Globalisation can be defined simply as the breakdown of barriers between nations. It is characterised by a worldwide interdependence and instantaneous information exchange. Generally seen as a utopian concept, the global village is a vision of the world as one community rather than many, linked through telecommunications (Oxford Dictionary). Some see the global village as cultural equality and appreciation; others see it to be promoting cultural imperialism. This blog post will discuss,
through looking at evolving ethnoscapes, how globalisation is just as much the spread of Eastern culture around the globe as it is the West, and therefore criticise the theory of cultural imperialism.
Cultural imperialism argues that the globalisation of communications results in the intrusion of Western culture, and phenomena such as homogenisation and Americanisation, however evolving ethnoscapes demonstrate that this is not the case.
Ethnoscapes, the patterns of people shifting their homes from one country to another, such as through migration or tourism ( Appadurai, 1990), have shaped the global village of today.
Post World War II years saw forced migration, exponential rises in refugee numbers, more people moving abroad to work, cheaper air fares and so on, which led to the spread of culture around the globe. Many of the people affected were Easterners. Entering Western nations, they brought their language, values and culture, including cuisine.
How many restaurants are in your home town? How many of those are Indian? Chinese? Thai? Vietnamese? How many sushi bars are there? Have you ever been to Chinatown? It is ignorant to assume that globalisation is merely the cultural imperialism of the West; there are as many, if not more, ethnic food outlets in society as there are Western fast food chains.
This idea can be seen as parallel to multidirectional media flows. Whilst the construction of Disney Worlds
in places such as Hong Kong, Paris and Tokyo has made characters such as Mickey Mouse universally recognisable, Bollywood film and Japanese Anime is becoming prominent in many western nations.
Michael O’Shaughnessy and Jane Stadler refer to American sociologist and communications scholar Todd Gitlin in their publication Globalisation (2008);
“If there is a global village, it speaks American . . . (it) recognises Mickey Mouse, James Dean, ET, Bart Simpson, R2-D2 and Pamela Anderson”.
Whilst this is a mere opinion, it would be unreasonable to suggest otherwise. Western media and products are internationally
recognised by many, if not all cultures. In saying that, O’Shaughnessy and Stadler also note the international recognition of Eastern media “such as Japanese Anime, Bollywood films and Bhangra music”.
These ideas are explored in Vietnamese/American writer, Andrew Lam’s, blog post Globalisation: The World Changes America; “The Mexican migrant worker moves his family back and forth. . . treating the borders as if they were mere nuisances.” This indicates the physical and virtual ease of global movement.
Lam also agrees with O’Shaughnessy and Stadler in that America is not the policeman of the global village.
Think Korean movies, Balinese dancers, kung fu, acupuncture, and a myriad of cultural practices — these will not simply wash away because CNN and MTV are accessible now to the peasant in his mud hut.
It’s safe to say media flows are multi-directional; no one culture has the monopoly. Therefore post WWII ethnoscapes have driven cultural imperialism into the ground and the dissemination of cultural media has overruled.
Appadurai, A (1996) ‘Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy’, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 27-47.
Lam, A (2013) ‘Globalisation: The World Changes America’, The Huffington Post, accessed 9.08.15
O’Shaughnessy, M and Stadler, J (2008) ‘Globalisation’, Media and Society (fifth edition) Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 458-471.