Recently, I tweeted:

Katie Couric: “Ppl want to know–what is White Culture?” GB: “I– I don’t know” http://bit.ly/4SY0g #dumberthanpalin

(The GB stands for Glenn Beck.) I’ve only recently been able to force myself to watch clips of Glenn Beck, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so viscerally nauseated from hearing someone speak. All the same–I don’t know what “white culture” is either.  And I can see myself throwing down the phrase in conversation/writing. I’d use in the sense Christian Lander, of stuffwhitepeoplelike.com uses it, as a critique of upper-middle-class privilege. E.g., White Culture places a high value on “saving the earth,” and thus forms social bonds through sharing tips on recycling and on how to “fly” to far away places in the world more often for less money.

While I was running today (another ritual prevalent within White Culture), I had the idea of tentatively renaming my po-co list “Globalization, Post-Colonialism, and ‘White Culture'” (it had been previously tentatively renamed “Globalized Subjects, Globalized Objects”). Here are some possible white cultures I’ve come up with in their relation to globalization:

  • OTOH, there’s the comfy globalization of the white liberal who values multiculturalism, believes “globalization” is inevitable, but in the long run will be beneficial to people both in the “First World” through access to different “cultures” and the “Third World” through economic “development.”
  • OTOH, there’s the racist “White Culture” Beck appeals to for which fundamentalism is the best answer to globalization. (Sadly, it might be.)
  • Overlapping with this group, though, are the white working classes, however broadly defined, who have lost out due to globalization.
  • And as for the anti-globalization crowd (or alter-globalization crowd), the crowd who has heard of the “post-colonial,” isn’t that another white culture? (A recentish article in the Guardian by some Oxbridge lecturer in postcolonial studies drew some incredulous comments regarding her field.)

Here’s four white cultures in varying degrees of opposition to each other. What if it’s possible to think of all four as the same “white culture,” though, like Tyler’s definition of culture as a “complex whole”? (Although George Stocking warned us not to take that definition too seriously.)  I’m not even going to attempt to speculate on how this might be, but I suspect that a historical perspective will be useful.

Or think of it this way: is the “culture” invoked by the “cultural turn” around 2000 the same as the “culture” of post-war cultural anthropology? “Culture” in the former instance is often invoked dialectically with economics in the former instance, as in, globalization works both by cultural and economic means in a mutually reinforcing relationship. “Culture” in the latter instance is invoked in contrast to western modern “society” and nation-states. It’s past 3 am, so all I’ll say is that it’s reminding me of Hardt and Negri’s contrast between our current Empire and the imperialisms of the modern era. Maybe I’d like H and N better if the book was called capital C Culture, as opposed to modern lowercase c cultures.

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