Friday, December 4, 2009

Attempting to Apprehend "Apprehening Transnationalism"

According to Randall Halle, capitalism caused a significant shift in global trade as it existed previously and whoever aims to analyze globalization must also analyze capitalism. Not only did capitalism rapidly increase global productivity and expand the number of regions to which goods could be distributed, but also lead to inequality within this system. As capitalism continuously opens up new markets, it globalization cosmopolitanizes the world as distant and different people are drawn into these.

During the colonial era the nation-state effectively facilitated the spread of capitalism as expansion was justified as civilizing and/or simply forced onto foreign peoples. Now, however, nationalism isn't necessary or especially useful to capitalism. Instead, the common denominators amongst peoples are overshadowing the specificity of cultures--representations of aspects of cultures become divorced from their origin and function--to create a cosmopolitan, globalized community.

Not everything is negative, though. Halle makes a point to shed a hopeful light on the process of globalization by adding that when cultural production is something more than a context-less symbol on a shower curtain, cultural specificity is still maintained even it is just "as local color, a whiff of exoticism." The local, the places of cultural origin, after all, continue to exist and, with the process of globalization, are able to speak to an audience beyond the specific.

While this last thought is an interesting and appreciated attempt of Halle to remain hopeful in the face of the seemingly destructive force of globalization, I am afraid that it remains a dim outlook for me. I see a present and a future in which stylistic representations of different regions and cultures find their ways into furniture and decorations and this is the extent of cultural contact or understanding for most people, which robs the rich meaning and integrity of cultures from which such things are extracted. Transnationalism refers literally to going across nations, so what is crossing nations today? Is it really just the most superficial representations of cultures that create vague impressions rather than understanding or appreciation?

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