Table of Contents
2. The Conceptual Framework
3. Popular Culture and Malta
3.1. Christmas in Malta
3.2. Tourism and Malta
3.3. Music Television and the Maltese Youth
3.4. Web 2.0 and Malta
4. Evaluating the Spread of Popular Culture
6.2. Not Available
The purpose of this essay is to comparatively discuss imperialism and popular culture using Malta as a case study. At first, the concepts of imperialism and popular culture are described and the question whether these two terms are related is introduced. Second, these concepts are applied to Malta, whereby the description of the Mediterranean island’s situation also exemplarily represents the spread of popular culture to huge parts of the world. Third, this essay contains a discussion of the (potential) advantages and disadvantages or opportunities and dangers, respectively that the spread of popular culture throughout the globe (can) bring(s) with it, also focusing on the situation of Malta. Finally, the text summarises the discussion of the issue in how far the increase of popular culture can be seen as imperialistic in its character.
2. The Conceptual Framework
The concept of imperialism does not only consist of a political dimension, but, for instance, also features an economic and cultural aspect. The latter is frequently referred to as cultural imperialism and is of particular interest with regard to this essay’s topic. Cultural imperialism can be defined in manifold ways with different layers of meaning. However, in a summarised way it refers to the dominance of cultural texts, practices and values that do not originate in a respective country or territory and do often replace this area’s traditional ones. The media often plays a crucial role in this process and – polemically speaking – can be seen as the coloniser’s tool to impose its own cultural texts, practices and values on the colonised. It is frequently argued that “… the media [has] a direct manipulative effect on the cultures [it] gains access to” (Tomlinson, 57). With regard to this culture is obviously also closely connected with ideology, a term which usually brings in a political dimension. Culture can never be fully ideology free, but also often prepares the basis for various ideologies people acquire. Therefore, cultural imperialism often ‘goes hand in hand’ with ideological imperialism.
The texts, practices and values of popular culture mainly originate from the English speaking world and they are most noticeably associated with the United States of America. Some scholars even argue that “rarely before in human history has there been so massive an intervention of force and ideas from one culture to another one as there is today from America to the rest of the world” (Said, 387). Considering this origin of popular culture and its triumphal distribution across the world, the question arises whether popular culture can be seen as imperialistic in its character in any part of the world except of the United States of America and possibly Great Britain, Canada and Australia. However, some parts of popular culture, mostly those connected with the Internet, cannot be easily localised and, therefore, defy this argumentation.
A quantitative definition of popular culture sees it as “culture which is widely favoured or well liked by many people” (Storey, 7). On an institutional basis popular culture is often also connected with notions like mass production and commercialism. However, since such definitions do not completely define the character of popular culture, it is often also described as being binary oppositional to high culture (or culture with a capital C). This definition often sees (at least connotatively) popular culture as inferior to high culture and does also not recognise the phenomena that the boundaries of this dichotomy sometimes blur or that a cultural text can move from high to popular culture or vice versa, for instance film noir in the first or Shakespeare plays in the latter direction. Finally, postmodernism claims both high culture and popular culture to be undistinguishable as postmodernist culture, stressing the commercial character of culture as such and embedding it into power relationships. In general, a complete and – more importantly – definite depiction of popular culture does not exist and would probably be a (negotiated) combination of all these definitions. Concerning its historic origin popular culture in this sense emerged in the 1950s. However, popular culture with the meaning of culture for and by the (ordinary) people has a longer history. On the whole, popular culture commonly both refers to works of art that signify meaning and to a particular way of life. Thus, a basic distinction can be made between popular cultural texts, for instance pop music, television, popular fiction, comics, video games, etc. and popular cultural practices, for instance seaside holidays, the celebration of Christmas, youth subcultures, etc.