Research Statement on the Impact of the American Culture to Canadian Cultural
Historically, Canada has been subjected to various cultures such as that of the British and the French. From as early the 1500s, European explorers, traders, and fishermen from England, Ireland and France helped form the basis of Canadian culture. Now in the modern era, there is another addition in the list of cultural influences affecting the Canadian society. This cultural treat comes in the form of the contemporary American culture.
American influence is clearly visible but not fully acknowledge by most Canadians. Several people think that this is an implied disposition but there is also a great number who believe that this is explicitly manifested in the Canadian culture. Proximity and the migration of people, ideas, and capital were deemed to be the cause of America’s immense influence on Canadians (Canada culture).
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This study aims to uncover the predicament of the Canadian culture in relation to being associated to the American Culture. Public perception of the United States as a global powerhouse in politics, economics and culture has produced a very potent American culture wherein in this case, Canadians have unconsciously embraced it as demonstrated in their fondness for Hollywood, U. S. landscapes and American vernacular (Kellogg, 2004).
Determining the starting point, extent and effect of the American influence on Canadian culture will provide an ample amount of information that would explore the ways in which American influences have challenged Canada’s cultural values and asks whether Canada is able to maintain its own identity. The period covered would start from post-modern era to present. The time frame relatively represents the age of globalization when culture is intensified and amplified to meet the clamor for innovations.
Generally, Post modernism is a movement of ideas arising from, but also critical of elements of modernism. This definition embodies the present state of the American culture. Understanding Culture It is important to understand and identify aspects of culture that leads to its pervasion across geographical and political boundaries. It is equally important to understand the roots of cultural disparity and differences that often places two civilizations, though geographically contiguous, at subtle levels of conflict and confrontation.
The cultural spectrum holds different shades for a person, a society and a nation, accordingly helping each of them to assimilate and adapt to a common identity that is defined and shaped by culture. In the process of evolving this collective identity, culture transcends its traditional role of providing an aggregate set of beliefs, customs, norms, values, ethics, traditions, moral, social and legal codes, perceptions, and philosophy, to become the overall physical framework for the society to function.
Culture attains a real form, rendering a three dimensional living space for people to experience its living force (Mahant and Mount, 2002). Culture is strongly related with geographical setting of a place, religion, ethnicity, and race, explaining why different countries have different cultures, and also why places on seashore share common elements of culture that is quite different from culture of mountainous places.
The imprinting of culture on ways a person thinks, acts, perceives the environment and models his/her reaction is very strong and virtually indelible, determining every aspect of human behavior and giving rise to cultural identity in addition to individual and national identity. Although the classic rational choice framework says that people are independent in choice of their behavior and approach towards events, its seen that at subtle levels the structural model provided by culture acts as final determinant in predicting a person, a society and a nation.
Although culture is dynamic, evolving and continuously upgrading itself, in essence, these changes occur within the context of culture’s own timeframe (Mahant and Mount, 2002). One of the most important contribution of culture to human civilization is the orientation provided towards other cultures, making the culture in question receptive, tolerant, indifferent or outright hostile towards different cultures. Societies are seldom mono-cultural, displaying a range of cultural traits, achieved through generations of trades, contact, and cross cultural mixing.
However, although for people belonging to a particular culture, their culture would hardly seem complex, the cultural realities are hidden beneath the surface, difficult to observe and discern from outside. These improper understanding and imperfect perceptions of culture often give rise to conflict when different cultures are required to meet or come across. Cultural Dialogue and Imprinting between USA and Canada In recent times, the Canadian cultural policy has taken an inward looking approach in order to minimize influence of United State Culture while supporting Canadian cultural elements.
The rhetoric of cultural protectionism is familiar-aimed towards protecting Canadian cultural, its sovereignty and identity; assuring shelf space for Canada in a world completely occupied by Americanism; assuring a zone of creative independence to Canadians where their tales would be theirs’ alone. This introvert attitude is also promoted with an aim to counter the market dominance of American products, their selling strategies, , their discriminatory policies against Canadian goods and their challenge to Canadian sense of independence, unity, and identity (Mahant and Mount, 2002).
It is no wonder that this logic is also forwarded as an argument for protecting and promoting cultural diversity. Such rhetoric have come repeatedly off Canadian politicians, cultural leaders and taken up fervently a large section of Canadian media. (Acheson and Maule, 1999, 329-48). However, these maneuvers lack a historical perspective of US and Canada relation that dates back to the earliest days of colonial settlements. At the time when United States of America achieved its independence in 1783, it comprised of thirteen principle colonies, comprising most of people, and habitable parts of the region at the time.
What was left of British North America contained a large territory with scant but primarily English speaking population as a direct result of the American Revolution when most of the loyalist fled there (Maule, 2003). This predominantly English culture implied that this region, which would be later, organized as Canada would bear a close relationship with its politically and economically advanced neighbor. The binding thread of English language and same English culture provided both Canada and USA a common cultural platform, especially in a huge and isolated landscape.
The cultural interaction between two countries took place at same frequency and within the same context, and it filled Canadians with a sense of creation and recognition of a joint cultural space where events in United States did not take place across the border, rather across the boundary wall (MacKinnon, 1973). The feeling of continuous cultural space permeated through most of 19th century, as people across border established close links and immigration between the two nations took place with a greater ease than intra-state travel in many countries.
Naturally, owing to its superior size, population, vastly greater economy and industrial prowess, USA took the role of big-brother between two nations and for the initial days, Canadians were perfectly content in following USA as a role model for practically all aspects of their life (Maule, 2003). Hence it is no surprise that education, political system and social structure of Canada closely toed on US lines (MacKinnon, 1973). By the beginning of 20th century, US media, press and broadcast were largely dominating their Canadian counterparts.
Reports citing surveys conducted in the period 1920-26 state that Canadian readership for US magazines, books and newspapers had gone on all time high, leaving behind British and even their own publications by several degrees (Acheson and Maule, 1999, 329-48). Meanwhile, with emergence of motion picture and wireless broadcast, Americanism, its ethics and its values found a much quicker and shorter route to penetrate Canadian horizons. The cultural extension of USA in Canada was of sufficient strength to mould its business interests to the interest of United States commercial enterprises (Maule, 2003).
However, Canadian identity received a major boost post the Second World War, where their armed legions had distinguished themselves. Cultural issues now took centerstage and several commissions instituted by Canadian government were unanimous in their recommendations for establishing councils that would oversee development of Canadian art, literature, music, and aesthetics, independent of the drug laden bohemian US pop culture. By 1957, Canadian government had established the council for art and music and opened Canadian public library.
The government even took several relatively draconian measures, such as levying tax on popular American magazines in order to divert the readership as well advertisers to Canadian publications. The government also invested in establishing a network of universities and colleges with independent curriculum than their US counterparts (Peers, 1969). Protecting Canadian Culture Canadian culture has always been protective towards its earlier British root, and although there is a continuous influx of people from around the world in Canada, the essential Canadian values hung close to colonial memories for a considerable time(Dean and Dehejia, 2006).
Naturally the completely un-conventional and un-orthodox American value system and cultural symbols had always posed a threat to traditional values and cultural system of Canada. Further, the inner progress towards nationhood since 1960 has permeated a feeling of nationalism in Canada, where, coming out of British cultural dominion, they attempted to assert themselves as a national group (Fulford. 1990). Under these circumstances an assault of US cultural values was seen as a threat to the nascent Cultural nationalism and Canadian cultural-value system.
Despite instituting these measures, Canadian government could not claim complete immunity by ever growing American influence through its beaming pop culture, movie world and non-conservative attitude towards system of values and ethics. The presence of an active, forward, and rather intruding American culture let Canada to retain at least five different types of measures to protect its culture were still in place. The first of these measures known as ‘Cancon’ regulations have been extant since 1930s and by 1990s they formed a essential if somewhat erratic part of the principle measures in place to check American Culture.
Under the provisions of Cancon regulations, its compulsory for Canadian private broadcasters to show at least 60 percent Canadian content during evening “prime time,”. Although in practice, the duration is considerably lower than what is stipulated, yet it has ensured that at the least some Canadian content is broadcasted. but most show considerably less than these figures would suggest (Kellog, 2004). As a direct consequence of cancon regulation surveys conducted in May 2000 reveal that 35 percent of all music played on Canadian radio stations is Canadian with some quota also for primarily instrumental music.
To ensure Canadian presence in television programs, the government has introduced a a point system that measures Canadian-ness of programs in terms of the proportion of Canadians involved (Mahant and Mount, 2002). Although these measures did not necessarily reflect the accurate picture, neither assured Canadian-ness of content, they have remained effective from a general point of view in keeping Canadian culture afloat (Kellog, 2004). The second category of measures have consisted trade protection to Canadian broadcasters and media.
Although, with introduction of WTO rules and regulations, many of these regulations have disappeared, yet the remnants continue to provide a structural security to Canadian broadcasters (Dean and Dehejia, 2006). In the third set of measurements, Canadian government took steps to increase investment in Canadian media and broadcast industry. The government recognized that cultural performance in Canada is linked with ownership and control. These investment policies have allowed the prevention of American bookstore chains and media industries from comprehensive takeover of their Canadian counterparts.
Though the government has allowed limited foreign investment in the cultural industries, the center of its focus has remained on promoting and nurturing Canada based cultural entities (Mahant and Mount, 2002. Under the fourth set of measurement, government decided to directly subsidize Canadian Cultural entities. The subsidies have become central to Canadian policies to protect, and encourage Canadian cultural values, entities, art and music, especially after NAFTA and WTO have led to elimination of a number of other protective measures (Mahant and Mount, 2002).
For example, according to a 1997 ruling, WTO stipulated that the postal subsidies enjoyed by Canadian magazines would be regarded as an illegal subsidy. Therefore, government has provisioned systems of direct grants and subsidies as a result of which nearly all the forms of Canadian cultural entities, ranging from from book publishing to films to readings by writers and art exhibits enjoys measures of government subsidy and supported (Mahant and Mount, 2002). The serious intents of Canadian government can be estimated from the fact that in 1996-97 government spent more than $5.
6 billion dollars in cultural subsidies and grants; Apart from these measures, the Canadian government has also established a number of ad hoc measures, rules and regulations to protect its heritage and Culture. This ad hoc approach has been necessary especially since WTO and NAFTA have continued to pressurize and impeded government’s efforts to protect Canadian cultural industries and sectors (Mahant and Mount, 2002. Certainly these measures diluted, if not ended, US cultural dominance on Canadian social space.
However, US media, riding upon its buoyant economy and its technological enterprise continued to dazzle the world, and it was little surprise that, its culturally closest neighbor, Canada could hardly escape their affect. As the era of globalization, Internet and social networking has dawned upon the world, it is inevitable that Canadian cultural distinctions would at some point of time reflect the values and ethics promoted by a US dominated world (Mahant and Mount, 2002). References Blackwell, J. D. and Blackwell-Stanley, L. C.. Canadian Studies: A Guide to the Sources.
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