Stereotypes, Representations And Cultural Others Essays Example
Framing one individual and/or group by a different individual and/or group has been a historical exercise of humans since human existence. In much earlier periods, humans used to live in closely-knit groups and hence differences were largely notable in outgroups rather than between members of ingroups. By expansion, mass migration and climate change humans came to experience radically different framings of different others as languages and lifestyles started to diverge dramatically. Time and space both shed expanding human communities in much broader spectra of (non)favorable lights. The "Other" has emerged as a distinctive identifier against an evolving "Self", personal and collective. The need for representation has become more and more urgent in order to understand, interact with and judge an increasingly different "Other". However, given growing gaps of understanding – and hence interaction and judgment – stereotyping has set in as a mode of knowledge (eds. Macrae, Stangor & Hewstone, 1996). Indeed, stereotyping has come to represent one essential mode of introduction into different individuals and groups given growing complexities of modern communities. Consciously or not of performing acts of stereotyping, different individuals and groups adopt stereotyping as a mechanism of choice (or not) by which different others are identified and judged. By stereotyping is meant not typical qualification of individuals and/or groups based on overstatements of conceived qualities inculcated by observation and/or socialization in different individuals and/or groups but, for current purposes, based on mental images formed in individual minds and as beliefs shared collectively (eds. Macrae, Stangor & Hewstone).
Given abundance of macro-analysis paradigms for addressing stereotyping of individuals and groups – language, geography, history or faith, for example – culture will, for current purposes, be adopted as an overarching paradigm in which stereotyping is discussed. Culture will, moreover, be defined not as is conventionally referred to in literature as a collective superstructure by which a given community is identified (and hence stereotyped) but as a property that human mental representations and practices display (Sperber & Claidière, 2008). This conceptualization of culture is, in fact, reconciliatory if stereotyping is to be understood as a mental process of framing a different Other, not as a detached statement inculcated, as mentioned, by socialization processes on different individuals and groups. By discussing stereotypes, consequently, as a means by which a cultural Other is mediated, acts of representation of individuals and groups become adequately placed in a context of cognitive psychology, rather than in typical socio-psychological contexts in which representations are fixated on static conceptualizations of Self and Other, both individual and collective. Alternatively, by addressing stereotypes as mental mediators for representation of a cultural Other – one constructed, in turn, as a property displayed by human mental representations and practices – mental constructs can better be justified by dynamic, voluntary processes of representation rather than by broad, arbitrary constructs along different lines. Indeed, constructs for stereotypical representations of cultural others could include as many identifiable and non-identifiable lines of construction: political, social, ethnic, sexual, etc. However, for paper purposes, addressing stereotypes as representations of different cultural others will be limited to a few lines of differentiation. This paper aims, hence, to explore extents of how stereotypes represent cultural others along ethnic, gender and/or sexuality, age, class and digital lines.
Probably, one most researched area of cultural others is ethnic stereotyping. Indeed, culture seems to be always associated with ethnicity in broader senses of culture. To stereotypically represent cultural others, literature emphasizes, is to maintain stereotypes of historically disadvantaged ethnic groups even when "distinctive" features of stereotyped individuals and/or groups are missing (Kunda & Oleson, 1995). This stereotype-confirming position only emphasizes power of stereotypes (Macrae et al, 1994) and accentuates growing evidence of how stereotypes affect judgment (Sherman-Williams, 1993). By consistently stereotyping historically disadvantaged groups based on misprocessed representations of different cultural / ethnic others, stereotyping process becomes least malleable against growing evidence of dynamism of stereotypes which are influenced by factors such as interpersonal and social motivations, applied strategies and perceiver's focus of attention (Blair, 2002). Moreover, stereotype power in case of ethnic stereotyping is further shown upon activation and application based of perceiver's strength of comprehension and self-enactment goals (Kunda & Spencer, 2003). Collectively, stereotypes in case of ethnic representation in particular seem to enhance social constructs of cultural others who are inferior to dominant, mainstream selves by means of shared self-confirming social beliefs. Indeed, at ethnic junctures stereotypes and representations show strong convergence on cultural others such as to enhance human mental representations of ethnic constructs within broader shared social beliefs.
No less prominent in scope and depth are gender and/or sexuality lines of stereotypical representation. Against a background of a masculinity / femininity binary (Gauntlett, 2008), stereotypical mediation of sexual identities is probably one most misrepresented example of culture others. Given evident dynamism of a different other's identity, all representations of sexuality should by no means be confined to dominant binary of masculinity / femininity (Gauntlett). Not only because women are not just one lump represented against another (men) but also because identity is a misnomer by which what is supposed to represent much broader potentials of sexuality is reduced to one binary when, in fact, sexuality should not be stereotyped as representative of an exclusive, fixed cultural Other but as context-specific (Gauntlett). That sexuality is context-specific and should not be regarded as a once-and-for-all conceptualization of individuals and/or groups should not be surprising given multitude of roles performed by individuals and/or groups in different social contexts.
Along age lines, stereotypes are enacted as unique cultural others par excellence. The prominence of what is so-called "Youth Culture" represents social constructs of cultural others who, apparently, subvert established social norms (Wykes, 2001). Stereotypical representation of young cultural others incorporate features such as itinerant pleasure, virtual pleasure, community crisis and environmental protest (Wykes). Indeed, crime has been utilized as a unifying paradigm by which Youth are represented. Appealing to broader collective stereotypes of crimes as subversions, Youth are represented as cultural others who are disorderly, nihilistic and hence require exercises – displays, at extreme situations – of unrestrained power (of dominant, mainstream cultural selves) in order to restore order and stability. Interestingly, even when notable junctures of age-based stereotypes within specific socio-cultural contexts seem to peak, frequent recourse to such junctures is made in a way which further maintains recurring stereotypes of an ever fixed Young Other.
Social class is, again, a crucial line along which stereotypical representations of cultural others are most remarkable. Given broad contexts of social class, individuals and/or groups of low social status are subject to be highly stigmatizing situations via stereotypes constructed by individuals and/or groups of higher social class. Probably academic contexts are ones in which low social class individuals and/or groups are notably exposed to stereotypical representations by cultural selves (Spencer & Castano, 2007). In situations where low social class individuals and/or groups are at high risk of social exposure, so to speak, studies show low social class individuals and/or groups display low academic performance in standardized exams (Spencer & Castano). If coupled with ethnic stereotypes, social class stereotypes could, in fact, maintain exiting stereotypes in order to sideline individuals and/or groups further into outer edges of mainstream conceptualizations of class and ethnicity and hence complicate imposed stereotypes.
Finally, in an era dominated by bits and bytes, new forms of stereotypes emerge, not necessarily divorced from existing ones but probably in conjunction at times and completely separate at others. The rising modes of computer-mediated communication show, for example, how new stereotypes are ushering in new representations which do not only create new cultural others but change exiting ones as well. One interesting area in question is gaming. The shift of gaming industry from non-mainstream activity into a mainstream one has not only identified new spaces of stereotypical representation but has also redefined existing representations (Dovey & Kennedy, 2006). Indeed, gaming has – so far – articulated stereotypical representations of human-machine interactions manifested, for example, in Technophile / Technophobe binary (Dovey & Kennedy, 2006). Like binaries of masculinity / femininity and low / high social class, however, a Technophile / Technophobe binary is reductionist in nature. Technicity is split into a stereotypical representation of computer skills into one or another. This approach to representing cultural others fails, in fact, to capture potential, limitless representations of agents in a digital context whose very representation, if any, is based on interactivity and hence reciprocal, dynamic, changing interrelationships (Dovey & Kennedy). Further, by simulation gaming becomes a much more complex context in which stereotypical representations of cultural others are far from straightforward. For, if in conventional contexts of stereotypes, representations are perceived as social constructs – not factual givens – how about stereotypical representations in contexts which are at best virtual?
The question of stereotypes as mediators of representations of cultural others is not one that should be examined by fixed conceptualizations of static objects each compartmentalized into dichotomic binaries polar opposites but rather by more dynamic, context-specific, interactive agencies.
For ethnic stereotypical representations, ethnic others are constructed socially by more powerful ethnic selves using power-mediated, fixed structures. At junctures of social upheavals, however, established orders of authority are critically re-examined and what has been stereotypical representations of ethnic others are reframed in new power structures within new social formations.
The gender and/or sexuality stereotypical representations as well are currently discussed in reductionist binaries such as masculinity / femininity and heterosexuality / homosexuality and hence lock up potentials of fully expressed sexualities. Therefore, instead of a fixated identity of polar binaries, representations of sexualities should be context-specific, dependant not on pre-determined stereotypical representations but on augmented sense of multiple sexualities.
The Youth Culture is another form of stereotypical representation in which how Youth a cultural other is, is determined by acts casted in criminalized lights by dominant, mainstream, older culture. Therefore, a Young Angry Man is one who performs acts of vandalism and subversion and hence should be deterred (by established authorities) in order to restore order and stability. This stereotypical representation should, however, re-placed within proper contexts of image projections of non-mainstream groups by mainstream groups, not as actual representations of actual, different, cultural others.
For class stereotypical representations, cultural others are stigmatized by powerful, self agents who exercise authority of higher social status over lower classes in way which maintains stereotypical representations of cultural others as socially inept (lack basic sensibilities of proper social conduct), economically inferior (lack financial resources to perform acts of social superiority) and academically incompetent (lack sufficient intellectual abilities to pass specific exams). This class of stereotypical representation is particularly stigmatizing since, against a long history of stereotypical representation, imposed representations are more often than not self-inflicted.
The problematic posed by digital stereotypical representation is, finally, a double-layered one. For not only are stereotypical representations in digital contexts – such as gaming industry – confined to polar dichotomies of Technophile / Technophobe but, by means of virtuality, representation becomes an intricate problematic of a construct-within-a-construct. This requires, possibly, closer examinations of human-machine interactions in order to place agents – humans and machines alike – within more adequate contexts of actual representations.
In conclusion, extent of how stereotypes represent a selected set of cultural others along ethnic, gender and/or sexuality, age, class and digital lines. The embedded stereotypes in each line considered for reveal varying degrees by which stereotypes inform each. The ethnic other, for one, is probably most informed by stereotypes, probably for historic reasons and because of long associations between culture and ethnicity. The case for ethnic others are best manifested in how embedded stereotypes are re-worked and maintained over and again. Further, stereotypes exert powerful influence on judgments – probably most of all – against ethnic, disadvantaged others. The stereotypical representations of gender and/or sexuality are manifested in sharp dichotomies of masculinity / femininity and heterosexuality / homosexuality. For more actual, dynamic and open representations of gender and/or sexuality, stereotyped representations should be freed up from reductionist dichotomies. The age stereotyped representation is, meanwhile, one of social control par excellence in which powerful, dominant, mainstream agents impose reductionist representations for specific behaviors – pejoratively dubbed Youth Culture – in criminal cast as a means of appeal to a constructed stable, social order against nihilistic, chaotic practices of unruly cultural others. In social class stereotyping contexts, representations are both imposed by more powerful, higher social order and self-inflicted. By enacting stereotypes constructed by more powerful social orders, lower social groups emphasize a construct which is otherwise groundless and not actually representative of different cultural others in question. Finally, digital, stereotyped representations are manifested in contexts which are both old and new: old by means of dichotomized stereotypes of Technophiles / Techophobes and new by means of in-process interactions which, in addition to being between human agents and machine agents, are enacted in virtual contexts of dynamic, unfixed, reciprocal interrelationships. As such, digital stereotyped representations require closer examinations given novelty of experiences involved.
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