The othering of your own identity: Western hegemony in our culture

The othering of your own identity(1)

The year of 2018, so far, has seen the demise of a very important figure in the field of Art and Literature in the Indian Nepali community. 6th March 2018 saw Indra Bahadur Rai, one of the most prominent writers in Nepali Literature pass away at the age of 91. The only way I came across this news was through an Instagram story of a person I follow and I passed on this message to a few of my friends and family. The person had put up another story on Instagram, a little frustrated by the fact that very few people knew who he was. If we think about it, when a figure in literature and/or music passes away from the western world, it is immediately known. The news spreads like wildfire when something similar happens to someone as influential and someone so significant in the Nepali culture or smaller communities it doesn’t take the world by storm and there seems to be a natural reason why this happens. Because it is a small community, its presence in the wider world does not pose much of significance to the functioning of the world. When the world loses figures like Stephen Hawking, it is a loss to humanity (no argument), but why does such incident in smaller communities not affect the world? That may sound like an irrelevant question. Why is the loss of an important figure in the literature of a particular community in India not covered in the mainstream media? Why don’t the people of the same community not know about this loss but have every detail and gossip about the Kardashians and K-pop? How does that affect us? Maybe it does aid in understanding the way media works or the way they make sheeple out of people. Maybe.

This is not to belittle the people who were unaware; in fact, it seems that it is a result of the wider way in which the present day world seems to operate. The way media works. It is singlehandedly homogenized by the popular culture which is usually the western pop culture and also the K-pop culture. Even the K-pop culture is not the authentic representation of a Korean culture but who am I to claim that? Who am I to say what’s authentic and what’s not. The power of media is in its accessibility and the agency it gives to individuals but the question is are we even exercising this agency to portray ourselves and our culture or are we just being swept over by what is popular?

But that’s not what is important in this article, what we really want to discuss here is the reason why indigenous culture and literature is so overpowered and overshadowed by what seems to be literature again but from another world, of other people that we grow up learning. We grew up reading Shakespeare and Wordsworth, but we also grew up reading Bhanu Bhakta and Indra Bahadur Rai, however, the discourse on the latter is very limited and perhaps that’s why our understanding also a little bit limited. This is not to preach people on what literature to ascribe to or what culture to save. This article is a question because I am just another person who is taken aback by the amount of cultural and ethnic identity that is being blurred every passing year by the material that we read on books and our syllabus. By the amount of the West and Eurocentric materials that we study, that we see on media. From literature to standards of beauty, it’s all affected. I suppose this article is to urge each one of you reading this, to think about this, to question why the world is the way it is, why we put some cultures and races and ideas of beauty on a pedestal and how that may affect smaller communities. Do you see your native/indigenous culture as lesser or less ‘modern’ than that of the West? Who dictates these standards? And where do you stand in this greater picture; your own self and your own identity in the world?

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