Regional Identity Term Paper

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Regional Identity

Over the years, regional identity has played a major part in helping specific regions to embrace their culture and traditions. In many cases, these views are often expressed in different forms of literature and songs. However, as globalization has become more dominant, these beliefs have come into conflict with other regional influences. This is because many of these traditions are being replaced by new ideas that are attempting to impose their values and ideas upon everyone inside a specific area. To fully understand what is taking place, there will be a focus on the songs Allentown and Where I Come From in conjunction with insights from Fetterley. This will be accomplished by determining if these songs are resisting the mainstream, examining if they cite local identity in order to advance cultural imperialism (according to Fetterley) and the differences between them. Together, these elements will provide insights that will show how regionalism and imperialism are reflected in both works.

Fetterley's Views on Regionalism and Imperialism

Fetterley (2003) thinks that regionalism has been continually used to reflect cultural attitudes and traditions throughout the centuries. However, during the last 100 years these factors have been shifting with a focus on specific regions that are most dominant. This is because of the belief that certain cultures can help to promote better cooperation and understanding by imposing these attributes in other areas. These issues have led to divisions between various ideologies, which are conflicting with each other. (Fetterley)

According to Fetterley, these transformations are taking place from challenges to rural lifestyles, increased amounts of urbanization and through the power of the nation state. This reflects the cultural attitudes and local color. Conflicts emerge when everyone begins to think differently in contrast with regional traditions. Many of these individuals will attribute this to the rise of the nation state or aggressive masculinity. These ideas are showing how cultural imperialism is leading to conflicts based on regional factors. In both Allentown and Where I Come From, these issues are influencing the songs and themes they are focusing on. (Fetterley)

This is illustrating how cultural imperialism is based upon embracing traditional male dominated and Western attitudes. What makes Fetterley's ideas so unique is he is demonstrating how these attributes can be embraced in certain aspects that are supporting regionalism. While at the same time, the underlying message could be enhancing cultural imperialism. This is what often creates conflict, as certain beliefs have more significance in contrast to others.

Do these songs perform a resistance to the mainstream?

Allentown is concentrating on regional identity by resisting the national trends and cultural imperialism that is occurring. The way that this is taking place is to show how life was at the end of World War II (in the Allentown, Pennsylvania region). This is when the steel industry was dominant and everyone who worked at the mills was assured of job security along with the ability to earn a decent living. Their kids believed that they should receive the same benefits by following the rules and going to work in the sector. ("Allentown")

However, they are disillusioned by the fact that cheap foreign imports are undercutting the industry (leading to massive layoffs and plant closures). At the same time, friends who believed in the American dream and went to serve their country are returning from war with physical as well as mental scares. These areas are showing how the song is resisting globalization and the changes that are occurring (i.e. cultural imperialism). This is when everyone should be better off by these transformations. Yet, they continue to face considerable challenges in making these adjustments. ("Allentown")

According to Fetterley, these issues are highlighting an unconventional look at the culture that exists in the region. This is taking an eccentric examination of different factors, lifestyle choices and the hopes / dreams of people. When this occurs, everyone is able to have a greater understanding of the challenges impacting select areas and how changes are affecting different ways of life. In this aspect, Allentown is resisting the mainstream and changes that are taking place from these new ideas. (Fetterley) ("Allentown")

While Where I Come From, is talking about cultural imperialism. In the beginning of the song and video, this is hard to distinguish. This is because it is following the same basic techniques that are used in Allentown. The way that this occurs is through showing how the people of rural America are: resistant to urbanization and the changes brought about by these transformations (i.e. globalization / industrialization). ("Where I Come From")

Yet, as the song continued, it is clear that there is a focus on imperialism combined with local identify. This is occurring, by showing American soldiers fighting against insurgents in the Middle East. The story is told through seeing a wounded solider and the others in their squad trying to outmaneuver the enemy (who is using the high ground to ambush them). ("Where I Come From")

It then, shows how regional identity is influencing the determination of the soldiers and their ability to outwit insurgents. This is illustrating the members of the squad coming to the assistance of a wounded comrade. When this happens, the song ends by depicting the soldiers leaving the area and telling their friend that he is going to be alright. This song differs from Allentown, by showing how there is an attempt to impose regional culture on the world. These elements are highlighting how the song is performing select amounts of resistance to the mainstream. Yet, it is also embracing and imposing the attributes from conventional thinking. ("Where I Come From") (Fetterley)

Or do they merely cite local identity in order to further what Fetterley and Pryse might call cultural imperialism?

In the case of Allentown, the song is citing local identities to highlight the adverse impacts that globalization and increased competition are having on a way of life. This is designed to serve as a catalyst against cultural imperialism and the changes that it is bringing about. While Where I Come From, is showing local identity and its impact on the character of individuals. This is demonstrated through illustrating how they are able to use these values to overcome a numerically superior enemy (who has the high ground). At the same time, they are able to protect and save the life of a wounded comrade that is caught in the cross fire. ("Allentown") ("Where I Come From") (Fetterley)

These differences are showing how Allentown, is not focusing on local identity to cite cultural imperialism. Instead, it is concentrating on the impacts of these changes on the region and a way of life. However, Where I Come From is using local identity in order to further cultural imperialism. This is taking place, through illustrating small town, American values. Then, there is shift to a battlefield in the Middle East, which highlighting how this is taking place on an international level. This is occurring through demonstrating the way it is giving soldiers an advantage in overcoming the challenges they are dealing with. ("Allentown") ("Where I Come From") (Fetterley)

According to Fetterley, these tools have been used to show the superiority of particular cultures over others. The fact that Where I Come From is taking this kind of approach is highlighting the values and strengths of American traditions (i.e. regional culture). Yet, it is also showing how these values are being imposed on other regions (with the fighting that is taking place in the Middle East). As a result, the different works will use regional identity to create a foundation for cultural imperialism. ("Where I Come From") (Fetterley)

Moreover, both songs are also focusing on varying degrees of cultural imperialism. This is taking place, through showing how males are the most dominant characters in the music videos. Whereas women are relegated to a secondary role, in order to signify male orientated ideas. These areas are illustrating how both films will embrace select aspects of regionalism that is focusing on cultural imperialism. ("Allentown") ("Where I Come From") (Fetterley)

Fetterley believes that this is a part of cultural imperialism which has been used since the mid-19th century to promote male dominated ideas. This occurred with an emphasis on factors that are important to this segment of society. To achieve these objectives, there will be a focus on showing men involved in various activities that are embracing these attributes. While at the same time, women will serve in traditional roles or they will not be seen in the work. These areas are showing how these beliefs have been continually embraced leading to more cultural imperialism. (Fetterley)

However, regionalism is having an impact on addressing these issues. This is because it is focused on other segments of society (which are often ignored). Evidence of this can be seen with Fetterley saying, "Regionalism has the potential for addressing the imbalances between women and men's stories. It offers an alternative of what has been right and might still become." This is using regionalism…

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