Natasha L. sent in another example of stereotypes tied to nationality/region in the form of a set of comical visual distinctions between “Westerners” and “Asians,” found here, by an artist named Yang Liu. [Note: Natasha and I both assume they’re supposed to be comical or even satirical, particularly of the way that non-Western countries are generally stereotyped as being less professional, less punctual, less rational, and so on, though we might be wrong.] Some examples:
“In the Restaurant”
“Queue when Waiting”
Regardless of the artist’s intent (whether they’re supposed to be satires of this type of thinking, etc.), I’m sure many people will laugh and see some elements of truth to some of the images. But I’m betting you could tell people they represent almost any set of nationalities and people would also laugh and say “OMG, it’s totally true!” It’s Germany and Spain! It’s the U.S. and Mexico! It’s Venezuela and Greece! You could also probably change this to “men” and “women” and get the same reaction. It’s the stereotypical categorization we think is funny–the idea that groups of people are systematically different, whether it’s based on gender, class, race, nationality, region within a country, and so on (particularly if these differences might lead to sitcom-like hijinx and misunderstandings!).
For a fun little activity to get across the way in which stereotypes are inconsistent and meaningless, you might present these images, not tell your students what they’re supposed to represent, and ask them what groups they think are being portrayed (either out loud or in writing), then use their guesses, which will probably vary widely and draw on lots of different human categories such as class, gender, race, and so on, to talk about stereotyping (which may or may not be negative, of course) and how little we pay attention to what the actual contents of our stereotypes are. Another good example of this would be the way that ethnic groups are often defined as having uniquely loud and boisterous families–I think of it as the “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” syndrome. Well, if Italians, Irish, Greeks, Jews, Russians, Mexicans, Spaniards, Chinese, people from the Southern U.S., New Yorkers, etc. etc. etc., all have big loud families…doesn’t that kind of indicate that lots of families are just big and loud, regardless of background?
Thanks, Ashley and Natasha!
NEW! Robin sent in a link to an article in the Guardian about a Czech artist who pulled off a hoax by creating a set of sculpture that represent stereotypes of various European countries, which he said were created by 27 different artists.
Luxembourg is made of gold…and is for sale:
Poland has priests raising a rainbow flag. I didn’t know if the rainbow flag has the same association with gay rights in Poland as it does here, but Spiegel Online says it’s a gay pride flag:
Bulgaria is apparently supposed to be the floor of a urinal, though Spiegel Online says it’s a Turkish toilet, apparently also called a squat toilet:
Bulgaria’s not happy about it and has demanded the sculpture be taken down.
Holland has been flooded, but minarets stick out of the water to remind us about increasing concerns expressed by many Dutch about the Muslim community in the Netherlands since tension increased after the Mohammad cartoon incident:
There is ongoing debate about whether this image of Germany, showing the country’s many autobahns, is supposed to look like a swastika:
And of course France has a large banner that says “Strike!”
Apparently Great Britain was represented simply as a blank space.