Monday, 26 August 2013

Marginalisation and Masculinity; colonial ordering of masculinity in Harold and Kumar go to white castle (2004) part III

Colonialism and Masculinity Edward Said (1979) in Orientalism defined the concept of orientalism. The image that is present in Western Society about what is seen as ‘the East’ is not a true representation of the complexity and diversity of the peoples in ‘the East’. Conceptions of the West about the culture, relationships and even geographical location and composition of the East is generalised and homogenised. Underlying the idea of ‘Orientalism’ as the empirical and scientific pursuit to understand the East is the mechanism to juxtapose the East against the West. Through orientalism as a study, the West can understand and valorise itself (Said, 1979). Concepts which are very undefinable without contrast such as ‘tall’, ‘brave’, ‘strong’, are not complete and understandable without their binary opposition of ‘short’, ‘chicken’ and ‘weak’. The West and East became binary oppositions in their own right. The West defined itself as a superior power that had morality and advantage. Culturally speaking, the West defined itself as Civilised (Sinha, 1995). Whereas the literal other is the East who is defined as ‘illogical’, ‘mysterious’, ‘uncontrollable’ and ‘primal’. The concept of orientalism has to be placed in the historical context of colonialism. The West was literally a demeaning power. “The Orient” was born out of the ‘othering’ of the West. The East did not have any power to influence the discourse about themselves (Said, 1979). The West could be very fictitious going as far as to claim certain aspects of the East out of indirect sources and accounts of others. The discourse about the East even influences how the East conceptualise themselves (Said, 1979). The conception of the ‘oriental’/Asian masculinity underwent the same mechanism. The stereotypical figures of the ‘manly Englishman’ and the ‘effeminate Bengali’ for example, are products of colonisation in relation to Indian society (Sinha, 1995). The emasculating mechanism of effeminisation and homosexualisation stem out of a colonial ordering of masculinity the mechanism (Dajani, 2000). When a new ‘Indian’/’Bengali’ intellectual class emerged, hegemonic masculine discourse and colonial notions of race converged. “In this colonial ordering of masculinity, the politically self-conscious Indian intellectuals occupied a unique place: they represented an ‘unnatural’ or ‘perverted’ form of masculinity” (Sinha, 1995, p. 2). The oriental masculinities where deemed to have more female characteristic and their identity was defined with a sexual “lack of manly self-control” (Sinha, 1995, p. 18) This link of a marginal masculinity and the sexuality ended up to “ homosexual practices with a distinct homosexual personality defines in terms of effeminacy and lack of male virility” (Sinha, 1995, p. 19). In the 21st century the influence of colonial ordering is still very present. Many of the assumptions about “the other” are present in the stereotyping of ‘oriental’ men and women. The media is and important conveyor of the produced stereotypes. Hollywood in portrays of Asians male either emasculated or desexualised, and this not only perpetuates the stereotype in Western society but also influences the self-perception of Asian males about their Masculinity who see the asymmetrical relations of power reflected in Western society and base their Masculine identity on stereotypical and essentialist assumptions and discourse (Eng, 2001).

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