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Friday, December 16, 2011

December 16, 2011: Cross-Culture 5: Not to Mention…

[To follow up and complement last week’s posts on how our understanding of historical periods and communities looks very different through a cross-cultural lens, this week I’ll focus on five seminal moments in American popular culture for which the same is true. This is the fifth in that series.]
A few more quick hits on dominant American cultural icons that also happen to be thoroughly cross-cultural:
1)      We probably wouldn’t have a Constitution at all, and it and all the other founding documents definitely wouldn’t exist in their current form, without the French;
2)      The Transcendentalist movement, long defined as the first genuinely American philosophy, was centrally influenced by Eastern (or at least Orientalist) thought and spiritually;
3)      Some of the most innovative and important 20th century American artists, including Jackson Pollock, Jasper Johns, and Roy Lichtenstein, were directly inspired—not only overall, but in the creation of many of their individual works—by their obsession with Pablo Picasso;
4)      The only apples that were native to the Americas were crabapples, so the first English settlers brought their own apples; while apple pie’s immigrant status might indeed make it “as American as” anything in this nation, it’s pumpkin pie that more uniquely originated here;
5)      THIS SPACE FOR RENT: What part of American popular culture has cross-cultural origins or influences or identities that you think we should better appreciate?
More this weekend,
PS. See #5 above!


  1. Hi Ben,

    Christopher Hitchens just passed away and no matter what a person thought of him, he made you consider him and his thoughts. Even his passing has made my day different. And, in light of your post, and your week's theme, it brings up how much of American culture right now is so blended with British culture. Last night I watched the cast and crew of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo chat with Charlie Rose (if they could get a word in edgewise over the always verbose Charlie). British actors and American actors--not just in terms of nationality, but also training and and influence. This is true in so much of our culture, including Hitchens--British in so many ways, yet ultimately moving to America and seeing and writing about the world from an American perspective. If the 60's was the British Invasion, then I guess the pods opened and we are living--happily, I would argue--with the results.

    As always, love the blog.

  2. Hi Irene,

    Thanks very much! I thik that's a really neat contemporary cross-cultural connection, and certainly some of the late 20th and early 21st centuries most interesting and important Americans (from artists like John Lennon to commentators like Hitch and Andres Sullivan, and many many more) have that British American identity.

    See you soon,