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Street Dreams and Hip Hop Barber Shops Critique

Brad Weiss’s ethnographic research on popular culture, hanging out in barbershops and bus stands, seamstress tables and video halls, was carried out in the northern Tanzanian city of Arusha. In “Street Dreams and Hip Hop Barber Shops” Weiss does a great job observing the everyday life of the people in Arusha. He explores how globalization and neoliberalism affect the mindset of a community and shows the reader how gender role, media, and self-fashioning can play a big role in a person life.

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Weiss’s fieldwork and observation is very accurate and informative for the most part but looses the reader in some of the topics that he presents.

Brad Weiss does a great job in his chapter on gender and the role that it plays in the community of Arusha. Much of the book has been focused on the expressions of masculinity and the understandings of men that are concerned with gendered personhood, many young men in Arusha comprehend themselves and their relationships with one another in terms of what they imagine women and femininity to be like. But Weiss takes a chapter to turn to women’s practices to show how the cultural process of perception and embodiment allude to the iconography of western culture.

Weiss revealed to the reader that women like to keep up with the times in Arusha just like men and they are very conscious about their look and the way they present themselves. Men use magazines and catalogues to keep up with the latest trends but women are one step ahead and use commercials and movies to stay updated. Weiss’s observation was very informative and accurate. This observation proves that globalization can influence people all around the world and have a big effect on a society. Weiss regularly shows the importance of globalization in his writing.

His observation on the youth of Arusha was very precise and shows the reader how globalization and neoliberalism can shape a persons life immensely. Weiss tells the reader that through hip hop posters and magazines the younger generation of Arusha use it as a guide for fashion, music and lifestyle. This illustrates how the themes of inclusion and exclusion that shape popular practice-from the assertive modes gendered performances at bus stands and hair salons, to the fashion sense of tailors and their clients, to the viewing preferences of video audiences-operate in Arusha.

He explains to the reader that the young men and women of Arusha are social actors who try to find a niche and struggle to participate in a world that is significant for them. I strongly agree with Weiss’s point and believe that every young person in any society are social actors who try to fit in a world that they feel is right for them and use popular culture and globalization as a tool to get there. Brad Weiss does a great job showing the reader that barbershops around Tanzania are more than just a place for getting a haircut.

He explains to the reader in great detail that the people of Tanzania see barbershops as a place for obtaining news, catching up on the latest trends, gossip, discovering new music, or just simply hanging out. Barbershops provide men with a “chance”, an “opportunity” or a “place” during times of uncertainty. Weiss spends most of his time at barbershops because it is a great place for studying popular culture and allows him to see what the clients at these barber shops find interesting.

There were some things that I found problematic in Weiss’s writing that can turn off some readers. Some parts of the book he tends to over analyze and bore the reader with useless facts. I found myself being turned off during some parts of the book where he begins to ramble on and on. In the introduction chapter he doesn’t do a good job of catching the readers attention and takes a long time to get to his point. His writing sometimes ends up being very difficult to read and enjoy at the same time and I found some chapters extremely tedious.

Weiss’s writing style can be very uninteresting and dull in the beginning of the book but he later compensates by providing interesting topics and arguments. One thing I really like about Weiss’s writing is that he interacts with the people of Tanzania and takes time to show the reader their story and what they go through in his writing. In one chapter he tells the story of two barbers named Hussein and Ahmed who cut hair at the “Bad Boyz” barbershop. He provides an ethnographic backdrop to the kinds of activities that go on in the shops and streets.

This helps the reader better understand the thought process of the people that Weiss comes across and what they go through on a daily basis. It also gives the reader a different perspective on the effects of neoliberalism and globalization through the eyes of the people in Tanzania. Throughout the book Brad Weiss provides the reader with good background information about the people he observes and tells the reader their story. I find it very useful that he takes time in his writing to make sure the reader understands exactly what is going on instead of just presenting his observations.

I was very impressed by how accurate Brad Weiss’s observations were about barbershops and the people that go there in Tanzania. I believe in third world countries barbershops serve as a place for great social activity and exposure to the western culture, people rely on barbershops keep up with the times. When I visited Bangladesh couple summers ago I noticed that most people who go to barbershops go there to socialize and keep up with the latest trends that are coming from the west instead of actually getting a haircut.

Just like in Weiss’s writing about the people in Tanzania, Bangladeshi barbershops also have cut posters from magazines decorated around the shop of musicians and athletes and share many of the same characteristics. Overall I found “Street Dreams and Hip Hop Barbershops” very informative. For the most part I enjoyed reading about the topics and arguments Brad Weiss presented in his work. He did a good job informing the readers about the norms of the Tanzanian society and had a lot of interesting observations. I believe in his writing he had more strengths than weaknesses.

Even though some chapters were dull and hard to read Weiss provides interesting information to the reader make up for his flaws. I learned from this book that globalization can integrate societies from all around the world more easily than I previously thought. Exposure to things like food, music, movies and fashion can have a great effect on a group of people from country that doesn’t have much culture. Globalization is like a ripple effect that can change the thought process and way of life of an individual and “Street Dream and Hip Hop Barbershops” did a good job showing that effect.

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