The Redefinition of Cultural Imperialism in American Visual Communications: Globalization and American Identity

By Jorge Miguel Benitez.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

From Frank Lloyd Wright to Robert Rauschenberg, Americans have borrowed freely from non-American cultures. Yet cultural imperialism is traditionally discussed in terms of an imposition of cultural values by rich or Western countries upon poorer or non-Western societies. While the concept certainly applies from the Age of Exploration to the aftermath of World War II, it should be reevaluated in light of increasingly influential non-Western economies. For the United States, a major exporter of popular and high culture, the issue is particularly pertinent. American children and young adults consume Anime and Manga in defiance of alleged American ethnocentrism. Signs in Arabic script are commonplace in large and medium urban centers in spite of a supposed “clash of civilizations.” Do these phenomena signal greater tolerance and cultural maturity or are they merely an expansion of a process that began when the first Yankee merchants sailed from Boston in search of Asian goods? This paper will address these questions from the standpoint of visual communications at a time when the United States struggles to find its place in a volatile global environment.

Keywords: Globalization, Arabic, Asian, Communications, American, United States, Clash of Civilizations, Anime, Manga, Ethnocentrism

Global Studies Journal, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp.17-24. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 548.352KB).

Jorge Miguel Benitez

Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Arts, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA

I was born in Cuba in 1956 and spent my childhood in Europe and the United States. I hold a master of fine arts degree in painting from Virginia Commonwealth University where I currently teach drawing, art theory and the history of visual communications. My theoretical interests derive from an earlier career in advertising as well as my multinational upbringing and my fluency in French and Spanish. The Cuban Revolution, the Cold War and the upheavals of the 1960s also had a profound effect on both my intellectual inquiries and my approach to drawing and painting. I became very interested in the conflict between words and images in the 1990s when we Americans began to describe our national divisions as a “culture war.” The events of September 11, 2001, merely internationalized the issue. I currently participate in regional and international exhibitions, and my work is represented in corporate collections and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

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