Culture Shock tackles local & global issues

Performers celebrate cultural diversity at the Culture Shock launch.
Performers celebrate cultural diversity at the Culture Shock launch.
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The Culture Shock launch party featured both readings and performances.
The Culture Shock launch party featured both readings and performances.
Photo: 

The 2004 version of Culture Shock: An Anti-Racist Review had a lot to live up to, but it seems to have done the job. With a slimmed down selection of written content and a heavy emphasis on innovative layout and design, Culture Shock is a very visual counterpart to campus publications such as Outwrite! and The Queen’s Feminist Review. The extra-large postcard format of Culture Shock is friendly to themes of travel, displacement and, of course, culture.

The quality of the visual work by 13 artists and photographers is exceptional, and complements the written work very well. Often, in campus literary publications, visual work takes a backseat to written content. Culture Shock privileges the visual as much as the literary, and the art pieces seem to enhance the poetry and prose. M. Kinnaret Friedman’s photograph, “The Navigators,” adds a level of complexity and pathos to Ahmed Kayssi’s written story, “On Being Occupied.” Culture Shock’s extra-wide format isn’t the only unique aspect of the publication’s design. The layout is playful yet professional, with text flowing every which way. The result is a very attractive package for some equally attractive work.

Culture Shock tackles issues both local and global, with writers like Yodit Edemariam bravely criticizing the Journal and the campus environment in “The African Identity.” Other authors, such as Conely De Leon in “Filipina,” talk about the dilemma of the “triply oppressed,” such as being a woman of colour who belongs to an economic underclass. Both pieces show a type of cultural analysis Queen’s students aren’t usually exposed to. Culture Shock has a range of complexity, that may frustrate readers searching for deep theoretical insight. There are many written and visual pieces that are very accessible—great for poster-popping in-your-face anti-racist messages, but not so hot for the subtle undertone-loving type. Culture Shock fits a campus niche because it is designed to shock the reader out of complacency.

Culture Shock has a hard job ahead of itself—trying to define culture is a very difficult task, as the editorial board acknowledges. Culture Shock is at its most poignant when it stays away from vague aphorisms about culture and acknowledges the nitty-gritty complexities that make “culture” such a contestable term. Nadia Guidotto’s poem, “Nonna and the Girl I Love,” attempts to do this by talking about a conservative Italian grandmother and all the things her granddaughter cannot say. Poems such as this one explore facets of culture that go unconsidered, and are what make Culture Shock worth reading.

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