Mass Produced Junk Discussion/April 1998


Query From Kate Thomas thom0890@tc.umn.edu 16 April 1998

Has anyone ever studied third world workers' perceptions of Americans? Having come across yet another cheap,insipid product made outside of the U.S. but for the U.S. markets - a shark cookie jar-it makes me wonder what impression of the U.s. people have who actually manufacture these wasteful and useless items-in my humble opinion, of course. I'm a low-income person and frequent bargain basement stores for my needs, so I guess I see more than my share of mass-produced items that are simply ridiculous-telephones in the shape of ducks also come to mind. Even if they don't sell-hence why I'm seeing them in the bargain bin-someone is making them. I get upset thinking about our throw-away culture. But what do these low-paid, hard workers think of our aesthetics?

Responses:

From Drakt Drakt@aol.com 17 April 1998

If you're interested, you might start with some colonial studies on trade between the colonizer and colonized, which is how much of this parceling-out production gets started. Try Strobel and Chaudhuri, Western Women and Imperialism: Complicity and Resistance (1992) - especially Chaudhuri's article, "Shawls, Jewelry, Curry, and Rice in Victorian Britain." Other articles in the same work talk about earlier reactions to western imperial states, and the bibliography would be useful.

From Miguel Juarez mjuarez@acsu.buffalo.edu 17 April 1998

Low-paid, hard workers? Are you talking about maquiladora workers? The NAFTA dream--paying people .80 an hour/$5 a day to build car harnesses for our automobile industry? Is that the junk you're talking about? Who has time to sit around and mill about aesthetics over espresso when one earns so little, not people in third world countries, es mas, even more, to have these relics end up in second hand stores and find their way into high tech listservs is the true revenge.

From Xiaoqun Xu XXu@FMARION.EDU 17 April 1998

Third world workers' perception of Americans may be worth studying in its own right, but it may have little to do with mass produced junk. Very often those low-paid, hard-working workers are filling the orders and following the designs issued from U.S.-based company headquarters. (Even if some of the stuff are designed in third world countries, it is not workers but managers who are responsible for designing.)

From Loni Bramson-Lerche Loni.BramsonLerche@ping.be 21 April 1998

Ditto for Nigeria, where I lived for four years. The people are more concerned with where they are gong to get food and water than US aesthetics. In fact, when were were living there we were more concerned about finding food, water and baby food that US aesthetics!

On the other hand, in Romania, Bulgaria, and in working class Eu nationals I have found a great deal of interest in US aesthetics. I was recently in Bulgaria where I gave some guest lectures and was astounded at what a paradise the people think the US and the EU are.

Lastly, in 1986 when we moved to a small eastern Belgian town I went into a shop. The sales clerk asked me where I was from. When I told her from the US she looked at me in awe and asked me quite sincerely if life in the US was really like what is shown in *Dallas.* After I was able to get over my shock I explained that it wasn't for the vast majority of the people. I do not think she believed me.