hey everyone back again today i’m going to talk about bell hooks‘s eating the other desire and resistance which is super interesting text i’m looking forward to digging into it here but before then if you want to follow me other than on youtube here you can follow me at instagram on instagram at theory underscore and underscore philosophy to see mostly pictures of my cats if you haven’t already follow me here if you’re new here hi i’m david i try to explain philosophical and theoretical texts in a somewhat accessible way as best as i can so if you you know like what i do hit subscribe and you’ll see my videos every every single week and that would be great if you want to help me out for those that you know are already here like share subscribe tell your friends who knows they might get a kick of it if you’re listening to this in podcast form the video is on youtube and if you’re listening to this on youtube or watching it on youtube you will you will be able to find it in podcast form where there shouldn’t be any ads and yeah good is that good it’s probably good let’s jump into this here so this is a pretty important essay that bell hooks wrote and it’s it’s quite good and for those that haven’t read it i definitely recommend that you do um but it is tricky and i hope that maybe i can try and make it a little bit easier i hope at least i’m not gonna claim that i can do such a thing so easily but i’ll but i’ll try so what hooks is doing here is describing the way that non-white cultures are often commodified uh in that of course we’re seeing this kind of we saw this develop with various marketing strategies uh in the mid to late 20th century up up till now but we’re also seeing it playing out in other ways and how for instance how tourism is growing into such a big industry especially with tourism from north america to places like thailand or vietnam or something like that but of course it would be totally naive to say that no one from those countries visits like north america for example it’s just about recognizing that there is a difference at least in part when we start to consider the ways that certain populations are framed within the dominant narrative and then how those cultures are appropriated and it comes down to at least in the final lines of the essay hooks really ask that question or motivates us to begin questioning how do we discern the difference because this isn’t just a uh you know simple act acting upon non-white bodies by white people that would be way too uh reductive just it just doesn’t encapsulate the complexities of something like representation of something like tourism or um you know the use of elements from other cultures be it their food or their dress or in their language it’s a very difficult topic no one’s gonna deny that but this is a really good essay to help us to consider how it can go from what hooks calls cultural appreciation to cultural appropriation and how do we how do we negotiate that is really one of the one of the central points of this text so in the commodification of another culture what we see is that culture essentially being taken out of its context and then made into something that is consumable now this relates this use of the the term commodity relates of course to marxism and marxist thought where for marx the idea is that a commodity becomes a commodity when it is detached from any association with its history that is within production and it just seems like an object that exists on its own as though it has a kind of magical value or a value that comes as though from nowhere not from its history within production and i’ve done a whole episode on commodity fetishism if anyone’s interested in that you can go and check that out but that’s kind of setting the stage here but this kind of fascination with non-white culture is different or it marks a shift in how traditionally or in the past 50 60 70 years and even further back in the north american context other cultures were really shunned and of course the history of racism in in the united states is testament to that in that there wasn’t an obsession with otherness there was just a complete repudiation a complete foreclosure of otherness unless it was meant for like labor purposes be they you know um from the slave trade or from uh you know chinese laborers who who did really uh wonderful things in terms of building the country that that is now the united states even though it was done through very harsh means so this shift marks a kind of cosmopolitanism or a kind of multiculturalism that sees the other not as something to fear but as something that can be appropriated so the obsession then that she traces is not with the barbie doll like blonde haired woman with it with a certain like certain physical features that abide by a normalized body type but instead there’s a growing fascination with the other as a sexual object or something that can be used sexually and she very it’s a very complicated idea that she develops here in that she sees that as a transformation from this old form of like racist repudiation and um denial of the other to a new form of racism that sees the other as a play toy almost as a point of fascination and experimentation on the part of like white bro dudes so she provides a uh an anecdote where she’s walking on the sidewalk and there are these three uh young men in front of her young young men university students she figured because she was i believe she was in a university town and these young men near the university so she just put connected the dots who were talking about how they wanted to sleep with as many women of color as possible and that different women of color had different like rankage rankage different points depending on like how rare they were as though they were like pokemon or something like that they could just be used for um to denote one of these men’s like sexual prowess as though their bodies are markers for their sexual accomplishments now hooks then really dives into this and she’s like the other in this case these these women of color are associated with a kind of exoticism and they’re associated with a kind of difference that is other than the kind of self-ordering uh sameness that these la them that these of the lives of these men where they live you know probably a pretty uh standard came from probably some white picket fence background and they’re seeking that experience and so they locate that experience with or among these women of color that they can then use for their own development their own change as though it’s just a rite of passage for them but to them probably they see themselves as being non-racist i mean they want to have these couplings with people that aren’t of their same race so that must mean that they’re not racist but hooks is very suspicious of this and sees it rather as just as i’ve kind of already alluded to as the emergence of this kind of new racist trend this neo-racism that sees the other as an object for the these for the satisfaction of these men [Music] interestingly then hook says that this is marks a kind of animosity or sort of regret about an imperialist past where the real goal of imperialism was to purge the world of difference right the imperialists saw it and you know different imperialists from different countries of course but the history of imperialism is is pretty strongly a european one but they sought to rid the world of difference in order to make it like christian to make it democratic to make it what not democratic but to make it like um essentially european or to spread that word about civilization to so-called uncivilized people and it seems as though this would be a reversal of that that is there’s a kind of that these men would almost be happy about the fact that that project was not acted out because then they wouldn’t have had these women in this case to objectify as being different because they would have all been subsumed under the same kind of european category through the acts of or through the process of colonization or the process is a pretty banal way to put it the horrors of colonization and so these differences that we see play out here with this fascination with the other seek to kind of re-insert an idea of racial difference that seek to kind of operate and to make it kind of an example of identity politics that is these men who probably would be would be opposed to anything related to identity politics are playing that out in that they are associating these women these women of color with a certain exotic identity not based on their character but based purely on the race and this is just one example of the ways the many ways in which identity politics plays out in many racist spheres but that it is only called out when it’s like feminists calling attention to racism being enacted upon certain bodies because then it’s like oh you’re just calling attention to race you’re not actually paying attention to people’s uh characteristics you’re just drawing upon systemic things that don’t actually have to do with people’s day-to-day lives yadda yadda but we’re seeing that play out very much in this sphere as well and so there’s a kind of freezing of the other in their difference as being different and it kind of in this act of consuming the other in this way of eating the other it’s almost as though these these white men are trying to become the other like they’re trying to get themselves out of their really you know banal existence into new possibility and how many uh young men do this like rite of passage traveling experience after high school to like find themselves and they’ll go to thailand or they’ll go to south america or something to you know experience the world that always just ends up with them returning home for the for the vast majority of these people where they just treated the other as a stage to go through not as something to be necessarily respected or to be worked with but something that is to be consumed for these people’s own benefit [Music] [Music] now in order for this any kind of interaction between white people and non-white people to be acted out and we can see this happening in many other different spheres and it would be totally wrong to say that this is like exclusively a white phenomenon we see this happening in like india for example where there is this kind of appreciation of lighter skinned people over darker skinned people or in other asian countries in which there seems to be or there is very much a disdain for people who have darker skin tones versus lighter ones or just a general appreciation of lighter skin tones and see we see this playing out over and over and over again and as just an aside like many of our cultural um kind of artifacts or kind of cultural representations place a strong emphasis on whiteness and lightness as being associated with good and this goes you know from religion all the way to mr clean ads we see this constant illustration of whiteness being good and lightness being associated with good and darkness being associated with bad and how certain places of the earth like africa is the dark continent that kind of unknown unclear thing kind of still shrouded in tradition shrouded in archaic ideals that don’t actually do much for the people themselves but is instead just something that they’re just stuck with which isn’t it’s absolutely not true at all but these images constantly re-emerge to instill the idea that there is a kind of exceptionalism associated with lighter skinned people and the common thread that we see and this is really all across the globe and this appreciation of lighter skinned people is that the more white you are the easier it is for you not only to move around in your own setting you feel comfortable with but across the globe as well so this is a kind of to be quite dramatic about it it’s like a certain kind of imperialism that plays out like over and over and over again and it’s constantly reinforced and this gets even more reinforced when we consider like language politics and how it is so much easier for english-speaking people to move throughout the earth and how it is expected how english people expect that everyone around them is going to speak english and how it would be totally absurd if someone who was vietnamese walked into a cafe in nebraska and started to ask for food in vietnamese people would be completely confounded they wouldn’t know what to do whereas there’s so many examples that we see of like television shows where people go and eat in like these rural communities in some asian country just asking for things in english and just talking in english there are no shows like that of people from vietnam coming to america doing like these things about oh these hamburgers how great they are let us let us eat them and speak to everyone in vietnamese people would be absolutely offended and would like demand that they speak english or at least have a very good interpreter there but in any case i’m rambling but in this easy capacity to move around uh it is possible then for white people to be you know they’re moving around of their own volition it isn’t they aren’t like institutionalized or moved around in that way it is much easier for white people to assume a kind of cosmopolitan or kind of multicultural appreciation that is they can welcome these things because nothing really affects them in the way that it might affect someone else that is there’s a a believed move away from tradition on the part of like western people or people associated with the west especially white people in these contexts that give them a certain privilege while other people are still caught in tradition now i’m not saying that that’s the case but this is certainly one image that or one idea that is kind of reinscribed in our day-to-day in our day-to-day lives that is in many of the different media we consume many of the different images that we consume that constantly reinvigorate the idea that white people are like more developed moving away from tradition not stuck in the past whereas other people especially non-white people are still stuck to their traditions and they just need to develop and get out of that as though their race is not holding them back in terms of within a globalized white-centric world [Music] it is very difficult for any culture to just just do what those of european heritage can now come to comfortably do on the world stage now again this is an extremely difficult situation and it really should be handled in in much more microscopic ways and i’m not saying that hooks needed to do that hooks is giving us a very interesting approach to this problem but to really get at the heart of it of course there’s much more nuance that’s needed in terms of what whiteness is the history of whiteness who is considered white who is not considered white white passing people people of you know people of color how different people of color are work alongside cooperate with our antagonistic with just by various histories with whiteness it is extremely complicated and demands a lot of work and this work has been done across many different books and many different writers with this so this is just one piece of it and so to kind of wrap it up or to conclude hooks is really skeptical of of reactive so so hooks is very skeptical of any kind of reactive effort to reclaim a kind of cultural identity that is being appropriated or consumed by the dominant class or race and she gives the example of black nationalism that she says is more a gesture of powerlessness than it is one of critical resistance and she says the same thing about rap music and she’s very critical of rap music and in my mind suspiciously critical of black male youth culture in the united states but she she says that it it does more it does less for the black community than more meaningful action does in that it is in the case of rap music it is very uh sexist misogynistic homophobic and so we aren’t actually seeing effective challenges to the system at hand or to stuff things like essentialism that so often works against black bodies we actually see a re-inscription of that she says with something like rap music that is more reactive than necessarily proactive which there are different approaches to that question but in any case that’s what she gives us and it’s it’s super interesting and she concludes by really emphasizing again that we need to be having these conversations about the difference between cultural appreciation and appropriation if you’re just wearing um native american clothing to go to a a concert or to a halloween party you should probably be interrogating that if you’re with uh indigenous people who ask you to wear uh traditional uh of a traditional nation’s uh clothing then that’s absolutely a wonderful thing that you’ve been welcomed into that community to be a be a part of that but of course the distinction is difficult to draw how do we draw the line between like how do we identify what is like in the case of the united states what is black culture attire versus uh white attire and how do we actually develop these lines because they are changed they change so rapidly as well that that it’s just difficult to necessarily know what to do dreadlocks are probably bad though it’s just one thing for white people but in any case uh that’s that i’m sure i annoyed a lot of you but if if i didn’t and you’d like to contribute if you’d like to tell me more about what you might think or anything you’d like to add i’d love to hear about it if you didn’t like what i did here there’s the dislike button for that reason and yeah if you if you if you liked it subscribe and then tune in next week i’ll have something else for you and yeah take care everyone