Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Impact of Television series and films that include the Paranormal

In sociology, some sociologists argue that people, who become so obsessed with paranormal series and movies, tend to be more supportive to the idea that "anything is possible," and that is a principle that science emphatically rejects. In fact, Television Paranormal effects people believes, attitudes, and behaviors in many ways.

First of all, shows that include paranormal activities cause Paranoia. Paranoid thinking heavily influences people’s psychological states. For example, they may start seeing nightmares and having other sleeping difficulties like Insomnia. They also start getting scared of darkness and seeing visions of ghosts or other supernatural creatures that don’t even exist. People start to act violently toward others and become careless about almost every aspect of their lives. In fact, these harsh attitudes may lead people to commit crimes! Some statistics state that parents have killed their children because they thought they were possessed. Paranormal-obsessed people are also more likely to torture themselves and suicide.

Second of all, paranormal has a great impact on religious beliefs. For example, people start going to Church, believing in the existence of evils and demons, and becoming more religious than before. On the other hand, some people started to doubt their religious beliefs that they don’t believe in faith anymore. People started to do some devilish activities to communicate with demons and other spirits in order to solve their own problems or as a way to destroy other’s lives.

In addition to religious beliefs, paranormal activities also affect the personal image and physical appearance of people. People start to believe that they are themselves supernatural characters. In sociology, these people are categorized under the term “Counterculture, ” which means that their values and beliefs are in opposition to the dominant culture. For example, some people, especially teenagers, declare themselves as vampires, witches, werewolves, and psychics. This is best illustrated in the following videos:

This phenomenon has also impacted the way people dress, talk, walk, sleep, eat, drink, and communicate. It is becoming so dangerous that obsessed people started to have plastic surgeries just to look like a supernatural character.

Therefore, paranormal activity can have a very negative impact on people. In short, the emotional and mental toll can be devastating, but not nearly as devastating as the physical cost can be.

Kalekjya (كلكجيه)

“Kalekjya” is a term that is widely used by old Qatari people. It is used to describe deceiving people. The term is originally Iraqi, but through cultural diffusion it is used in gulf countries. The story of this term started, when I was on Facebook checking some of my friend’s photos. I came across album of Qatar’s national day 2010, where my friends and their relatives were participating in Qatar’s national day. They were on a traditional dhow, the dhow was very old and it was about 100 years old. One of my friend relatives had repaired and renewed this dhow. It was the oldest dhow to participate on that day. So part of their participation, was to act like sailors, in the old traditional way. His relative, who was mainly responsible of that, which had the experience, was teaching them what do and how to do it. So they were driving him crazy because they did not really do what he was asking them to do. So he was making fun of them by describing them with this word “Kalekjya”. They really liked it and started commenting on what he is saying. They still remember his word and used it so much even after the event.

The word is not so common for us as a young generation. At the beginning, I went to my mom asking her what this word means. She told me what it means and when to use it. In addition to, the word origin. After that I understood the word I use it so much in these days. So similar effects to what my friends had.

But this also made me raise the question. What makes my friends and I like this old traditional term. My friends and I are university students and every day we are learning something new. We always learn new terms, but we do not really focus on them that much and use them as the term “Kalekjya”. I tried to find an explanation and I ended up with this. I believe the term “Kalekjya” was really different because of the emotional response it stimulates in me and my friends. However, we are guys; we do not really have an emotional response to everything as girls do. Then the question is what stimulates our emotional response here. I believe it was sort of hidden cultural relativism. Some might say that I am using the term cultural relativism in the wrong way. However, that not true, because we have our own culture as young generation. This is different that our father’s culture and that is why I used cultural relativism term. Even if we do not feel that, we really tend go back to our father’s culture. We went back to it because we like it. This happened here because we liked the term” Kalekjya.”


Saturday, January 29, 2011

"Tainted Love" as cultural object

In the opening chapter of his book Mix It Up: Popular Culture, Mass Media, and Society, sociologist David Grazian offers a brilliant deconstruction of a single cultural object, the storied history of the song “Tainted Love.”

Written by Ed Cobb, the original version of “Tainted Love” was recorded by soul singer Gloria Jones in 1964.

Seventeen years later, the U.K. duo Soft Cell would enjoy a smash hit with their cover of the same song. The Soft Cell cover of “Tainted Love” set a (then) Guinness World Record for the longest consecutive stay on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart (43 weeks).

Soft Cell member Marc Almond wrote that "his only significant contribution to the song's instrumentation was the suggestion that the song begin with a characteristic ‘bink bink’ sound which would repeat periodically throughout.”

In 2001, shock rocker Marilyn Manson recorded a cover of the song for the soundtrack to the film Not Another Teen Movie. Note how Manson slows down the song to a crawl, underscoring the grotesque -- and tainted -- aspect of the song’s primary theme, uncovering untapped dimensions in his reinterpretation.

Finally, Brazilian pop singer Rihanna sampled the bassline and signature “bink bink” beat for her song “SOS,” which paid tribute to the original song with the inclusion of the line, “I toss and turn, I can’t sleep at night.” Note how the musical score to Rhianna’s own song is built around the hook contributed by Soft Cell’s Marc Almond.

In his deconstruction of this enduring cultural object, Grazian reminds us that, “Pop music, like Greek tragedy and Elizabethan drama, can transcend its historical moment to enjoy endless cycles of rediscovery and reinvention, just as ‘Tainted Love’ began as a 1960s northern soul song, and found new life as an 1980s synth-pop classic, which two decades later would be sampled for inclusion on a 2006 R&B dance hit.”

Friday, January 28, 2011

Al Khor: A serene coastal city in Qatar

As Qatar’s capital city, Doha, grows massively in its population and development in the last couple of years, other cities of the country are becoming sort of more “ignored” or simply, left out.

Although it is true that capital cities around the world provide most of the facilities that tourists or even citizens and residentslook for, some people , like I and my family, still like to go on road trips to other neighboring cities in the country every once in a while to have a break from Doha’s vitality and noticeable cultural diffusion. One of the cities we often go to is Al Khor “Alkh-OR” City, up in the northern parts of the country. For this city being only few kilometers away from Doha (around 50 kilometers north), Al Khor City is not like Doha City at all. It is totally different from the capital city in a variety of ways. For instance, it often rains more in Al Khor than here in Doha. The wet season in Al- Khor City keeps it leafy and green throughout the whole year. As a result, people who visit this area often see plants and animals that are not seen elsewhere in Doha or in any other southern part of the country.

Besides its uniquely magnificent weather, the architecture and other material culture in Al Khor City are biased more toward the Qatari heritage and innovation. You will often see a lot of traditional Qatari houses as you drive down the streets of the city. And as you approach the coastal regions of the city, you will notice traditional fishing boats almost everywhere along the shore. The fishermen subculture is highly noticed in the shore regions of the city as well.

One of the other beautiful things in Al Khor City is that you hardly see or get stuck in traffic jams in the morning or during busy hours in general. This is of course; a big advantage of not arriving late to school or work, as well as its major advantage of having road accidents.

Shining the light on Al Khor's non-material culture, the norms and beliefs of the people who live in this city (mostly citizens) does not differ from the ones of people who live in Doha. It’s just that a one may notice that non-material culture more easily in Al Khor than doing so in Doha, since that the sociology of Al Khor City has a little bit less of multiculturalism.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

From the big screen to your life!

Have you ever thought about the huge role of culture in our life? or at the great hole it creates when two cultures fail to communicate? if you haven't realized or experienced that, movies make a great way to portray this image and present culture's impact on the life of ordinary people, just like us.

When I first saw the trailer of “Cairo Time” I was attracted by the story which mainly revolved around the meaning of love and traditions in both the middle east and the West. When I found out that Ruba Nadda (the writer/director of the movie) is a syrian - Canadian I didn't find it hard to believe what the character was going through in the movie. The director explained how that she personally experienced this cultural differences when she was young and was visiting Egypt with her mother as she mentioned in the making of the movie.
The movie made it obvious that the culture within us is never noticed until we observe other's cultures and traditions. Through the experience of the main character Juliette (played by: Patricia Clarkson) we get to see the adventure of getting into a new society filled with different customs, values and norms.

However, there must be thousands of movies which revolve around the differences in cultures. Some might talk about love, friendship, family relations or it might turn to social conflicts and cultural misunderstanding  like what is shown in the movie "Amreekawhich is mainly a political movie talking about a Palestinian woman and her son trying to fit-in and get used to the American society.

What made me interested in this movie is what it's writer/director Cherien Dabis said in her interview with Marian Lacombe,  when she simply commented on her self by saying that she was: " not American enough for the Americans and not Arab enough for the Arabs." What Cherien Dabis portrayed in the movie was a reflection of her own experience when she personally had to face that "Cultural Shock" back when she was young.

Also, one of the recent movies I’ve seen and had this huge cultural sense was “Eat Pray Love” which highly focused on the huge differences between the American culture and three other rich cultures (Italy, India and Bali) and the process of exchanging some of our own culture with others which is known as "cultural diffusion."

Cultural Diffusion in Branding??

Remember the crazy months of last year when everything and anything happened in Qatar? DTFF, Tennis Matches, TEDxDoha, Cultural Village and what not!! It was definitely crazy in terms of crowd pulling and outings and new places to go in Qatar! In that big world of all the buzz, glamor and happenings, I noticed a very tiny marketing strategy that I found very interesting.
I am a big time fan of Karak, which you all know is a special kind of milk tea and is undoubtedly one of the most popular hot beverages in town. I buy a cup of Karak everyday on my way to education city. The barista usually serves me in the usual plastic cups that has a little fragile handle which is practically useless. One day he served me Karak in a cup that was branded by DTFF, as shown in the picture below.

After I reached Education City, I went to buy a sandwich from Batteel, and guess what? The same DTFF cup there as well!! Then I thought to myself, Tribecca is definitely a New York company and now it is in Doha under Doha Film Institute. It was impossible to ignore their branding strategy during the film festival. From big banners on roads to the smallest things in life such as the Karak cup, they had captured them all.

It was interesting for me to see how a New York company was integrating with its' customers and mostly, taking materialistic culture to a whole new level. More than the event of DTFF, I was more interested in the way they branded and especially the small scale ones such as the Karak cup. For those few days, I felt I was in a different, diverse and very vibrant society. I experienced what we call in sociology, as trans-cultural diffusion. It was festive, vibrant, colorful, diverse and artful.

After reading Griswold’s Cultural Diamond perspective, I was able to relate the events of DTFF to the diamond shaped cultural diagram. In this diagram, the 'Producers' are the human resources of DTFF, the 'Receivers' are the viewers and customers or people all over th
e country in this case. The 'cultural object' varies from event to event, which in this case range
s from movies under open sky, to comedy shows and kids entertainment parties. Thus, the 'social world' here constitutes of a mix of all the above mentioned elements as a whole.

It will be interesting to see what Qatar adopts in the next 20 years with its advertising policies and what happens to cultural diffusion that we all are expecting with the opening of the World Cup.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nouveau... ou Dejavu?

“Do you want to listen to some Min’yo?” I asked my friend a while ago and just as I expected, he asked the questions “What is that?” I didn’t anticipate his acknowledgement about this specific genre of music. “What is that?” he insisted to know. “Well, it’s a genre in the Japanese traditional music culture.” So then I asked “Do you know Ayumi Hamasaki?” and he replied “Isn’t she that famous Japanese star?” and he was right. Ayumi Hamasaki is a symbol and an icon of the popular Japanese music culture, or in the correct terminology, J-Pop. We can say that J-pop is a sub-culture in Japan that is vastly popular around the world. The real question here is “how original is ‘J-Pop’?” When you hear Opera you directly think about Italy; when you hear “Frère Jacques” you immediately think of France, disregarding the name. But no one would recognize Min’yo nor Okinwan which both are Japanese traditional music.

Japanese pop, I would define, as music in the Japanese language but of the style of western music. You can’t deny the cultural diffusion and the effect of western clothing style, the over-all image and the music production on this specific genre of Japanese music. We can name a few things to blame but the first one is technology. Some companies, to promote their product, associate a song to it and produce a commercial film featuring a Japanese icon. In this case, Ayumi Hamasaki’s song “Sunset: Love is all” was used in an advertisement for Panasonic Lumix FX-60 digital camera. So therefore associating advertisement with a song leads for this product to have a “theme” song if you want to say and so when it goes international, different parts of the world that hear it. And let’s admit it that commercial songs can get addictive. This is how a product becomes appealing to other cultures because they use similar traits of music that are common in the world. So, this route through the Japanese music market associates culture to expand globally.

But the thing with Japan is that it knows how to level the cultures. Yes, Western culture is very appealing to them but when they take something they manage to twist it and make it their own. For example, as Valentine’s Day is approaching the world will be celebrating love and that is a cultural tradition. In Japan, however, the 14th of February has the name “Valentine’s Day”; however, their tradition is girls bake a chocolate cake by themselves and they offer it to a person as a confession of love and then that person has up to the 24th of March to either reject or accept the person’s love.
So, I conclude by saying that Japan does have the influence of the Western culture which might seem a bit “dejavu-ish” when you visit, however it is all absolutely new if a foreigner does visit the culture. You will definitely get a culture shock even though you’ll find similarities in the names and style. What do you think Japanese will do next? Take the Arab men’s head attire and produce a new fashion statement? Only time will tell what these creative minds will plan in the future.

Materialism in Qatar

Ignorance is the word that should be used to describe the symptom spread among a lot of people in the Qatari society. Many Qataris, and especially woman, are hypnotized by materialism and luxury. In my point of view, this issue is crossing the limits and is not helping these people to be alerted about what might happen when the country loses its source of wealth. As it is known, gas is the initial source of Qatar’s success due to exporting it abroad. Therefore, Qatar and most Qatari people have become prosperous. A lot of Qataris favor economical developments over social developments, because they believe that spirituality can be altered with materialistic needs. Many young Qatari women are used to satisfying their needs with the latest branded bags and the newest trends in fashion. Instead of competing with knowledge in their areas of expertise, they flaunt with their latest and most expensive material purchased. I personally find it unfortunate, because Qatar holds a bright future for its youth and especially women.

During summer time, many Qataris travel to Paris and London as part of their long holiday. It is very noticeable from the way both women and men dress, that they indirectly compete against each other. Furthermore, some tend to ship their own fancy cars to flourish around the streets of Paris and London. Lately, a Qatari tourist in London parked his car with a local plate in front of the Harrods building, where it is not allowed for any car to park there. He was issued a parking ticket that cost him about one million pounds worth of violation. Prior building the Villagio Mall and The Pearl, not many people were in recognition with the major brands such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Prada, etc. However, the country provided the locals with a new direction by opening many major designers stores in Villagio and The Pearl, and they are still continuing to introduce more with time. One of Qatar’s initial goals is to make the country a portal of education and culture. Millions of dollars were spent to build educational institutions for the locals join and learn from. Appreciation is required from these locals, because we are unable to predict when will we run out of gas.

Qatar Unified Imaging Project (QUIP) Maps Qatar's Cultural Heritage

How is Commercialization and Urbanization Impacting the Culture of Doha?

Two days ago, I heard about the QUIP research project, which holds great relevance for the research culture of Qatar as well as the broader community of people that are interested in the history and cultural traditions of this country – including the awesome members of this cultural sociology class! The project is spearheaded by Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (VCUQatar) and is funded by the Qatar National Research Fund. I would like to think of it as a cross-cultural collaboration between an American design school VCU, Qatar University, and the British-based University Of Exeter, which boasts the highest collective expertise on gulf studies that includes anthropology, history, Islamic studies, sociolinguistics, material culture and many more. I met with Tammi Moe, lead Principle Investigator on this three-year project. Over a huge plate of French fries and three liters of soda, Mrs. Moe was able to provide me with a substantial wealth of information regarding this stimulating research project. I was particularly interested in the aspects of the research that include cultural diffusion, and the impact of commercialization and urbanization on Qatar’s cultural heritage.

Source: VCUQ Photo Gallary Archives

Heritage informs nearly all fields of research because it allows us to understand our humanity. We can look at material and non-material culture to identify what we value as humans. In the stories we pass on from generation to generation we communicate our essence.

Source: VCUQ Photo Gallary Archives

The objects of material culture and the practices of non-material culture show our values and are meaningful to understanding humanity. Games we played as children, our mother's recipes, what we captured in a photo, traditional dancing, music, objects of veneration are different expressions of our cultural heritage.

Source: VCUQ Photo Gallary Archives

It's how we participate in shaping the value of these objects and practices that informs other disciplines from sociology to design. That is why I found QUIP to be a vital and crucial project. It will help guide the interpretation of researchers around the world by creating access to what is important in Qatar's culture.

Source: VCUQ Photo Gallary Archives

These values and belief systems are easily over shadowed by what is currently being emphasized, the highly visible consumer and brand name culture that the world's attention is now focused on. We become distracted by the glitz and glamour and forget what the true values and beliefs of this society are and this has placed the material and non-material culture of Qatar at risk.

Source: VCUQ Photo Gallary Archives

Pearl Diving ­­– A cultural object that belongs to Qatar’s heritage. As Griswold defines it, this cultural object is a “socially meaningful expression” of Qatari tradition, and “tells a story” of this people’s way of life and means of living.

Source: VCUQ Photo Gallary Archives

Commercialization and urbanization have shifted the cultural focus from traditional to modern consumption – from barely surviving to ultra luxury. The urban sprawl has introduced “the other” into the closely guarded fareej forcing the neighborhoods of Qatar to spread apart. So much so that there is a project underway to rebuild the “heart of Doha” displacing merchants that provided reasonably priced goods, to over-priced merchandise.

A lot of very interesting entries on Qatar traditional activities are found on this blog.

There are grassroots efforts to preserve traditional architecture but so much has already been destroyed in the push for rapid advancement.

source (up): VCUQ Photo Gallary Archives (Both pictures taken at Souq Wakif)

Check out this website that portrays the background and changes of Qatar.

Examples of the Transmission and Reinterpretation of Culture:

It used to be that shopping occurred in the living rooms of neighborhood women and Souq Waqif. Now we have brand stores in large shopping malls.

Source: VCUQ Photo Gallary Archives

In explaining how the cultural heritage of Qatar is fading and being neglected, Tammi Moe referred to an article in the Guardian newspaper, saying " Although this is an interesting article it completely neglects the true "cultural heritage" of Qatar and the surrounding Gulf. It focuses completely on modern events and forgets about the people of Qatar that have struggled to live here before the discovery oil. Qatar's heritage and culture is rich in many ways and we must maintain the cultural memory through modern vehicles."

Source: VCUQ Photo Gallary Archives

Overshadowing of culture:

For example the following pictures depict the literal overshadowing of modern architecture. The new designs overpower and diminish the essential historical and cultural monument:-

Source: VCUQ Photo Gallary Archives (Both images of Qatar National Museum)

Old mosque architecture/ Modern mosque architecture:

source(up): VCUQ Photo Gallary Archives

This change also includes "cultural diffusion"- a process where cultures adopt parts of other cultures. Qatar is adopting modern styles of architecture from other western cultures.

Fingers crossed, this project will build the research materials so that sociologists, anthropologists, and scholars can study and explore Qatar’s rich and very existent culture. Hopefully, QUIP will map cultural indicators and document them before they are lost forever.

Many thanks to the fabulous Tammi Moe for allowing me access to these super cool photo archives. Also, for her time, help, generosity with information, insightfulness, and of course - the irresistible fries.