In his exploration of various ways that consumption goods are incorporated in our construction of identity and culture, Canclini points out that identities are not simply bound to a nation, or one specific category, but are “polyglot, multiethnic, migrant, made from elements that cut across various cultures” (91). As the cross-cultural, polyglot identities emerge through globalization, cultural ideas and other consumer goods simultaneously cross boundaries of different cultures. When cultural goods are introduced to another culture, often times they are defloklorized and lose their local meaning to have a new meaning to fit the broader context. In the discussion of defolklorization, Canclini states that ‘art today is constituted by “cultural nomadism,”’ which is an interesting concept to dwell upon, which also links to the important question brought up during the class discussion on whether the globalization of cultural commodities are contributing to the loss or gain of a community. Certainly, through globalization, walls between different cultures seem to have tumbled down with awareness and interest, thus contributing to a global community with “homogenized international discourse” (92). Even just 50 years ago, Korea was underrepresented in the global community despite the fact that it was once the battle ground between the world’s two great powers, but with the introduction of Korean pop culture products as well as multinational brands like Samsung, it is now well recognized. The remaining question, however, is whether this “homogenized international discourse” is valid in a sense that it well represents a culture or an identity, whether the cultures are retained in that discourse or just abandoned without a place to belong like nomads.

In disagreement to the possibility that we have reached cultural leveling through a homogenized international discourse, Dasom discusses the phenomenon of Gangnam Style that took place recently in 2012. She claims that cultural products that embed local values still exist today as Gangnam Style maintains the authentic Korean musical and cultural values even when it reached audiences beyond local arena and did not have to undergo “reformulation” to make it acceptable for the global community. While I agree that cultural products that embed local values do exist and the formulated local identities are yet too strong to claim that cultural leveling has taken place, I must disagree with the claim that nothing was lost in the process of its deterritorialization.

Gangnam Style, the song itself, produced by a popular Korean artist Psy, is actually a lyrical and visual social commentary on the extravagant but shallow lifestyles of people in a certain district of Korea. The comical music video works hand in hand with the song because it mocks the people who “dress classy” on the outside but inside are just “cheesy” by dramatizing the contrast between the materialistic features and human qualities through the comical presentation of a consumer society. When the music and its music video were received by the global audience, however, the spirit of the song was abandoned; people largely received it as a pure entertainment form, as a ‘funny video’ made by a ‘funny Korean guy’ with a disregard to the lyrics or the social content. Though some people must have looked into that original meaning and the Korean culture as a whole from the exposure to the song, speaking in a general sense, the meaning behind the intent of the art was lost, thus becoming a spectacle. This is what I thought of when I came across the concept of “cultural nomadism.” It may be argued that even if the spirit of Gangnam Style is lost in the global arena, it would still be relevant in the local community, but unfortumately, in this particular case, I don’t think that original spirit of Gangnam Style belongs in Korea so much either. When this song received so much global fame and attention, it became a spectacle for Korean people as well, as they came to take pride in its fame and success rather than in its original intended meaning. Now Gangnam Style is more of a medium to connect themselves to the global community rather than a medium of self reflection.

Though I referred to this Gangnam Style phenomenon as a transformation from a cultural product to a global spectacle, I’m not necessarily claiming that there are no meanings at all in a global spectacle either. Dasom also mentioned that the song was followed by “parodies” and “covers,” which can be seen as means of appropriation, by which people branch their own meanings out through a reproduction of a song in their own context, even if it just means wearing different costumes or using different locations. Just as identity is flexible to the consumer culture that a person is exposed to, the commodities also can be seen as malleable products that can fit the molds of different identities, and so cultural nomadism perhaps is a natural occurrence in the world of moving ideas, people, and commodities. Canclini asks “what kinds of literature, film, and television are capable of narrating the heterogeneity and coexistence of several codes within a group and even in one individual subject,” but another relevant question could be ‘what kinds of goods are capable of speaking to the heterogeneity and coexistence of several codes in the global community?’ (94). It could perhaps be argued that Gangnam Style, as a global spectacle with diminished Korean narrative, was suitable not just for entertainment, but for various appropriations, providing a shelter for different cultures, and perhaps ‘cultural nomads (underrepresented cultures and identities)’ as well.

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