Globalization Consequences on Cultural Studies

It is fair to say that the impact of globalization in the cultural sphere has, most generally, been viewed in a pessimistic light. Typically, it has been associated with the destruction  global concepts reviews of cultural identities, victims of the accelerating encroachment of a homogenized, westernized, consumer culture. This view, the constituency for which extends from (some) academics to anti-globalization activists (Shepard and Hayduk 2002), tends to interpret globalization as a seamless extension of – indeed, as a euphemism for – western cultural imperialism. In the discussion which follows I want to approach this claim with a good deal of skepticism.

Postmodern culture, the politics of post-structuralism and the influence of globalization on identity are topics that have received much critical attention and have given rise to complex debates. Whether in the field of cultural and media studies, (post)colonial discourse analysis or aesthetics, these discussions are often perceived as being extremely complicated, confusing or removed from everyday reality. The subject of postmodernism is no longer restricted to learned debates by intellectual elites: Its appearance in mass media discussions concerning topics as diverse as architecture, drama, fashion, literature, music or film has become almost a daily occurrence. The importance of debates on the cultural impact of television is self-evident in the light of television being “an asset open to virtually everybody in modern industrialized societies and one which is increasing its visibility across the planet” (Barker, The Cultural impact of television, 3).

The Cultural Studies in a Global Context fosters cross-disciplinary research and teaching among social sciences and humanities scholars, focusing on the complexities of increasing globalization and intercultural contact. These changes have stimulated both formal and informal dialogues and collaborations among faculty, graduate students, professors of departments, and programs. Recently their works have focused on environmental issues in postcolonial contexts; empire, masculinity and gender; ethnic and religious violence; migration and diasporas as it currently occurs in the face of accelerating globalization and from a historical perspective; theories of cultural hybridity and interculturality in the context of asymmetrical power relations; and geopolitical and other kinds of borders where differences of all kinds cause peoples to clash and intermingle.

Two powerful scenarios dominate the public discourse about the cultural consequences of globalization. The one very common scenario represents globalization as cultural homogenization (for example Benjamin Barbers McWorld vs. Jihad). In this scenario the culturally distinct societies of the world are being overrun by globally available goods, media, ideas and institutions. In a world where people from Vienna to Sidney eat Big Macs, wear Benetton clothes, watch MTV or CNN, talk about human rights and work on their IBM computers cultural characteristics are endangered. As these commodities and ideas are mostly of western origin, globalization is perceived as westernization in disguise. The other scenario is that of cultural fragmentation and intercultural conflict (Huntington’s Clash of civilizations and most recently “confirmed” by the ethnocide in Yugoslavia).

But can we really reduce the processes of cultural globalization (i.e. the process of world-wide interconnections) to these two stereotypes? What about the meaning that local people attach to globally distributed goods and ideas? Why do people drink Coca Cola and what sense do they make of the soap-operas they watch? Do they really trade in their century old life worlds for the kinds of Madonna and Bill Gates? And how does the homogenization scenario fit with its rival, the imminent cultural fragmentation? (Joana Breidenbach and Ina Zukrigl).

Global and local analysis is inseparability. Global forces enter into local situations and global relations are articulated through local events, identities, and cultures; it includes studies of a wide range of cultural forms including sports, poetry, pedagogy ecology, dance, cities. The new global and translocal cultures and identities created by the diasporic processes of colonialism and decolonization. Cultural studies consider a variety of local, national, and transnational contexts with particular attention to race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality as categories that force us to rethink globalization itself.

It is very important how local and particular discourses are being transformed by new discourses of globalization and transnationalism, as used both by government and business and in critical academic discourse. Unlike other studies that have focused on the politics and economics of globalization, cultural studies, today, articulating the Global and the Local highlights the importance of culture and provides models for a cultural studies that addresses globalization and the dialectic of local and global forces.

Globalization leads to a new cultural diversity. Culture is one of the most prominent global concepts and gets appropriated in highly diverse ways. From its origins, cultural studies have defined its interdisciplinary impulse as a necessity derived from the nature of its object of study. Stuart Hall locates the origin of cultural studies in the refusal to allow “culture” to be distinguished from the social and historical totality of human practices, as exemplified by the refusal of cultural studies to acknowledge the autonomy of high art from mass or popular culture, or the autonomy of cultural artifacts from practices of reception and consumption in everyday life. Thus globality leads to the emergence of new cultural forms – a process points out that everywhere cultural tradition mix and create new practices and worldviews.

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