Culture and politics are embedded amongst society through our everyday tasks and in the establishments incorporated through our community. Antonio Gramsci is an Italian theorist who describes this as hegemony, which is a political predominant influence, cultural dominance or authority that exercises over nations or individuals. In the media there has been current talk of an Australian Aboriginal football league star Adam Goodes, who over recent months has been booed and mistreated by fans during football games.
In a recent interview with Aboriginal Australian journalist Stan Grant on ABC’s Lateline, Grant said of Goodes, “This is an extraordinary man but when he hears these boos, like all of us the wound is re-opened because success doesn’t close the wound. “1 This essay will use Gramsci’s concepts of culture, hegemony, politics and identity to thoroughly exam this statement by Grant to gain a higher understanding of the cultural and identity struggle experience by Aboriginal Australians.
Cultural hegemony is the dominance of a cultural society (the ruling class) who have the power to influence the culture of another society for instance there beliefs, morals and values, this is so the culture of the ruling class becomes accepted as the cultural norm. Gramsci would identify this as an instance of culture being recreated to establish power in order to create and maintain the notion of the status quo. 2 Another concept which Gramsci uses to explore the idea of cultural status is through the concept of civil society.
Gramsci’s meaning of civil society is not associated with todays common understanding of the term which is defined as a sector of voluntary nongovernment organisations that assist and take interest into the health and rights of citizens. 3 Where as Gramsci rather links it to society’s superstructure, a sphere where ideas, beliefs and values were shaped and how hegemony was reproduced in everyday cultural life through media. 4 Gramsci also believed that civil societies relationship to political society allow certain levels of class in society to gain dominance and also most importantly to maintain it.
Gramsci’s notion of dominance over another cultural community is an exact representation of the disposition that many Aboriginal societies faced long ago. In the statement made my Grant he talks of a wound being reopened for Goodies, this wound is that associate with the cultural loss, mistreatment, and separation of Aboriginal families. This was implicated by the then ruling class due to the belief that the Aboriginal population would be better off if their cultural identity was changed to that of the dominating cultural norm.
Grant also states that Goodes gets booed often during football games, this reflects the negative connotation that is associated with the identity of the Aboriginal community. This identity is that of the Aboriginal society being associated on a lower status than other cultural communities, this status is considered so low that any one of an Aboriginal background is seen as unimportant and often associated and called an animal. To Goodes these ‘boos’ are very much like howls of humiliation therefor effecting his psychological state but also his personal identity as an Aboriginal Australian.
Cultural hegemony as show through the experiences of the Aboriginal community, is now fixed amongst society in our history, everyday lives and is established through our community, social groups and cultural societies. Gramsci’s theory of hegemony was a strategic move of power engaged through cultural society, it overall leads to the conditions of subordination of both groups and individuals. 6 Subordination is the authority over subjects who are deprived of self identity as individuals and as a community. This next part of the essay will discuss how hegemony is applied and intertwined in a particular cultural structure such as identity. Identity is defined as the unique characteristics that belong to an individual that allows for the expression of self individuality.
Characteristics of identity can include our gender, ethnicity, race, age, intelligence, eye colour, personality, family etc. Our identity is produced through our multiple relationship with institutions and civil society. Therefore the disposition of cultural communities can mean the complete loss of cultural language, tradition and family, leaving an individual feeling out of place in a community in which they don’t belong. Reflexivity plays a major role in allowing an individual to articulate there identity; what make them distinct, there beliefs and values and there cultural identity. 9 Hegemony not only affects the cultural loss and misplacement of communities but also the identity, culture, relationships and psychological state of an individual.
During Grants interview on ABC’s Lateline he talks of the current torment faced my Goodes and in his defence states that “success doesn’t close the wound. “10 Here Grants use of the word wound refers to the harassment, dispassion and loss of cultural identity that Aboriginal Australians have faced for many years, this is as Goodes is of Indigenous decent therefore the suffering and pain experienced by his cultural community has also affected him personally. The personal suffering that Goodes has experienced is due to the negative association of his cultural society, as it is believed that these boos Goodes encounters are of a racial nature. 1
The statement also expresses the fact that nothing could ever make up for the loss or mistreatment faced by Aboriginal Australian individual not even if that individual has created his own success a positive name amongst society for himself and for his cultural community. Furthermore, not only have Aboriginal Australians as a cultural community experienced depravation due to the hegemony they faced, but also the identity of an individual, as they where deprived the right of there cultural knowledge, cultural identity and cultural history.
Cultural hegemony has not only affected cultural societies but the identity of individuals from those cultural communities, cultural hegemony has impact greatly in many aspects of there everyday lives. Gramsci’s concepts of culture, politics and identity are fundamental concepts of hegemony. Hegemony is the political influence, cultural dominance or authority that exercises over another cultural community. Hegemony can impact greatly upon a cultural communities independence, beliefs and tradition.
Once used as a strategy of dominance cultural hegemony in todays contemporary society is a fixed concept in our history, everyday lives and is established through our community, social groups and cultural societies. Nevertheless hegemony does not only impact upon the cultural community but also on the individuals of that society. The identity of an individual can be impacted and adapted through the consequence of cultural hegemony. Overall cultural hegemony does not just impact upon the cultural society but also on the identity of individuals from these cultural communities.