One of the current debates by sociologists is whether cultural globalisation is harmful or beneficial to development and whether it is empowering to individuals and societies, what are your views?
In a discussion on globalisation, especially one that focuses on the globalisation of culture, a distinction must be made between cultural globalisation, cultural appropriation, and homogenisation. Globalisation should, in theory, be beneficial for culture; the problem is that in practice, society tends to fall into the camp of appropriation or homogenisation, which is then only beneficial for the dominant culture.
Simply put, cultural globalisation has to do with the “standardisation of cultural expressions around the world.” (Watson, 2017) Contrary to that, is appropriation, “when a person picks aspects of a culture they don’t belong to and they use it for themselves out of context.” (The Globe and Mail, 2017) Implicit in this, is the imbalance of power, lack of permission or invitation from the culture being appropriated, as well as concern over a distortion or loss of the true significance of the appropriated cultural elements.
An excellent representation of cultural globalisation would be that of London’s Notting Hill Carnival and Toronto’s Caribana Festival, both annual celebrations of Caribbean culture. Because those attending the events have been welcomed and are sharing the experience with people from the Caribbean and the diaspora, it cultivates appreciation and respect. Contrast this with Coachella, a festival notorious for its attendees’ “borrowing” of other cultures. A quick internet search for “cultural appropriation at Coachella” brings up a plethora of images of people in traditional Native American headdresses, war masks, and war paint, wearing [West] African dashikis, and sporting Indian bindis and henna tattoos. Each year around the time of the festival there are scores of articles written decrying the behaviour, and some similar festivals have gone so far as to ban headdresses at their events. In recent years, even celebrities like Pharrell Williams, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, and Beyonce Knowles have experienced backlash for appropriation of various cultures in their work. “Because it is sometimes used as a rebuttal to the idea of cultural appropriation, it must be noted that there is a difference between appropriation and assimilation, where assimilation is “marginalised people conforming to standards set by dominant or Western cultures often as a means of survival.” An example of the need for assimilation is first or second generation immigrants being penalised for speaking their mother tongue in schools or in public. (Madani, 2017)
When looking at the globalisation of culture, there is also room to consider the concepts of “hybridisation” versus “homogenisation.” The former has to do with a positive mixing of elements from world cultures, the potential of which can been seen in the popularity of things like fusion cuisine, where foods from different countries or regions are combined. Homogenisation however is a domination of one culture or cultures by another (often the West), sometimes to the point of the eradication of the original culture. McDonaldisation and Cocacolonisation (which examine the ubiquity of McDonalds and Coca Cola and the globalisation of American culture through American products) are two of the best examples of this. The difference between the two lies in the fact that while hybridisation is reciprocal, homogenisation is almost strictly unilateral.
Relating the topic to concepts discussed earlier in the unit, globalisation can be examined through the lens of dependency theory. Through mutual exchange of ideas, resources, and culture, globalisation and hybridisation ideally foster unity, understanding, and equality between the core and periphery while bringing about the evolution of long-held beliefs by challenging traditional ways of thinking. Conversely, appropriation and homogenisation continue to exploit, perpetuate xenophobic ideologies, and sustain the imbalance between developed and developing countries. During colonialism, colonial powers not only extracted natural resources but also cultural booty, a notable example being the theft of the Benin Bronzes in 1897. This is a trend that we have seen continue today, as evidenced by the earlier example of elements of Native American, Indian, and African traditions being used as costumes and fashion accessories.
While there are many benefits to globalisation of politics and the economy, when it comes to the globalisation of culture, it is possible that the negatives outweigh the positives. With decades of articles begging the question “Does globalisation equal Westernisation?” and terms like “McDonaldisation” being coined in early 1990s books, it can be argued that cultural globalisation is simply a form of homogenisation in in disguise. It has been said that globalisation “cares little for those who cannot keep up, and fears those who are its ‘others.’” (James, 2006)
Theoretically speaking, cultural globalisation should be beneficial to development. In reality however, the appreciation, and the appropriation or homogenisation of culture are divided by a very fine line. It appears unfortunately, that modern society often seems to err on the side of the latter. “Cultural systems may be significantly transformed by different forces and influences.” (Arewa, 2016) While this is accepted as one of the by-products of globalisation, there is still “the danger that globalisation may simply translate into Westernisation, given the Western world’s dominance and will to dominate the rest of the globe.” (Tangwa, 1999)
Arewa, O. (2016, June 20). Cultural appropriation: when ‘borrowing’ becomes exploitation. The Conversation. Retrieved 1 November, 2017, from https://theconversation.com/cultural-appropriation-when-borrowing-becomes-exploitation-57411
James, P. (2006). Globalism Nationalism Tribalism. California: Sage Publications Ltd.
Madani, D. (2017, October 17). High Schoolers Protest After Teacher Tells Student To Speak ‘American’. Huffington Post. Retreived 9 Novemeber, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/new-jersey-speak-american-student-protest_us_59e5510be4b0a2324d1d2061
Sen, A. (2002, March 25). Does Globalization Equal Westernization? The Globalist. Retreived 9 November, 2017 from https://www.theglobalist.com/does-globalization-equal-westernization/
Tangwa, G. B. (1999). Globalisation or Westernisation? Ethical Concerns in the Whole Bio-business. Bioethics, vol 13 (3-4), Pages 218 – 226. Retreived from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-8519.00149/abstract
Watson, J.L. (2017, March 17). Cultural globalization. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 9 November, 2017, from https://www.britannica.com/science/cultural-globalization
And a video:
7 Myths about Cultural Appropriation DEBUNKED!