think there's a really nice tension between our responses. 

There's also a review of Peter Doherty's recent performance  which I wrote all by myself!

This term I'm going to be working with Sarah King (neuroscience), and Jill Kirby (History) to explore the possibilities of interdisciplinary work around trauma.  Sarah and I won a 'Christmas Stocking' prize to kick start our research project on Combat Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  The Christmas Stockinig event involved some festive themed academic speed dating and true to form I found my perfect match, Sarah, as we fought over the last bottle of free wine.  Since then we've been working up a joint research project and liaising with a number of museums, medical professionals and veterans organisations as well as invidividual ex-combatants.

We became increasingly aware of  how much interesting research on this topic is being done across campus by postgrads and faculty so we're organising an exploratory networking afternoon to bring together people working on Trauma (however broadly defined) in any discipline, in the hope of sharing interests and ideas, so far we've got a good mix of post grads and faculty, from English, Media, History, Life History as well as psychology and neuroscience.  If any one else is interested get in touch.  

The meeting will be Wednesday 29th April (Week 2) RB01 2pm.


We envisage an afternoon made up of a  series of short very informal presentations and discussions, exploring a particular piece of evidence, (this could be an image, audio visual source, object etc) academic debate or summarising a research project, followed by a more general discussion on Stein, Seedat, Iversen and Wessely's article 'Post-traumatic stress disorder: medicine and politics' from The Lancet 2007, 369, 139-44 .


If you would like to get involved, if you have any ideas for topics for discussion, or articles to be read please get in touch or forward to anyone you think my be interested


Comparing status/luxury consumption in the UK and India



So, what status consumption is and how it impacts our behaviour? Academics define status consumption as the consumers behavior of trying to purchase brands and services for the luxury they confer, regardless of consumers objective income or social class. luxury consumption in general involves high-end pricy luxury goods. Most people don't consume these products regularly. Some consumers use such products to fulfill material needs but also the social needs.  

To discover the similarities and divergences relating to status consumption, I conducted a study focusing on the luxury consumption practices among the British and Indian consumers. The countries were selected for their historic association, product category affiliation with luxury consumption and commonnesses of brands accessible.

The project focused on 3 essential antecedents of luxury consumption: (a) socio-psychological antecedents; (b) brand roots and (c) situational roots. The socio-psychological antecedents were further branched into three distinct categories namely: (a1) social gains; (a2) esteem indication and (a3) ostentation. The brand roots were also broken into two categories namely: (b1) management controlled brand features and (b2) market controlled brand features.

Rather than talking over the methodology and scale equivalence and such other statistical topics, I will now focus on the status consumption tendencies among the British and Indian consumers. If you wish to read more about it, you can surely visit the source provided below.

It was detected that British consumers applied status consumption to achieve social benefits, show esteem and ostentation behavior. However, in the Indian context consumers engaged in status consumption with generally show-off. This presents the divergences between Western and Eastern consumers and the influence of culture and markets. The British consumers, who belong to  individualistic  culture,  focus  on  their  actual  self-concept. However, in comparison with the Indian consumers, from a collectivist culture, focus  on  others  self-concept  as  they  wish  to signal ostentatious behaviour via luxury consumption.

With regard to Brand roots, it was noticed that both, management controlled and market controlled brand features have a fundamental affect on status consumption. However, British consumers were importantly affected by brand roots than the Indian consumers. This can be ascribed to the nature of the market and competition. The UK is a highly developed and mature luxury market wherein the masses have been exposed  to  the status brands  for  longer  in comparison  to India. The longer exposure and higher availability to global brands as well as the increased competition among producers makes the consumer in Britain progressively conscious of the brands and their symbolic connection.

The findings also indicate that status consumption among Indian consumers is highly dependent on social occasions. The finding proves the considerable divergences among collectivist and individualistic consumers and their luxury consumption practices. Earlier research has found that spending money on status consumption in festivities and social functions of importance lends many real and intangible payoffs in the Indian marketplace including enhanced social status for the consumers. Thus, in a collectivist marketplace like India, consuming flashy brands at special social functions can promote an individuals intra-group and inter-group social identity and broad presence. 


Source: Status consumption among British and Indian consumers

Now also available on iTunes as podcast..

Problems of laissez faire extend beyond economics



The theoretical underpinning of the modern global economy has broken loose. The so-called Washington consensus based on neoclassical, laissez-faire economics has encountered a sustained challenge from the 2008 financial crisis and alternatives are being actively sought. It’s about time Nigel Farage was not left as the only voice doing the same when we consider the impact of immigration and multiculturalism.

Establishing a new economic consensus might take a while, but what is clear is that there has been no vigorous attempt by the leaders of the global economy to return to laissez-faire capitalism. On the contrary, a firmly regulated market economy with robust government intervention appears to be the order of the day.

It is curious then that those who have been most critical of neoclassical economics in the West – in the main from the left – have tended to agree with its approach with regard to immigration. While they adopt demand controls on cross-border movement of goods, services, finance, and investment, they are in favour of a “borderless” world for people. This contradiction has usually been justified by the belief that it is a human right to live anywhere in the world.

The economic case for this approach to immigration is straightforward: labour is a mobile factor of production that must be permitted to move freely to wherever there is demand for it, improving global efficiencies and resource allocation. It naturally follows that immigration will help raise economic growth and, conversely, immigration controls can be a barrier to growth. But evidence suggests immigration does not necessarily have an overall positive impact on growth.

Cultural baggage

But the social, political and cultural impact of mass immigration has been of little concern to the laissez-faire economists for whom labour is simply labour. Historically, the well-intentioned focus of those favouring this approach to immigration has been on immigrants themselves, on the difficulties of settlers in new lands and societies far from home

But immigrants are people who bring with them all manner of cultural and religious attributes – some of which are very much at odds with those in the society in which they have settled. As I have argued before, for advocates of open borders, a similarly laissez-faire approach to the culture and religious characteristics of immigrants is adopted under the rubric of “multiculturalism”, the theoretical underpinning for which is cultural relativism.

The outcome of this is that immigrants are allowed to lead lives pretty much akin to those they might have led in their places of origin. That being so, some groups – particularly in segregated neighbourhoods – have proceeded to demand separate rights, resources, institutions and exemptions to the law.

In stark contrast, little, if any, attention has been paid to such non-economic impacts of mass immigration on the established population. On the contrary, it is argued that national and local governments, as well as the indigenous population, must accommodate to the modus vivendi and separatist demands of the settlers. It transpires that this neglect of the views of the majority population is a prime cause for the increasing angst around the subject.

Quite simply, very large numbers of people are opposed to the often profound transformation to their communities from large-scale immigration and are saying enough is enough. This is a key reason why opinion polls show a large majority of the population (77% according to the recent British Social Attitudes Survey) want to see immigration reduced. What is particularly revealing is that of the 31% who think that immigration is good for the economy, half still wish to see it cut.

‘Unrecognisable’ Britain

The sentiments behind this have been picked up by Nigel Farage of UKIP – a free marketeer – by his argument that some things are more important than economic growth. The inference was made clear in his speech at the UKIP spring conference on February 28 when he argued that parts of Britain have become “unrecognisable” because of immigration. In fact, this line of reasoning has usually been used by those opposed to laissez-faire economics. Consider environmentalists’ demands for green policies – which businesses argue are harmful to economic growth – as an essential element in switching to renewable energy in order to cut greenhouse gas and tackle climate change.

Those advocating a laissez-faire approach to culture and faith should beware a common paradox. Often no such freedom is on offer to those within the segregated religious-ethnic minority communities that have sprung up in many towns and cities. On the contrary, for very many their lives are dictated by high levels of intervention from family members and community leaders, so that the outcome for them is distinctly devoid of individual liberty. The often highly oppressive consequence of this for these citizens is, in fact, mono-culturalism and mono-faithism.

So a laissez-faire stance on culture has contributed to significant levels of self-segregation, isolation, and lack of integration. Just as unfettered laissez-faire economics is rightfully thought to have been harmful, so it is time for more people than Farage to recognise that a similar approach to culture and religion runs counter to the goal of social cohesion.

Published in The Conversation on 11th March 2014

Between Prostitution and Polygyny in Africa: The Implication for Culture by John Olatunde Uwa



As a researcher and a cultural archivist sampling perception and conceptions of dirt in Africa, I have had the opportunity of engaging a number of individuals on topical issues that revolve around ‘dirt’ in Africa. Some of these issues cut through the themes of religion, ethnicity, corruption, prostitution, civil partnership, robbery, poverty and such like. On a particular occasion, I had cause to interview a man on the theme of prostitution as a canvas for the collective odium that has followed those who solicit. This fellow made two striking submissions which I thought might be of interest to this forum. The first is that, prostitution is totally alien to Africa; while the second is that, polygyny is a structure that was put in place from primordial time in Africa to check, curb or prevent the practice of prostitution.

Whether prostitution is alien or not is not the question here as prostitution is already a global phenomenon, even in countries where the practice is considered as ‘haram’. What is quite puzzling here is that, between prostitution and polygyny in Africa, there are cultural codes that signify how both practices may be perceived. The former is an abomination; while the Later is a valid cultural practice, believed to have been handed down to prevent prostitution. But since prostitution is a ‘trade’, can polygyny solve the financial requirements of the woman? Of what economic benefit is polygyny to the woman? Even if we assume that prostitution is for sexual gratification, is it possible for a single man in a polygamous union to give all the women in the union the gratification they require? The assumption is that, while the man may be getting all the gratification he wants, some or all of the women in the union are denied total sexual gratification.  

 In spite of these burning questions, proves abound to show that about 90% of Nigerian women would rather be involved in a polygamous union than get involve in prostitution, when faced with the two variables. This is mainly due to their cultural and religious orientation more than what they are truly capable of doing. These cultural orientations which manifest themselves in taboo, abomination, witchcraft etc. tends to act as a strong restriction against the activities of the id. However, there is a latent content that becomes operational beyond the limit of social conformity.  Beyond this limit of social conformity in which culture and religion gives no answer, and in which ‘prostitutes’ find themselves, every woman become capable of soliciting. In other words, there is a limit to which every human can be in social conformity and there is a limit to which culture and religion can provide answers; and beyond this point, there is an ambient in which humans are capable of anything, and prostitution is not an exception. It is at such point that women are also capable of exhibiting the same tendencies that can make a man crave for more than one wife or woman.

Elsewhere in the world, especially among some nations of Europe, polygyny is unacceptable; however, it is an ‘accepted’ norm in Africa. Considering this paradox and the influence of a dominant culture, which is propelled by financial crunch, in a new global order which African is part of, what is the place of a primordial culture that is believed to prevent prostitution? What is the future of prostitution as we push towards the limit of social conformity and beyond? While it may be easy for us to keep theorizing, it must be must be noted that a culture that is inelastic is like a carved deity who becomes vindictive to those who provide it with palm oil and other libations; he is either reminded of the tree from which he was carved out, or turned into firewood while other deities are erected in ‘his’ place.      

About the author:  John Uwa is a project researcher on the DirtPol project and is concerned primarily with issues pertaining to dirt in media and communication.  John's based in Lagos, has an MA in English Literature and speaks Yoruba, English and Pidgin.

About the project: DirtPol is an international cultural studies project based at the University of Sussex.  For more information please visit

Follow DirtPol on Twitter: @ProjectDirtPol