Culture and Authenticity

Both “China in Africa” and “The Case for Contamination” reflect on the changes that societies undergo. Change is not always bad, and often the bad, even when it’s minute, overshadows the good. The first article follows the writer’s discovery of the multitude of Chinese in Ghana and some of the views Ghanaians have towards them. The second article argues that contamination of culture has always existed, is inevitable, and is necessary. It questions what is meant by cultural authenticity and rebuts the arguments against globalization.

“China in Africa” points out the large, and growing, population of Chinese immigrants living in Ghana. The article examines China’s role in Ghana, mostly pointing out the reporter’s discovery of the negative influences of the Chinese, but also pointing out some of the positive support from China. There are about 70,000 Chinese in Ghana, most of who manage or work for companies that export Ghana’s resources. The reporter, a Chinese citizen, was surprised at the news of illegal Chinese gold miners. The vibe that he got from the Ghanaians he met was negative towards China. However, some of Ghana’s financial and business newspapers have suggested, “enhancing its yuan trading capacity to provide an alternative to the dollar to importers who do business in China.” There are some positive benefits to the Chinese influence in Ghana. Beijing has provided many business opportunities and public aid to Ghana. The article claims that, “When a dog bites a man, that is not news, but if a man bites a dog, that is news.” This is a reminder that no matter how many good things China does for Ghana, the bad will always over shadow it. This article addresses the illegal mining and allocation of resources in Ghana by the Chinese, but it also reminds people of the good projects and business opportunities between the two countries.

Arrested for Illegal Mining in Ghana

This article reminds me of America in some ways. I have always been critical of the international aid that the US prides itself on. I think that the government and the media try to cover up our flaws, so much so that we forget we have any. We are very nationalistic and unapologetic for who we are. As a kid, I always believed that America was the world’s savior; we were the measure of perfection. Of course, this is untrue. America’s entire history of success is only in existence because of the downfall of many other peoples. America, like China, likes to see the good they do, the help they provide for their allies, but other countries are quick to see our flaws. I used to never understand why other countries would dislike America, but it is because the bad always over shadows the good, no matter how much good there is.

for_blog_ghana_cell.jpg“The Case for Contamination” is an article that was written by a Ghanaian professor at Princeton University. He argues against those who think that “contamination” of culture is a problem. He explains how many Westerners think that people in less developed countries are loosing their authenticity by adapting to modernity. The article satirically explains that, “they act like the assistant on the film set who’s supposed to check that the extras in a sword-and-sandal movie aren’t wearing wristwatches.” These people think that globalization challenges cultural diversity. While the article sympathizes with the cultural change that occurs, it argues that we cannot force the people of those cultures to not adapt in the name of authenticity. Progress is inevitable anywhere. He explains that you can preserve cultural artifacts and even traditions, but you cannot force people to preserve their culture. Culture, by nature, changes as the people and time changes. “Societies without change aren’t authentic; they’re just dead.” Innovations always happen. Every society has taken parts of other societies and made it their own. All traditions were once innovations, and current societal worldviews were once taboo. These are the reasons for the case for contamination. Contamination has always existed and no one has the right to try and make people remain “authentic” because every tradition has been invented.

I have always been curious about what the Americas, Africa, or Asia would be like without Europe’s influence. I have always wanted to know what “authentic” culture would look like. This article was extremely convicting because it explains that no culture is authentic. No culture is completely their own. All culture, at some point, began and has progressed since then. It is quite interesting to think about. Even Europe has advanced by way of taking things from other cultures. We all learn from each other, thus it is irrational to try to force societies to not adapt.


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