Sunday, July 03, 2005

Semiotics, the theory and understanding of signs, suggests that a particular sign has a set of meanings, based on a systemic location and a discursive use of that sign. Every sign gains its meaning in a particular language system. Words have to be read in a given social context. Thus, for me, semiotics suggested that you could not ascribe universal values to literary texts. You had to understand the burden of interpretation and the burden of representation on those specific texts.

I am interested in the global context of the issue of global citizenship. Citizenship has largely been seen in its social, political and legal aspects. How does aesthetic and ethical experience form part of cultural citizenship? Sociologists and policy thinkers think of culture in the context of global governance and of culture as institutions. I believe cultural works ignite the issue of the cultural citizen.

In a world that is increasingly instrumentalist and consumerist, I think it is very important to set up against such a world the great aspirations of literature and poetry, of painting and music, because art and aesthetic experience adds ardour and passion to our principles and our beliefs. It should be seen as an essential part of our freedom and not an optional part of our lives.

Homi K. Bhabha

Towards a global cultural citizenship

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