CONCLUSION
CultureinaTimeofCrisis
Most of the uses of culture that I have reviewed in this book have been prem-
ised on a reasonably stable world. Under those circumstances, museums and
renovated waterfronts can contribute to the economic development of cities
and attract innovators for local industry; community artists can help trouble-
shootacutesocialproblemslikeracism,segregation,andresidentialdisplace-
ment; supranational cultural integration can provide the means for practi-
tioners from peripheral countries to compete with those in the first world;
consumption can be a means for practicing citizenship; and so on. But what
happens when there is economic crisis, terrorism, or war? Can we always rely
on a stable world? And if not, what is the role of culture in times of ongoing
crisis, as has been the case in Bosnia and Colombia?
I broach these questions in relation to the September 11 attacks. Indeed,
I was working on this conclusion when the attacks took place and put it on
hold for several months as I endeavored to understand the political and cul-
tural underpinnings of the tragic events, both the attacks themselves and the
U.S. government’s responses within the country and abroad. In the face of all
this, my arguments about the expediency of culture seemed incredibly petty.
What did it matter, I thought, if culture was invoked to bolster civil society,
solvesocialproblems,oraidinurbandevelopment,someoftheusesofculture
that I examine in this book? The world seemed to be on the verge of catas-
trophe and there was no cultural practice that would change that dreadful
eventuality.
Culture, of course, was not absent. It is constitutive of the very spectacu-
larity—pastiched from Hollywood, that most American of exports—that the
terroristssoughtandachieved.Theystruckatthesymbolsofglobalpowerthat
subtend the reach of Hollywood; indeed, representatives of the U.S. audio-
visual industry have been leaders in the global trade accords of gatt and its
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