Thursday, January 30, 2014

Where Cultures Collide

The literature that arises from the collision of cultures is often referred to as being post colonial. The black longing versus the white longing, the cultural matrix of the old world challenged by that of the new. In this social critique, the western tradition is rightly being diluted, mixed and challenged by the other.

While respecting the canon of the western tradition, I find the new literatures have an energy and newness that excite and challenge my old world view. These writers help us to see european ethnocentricity, cultural hegemony and attitudes through a different set of cultural eyes. This can be a discomforting experience as it brings a personal challenge to take off your ethnocentric blinkers and see the world as it is, rather than through the inculcated lenses of ones cultural upbringing.

Reading writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and Jorge Luis Borges opened a window to the Latin American worldview for me. The vitality, warmth and otherness of the writings positively challenged me as I struggled to find pegs for my experience. The cultural dislocation I felt initially was overcome as I read more.

Students today get the opportunity to study beyond the Western canon and also can freely explore the other within their own cultural milieu (gay literature for example). Such exposure helps to give them a global, rather than a constrained view of the human experience.
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