|"Institutional regulators" signifies the
means of cultural education that the dominant oppressor culture has instituted. This
includes schools, churches, clubs and organizations, businesses--any organization that
teaches what is and is not known, accepted, and understood as cultural givens.
"The semiotic field" signifies methods of cultural
representation -- books, music, portraits, popular images and icons, theatre, etc.
These are the officially sanctioned arts.
A represents the direct political power and control
a dominant group has over an oppressed group.
B and C represent the way a dominant group shapes
an oppressed group's social standing, intellectual advancement, even self-perception
through a control of what is acceptable knowledge and behavior.
D and E represent how cultural representation also
shapes an oppressed group by perpetuating certain behaviors and images of a people.
F represents the reciprocal relationship between
those institutions of cultural education and those expressions of cultural representation.
Here are some examples of this phenomenon from the history of the
United States: Little Black Sambo, Aunt Jemima, Uncle Tom, Minstrel shows, studies that
try to show the intellectual inferiority of a certain race, barriers to higher education,
expectations that some racial groups are only suited for some jobs, biased tests for
voting or housing. All of these tend to mutually reenforce the rest.
What this diagram doesn't express are the ways in which the
colonized, the oppressed, resist this education and representation. These methods
tend to take on three different manifestations:
1) subversion of the existing language and images by
reappropriating them for new purposes;
2) the valorization and/or creation of alternate indigenous
forms intrinsic to that community; and
3) a genuine hybridity of form that takes aspects of the
oppressor's institutions, language, and images and marries them in new ways with aspects
intrinsic to the oppressed culture.
One of the best examples of this is jazz. Jazz itself is a
form of music that arises out of the mixture of traditional African music, the blues, and
ragtime. It pulls together European instrumentation with African rhythms and
improvisation. Arising as it did in the 20th century, its practitioners have
had to struggle with how to understand its relationship to the black community and to the
larger multi-ethnic experience of the United States. Critics have differed, for
example, over whether Louis Armstrong played to or subverted white audiences' expectations
for the "Uncle Tom" behavior of the black male. The elegance of Duke
Ellington, on the other hand, chose to respond to audience expectations in a completely
different way. Both can be seen as authentic or compromised, depending on the
critic. Ellington's move to larger, more complex compositions (which included the
use of European-style classical borrowings) was also condemned and praised. Some
African-American musicians in jazz sought to create a music that valorizes black
accomplishments and disdains white involvement. Others, such as Thelonious Monk or
Charlie Parker (both strong activists in their own way) incorporated European Modernists
like Stravinsky into their own compositions.