Cultural Studies: Globalization & Critics (CSAP)

Globalization is one of the most contested critical concepts of our time, simultaneously lauded for having democratizing effects and decried for creating even greater inequities across the globe. Largely understood in terms of economic and political processes, globalization is nonetheless often invoked through consumer and cultural images as exemplified in the titles of the popular bestsellers Jihad v. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Reshaping the World (Barber, 1996) and The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (Friedman, 2000). Our collective goal will be to chart critical genealogies of the term, and its associated vocabulary, so that individually students might articulate their own theoretical orientation towards the term and consider how processes of globalization affect their own critical and creative practices. Given the shear scale of the phenomenon that globalization seeks to describe, we might ask when we study globalization what isn’t our subject? In order to make our study manageable, our course goals will be twofold: to become familiar with some of the foundational texts within globalization studies and to think about how those concepts are enlisted to discuss the effects of globalization on culture and land. The course is divided into three sections.

Part I: Definitions and Key Words

Our discussion will focus on definitions of globalization, and other concepts such as “deterritorialization,” “hybridity,” “diaspora,” “cosmopolitanism,” “neo-liberalism,” “flow,” and “the planetary.” To give one example, the work of Arjun Appadurai of the flow of people, goods and media across the globe is central to the study of globalization and diaspora, but Appadurai’s work itself is indebted to Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s discussion of “deterritorialization.” We will read, therefore, these works in concert with each other and consider as well recent critiques of these concepts issued from particular locations, including the Pacific.

Part II: Globalization and Culture

In this section, we will consider how the economic and political realm affects culture. To do this, we will read Bret Benjamin’s Invested Interests: Capital, Culture and the World Bank, which analyzes the kinds of investments in literature and culture that the World Bank, one of the most controversial of global institutions, professed from its very origins. We will think about the tropes and narrative devices that are used to represent globalization in such recent films as Crash and Babel and will consider how economic crises are represented as global phenomenon in a number of documenaries.

Part III: Globalization, Land and Borders

This final section will focus on the effects of globalization on land and conceptions of governance and territoriality. In addition to thinking about environmental degradation, like global warming, and alternative projects like sustainability, we will also consider how globalization has affected human relationships to land. We will also discuss the critiques that indigenous people, including Native Hawaiians, have made against globalization. If globalization is often characterized by deterritorialization, what implications does that have for native peoples whose claims often rest on ties to quite specific lands and who do not necessarily aspire to ideas of a borderless world? In addition to these questions we will consider what impact does the rendering of land as commodity (real estate) have on the survivial of indigenous people? How do we understand these social movements in relation to other activist projects that are attempting to undo national sovereignty and create rights-based discourses aimed at dismantling borders?

Assignments: Class presentation (15%), weekly posts to laulima site (15%), 10-page paper (30%) due at midterm that explores the critical genealogy of a key term used in globalization discourse and relating that concept to a literary text, film or other cultural text; this paper may serve as the basis for the final seminar paper of 20-25 pages (50%).

Required Texts: Globalization: The Greatest Hits,Steger The Globalization Reader, eds. Frank J. Lechner and John Boli Invested Interests: Capital, Culture and the World Bank, Bret Benjamin; Paradigm Wars: Indigenous Peoples’ Resistance to Globalization, eds. Jerry Mander and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz Films: Babel, Crash, Noho Hewa, An Inconvenient Truth, Inside JobNovels: Jennifer Government, Max Berry Tales of the Tikongs,Epeli Hau’ofa and a Course Reader with additional works by: Arjun Appardurai, Homi Bhabha, Purnima Bose, Timothy Brennan, Mike Davis, Deleuze and Guattari, Thomas Friedman, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, David Harvey, Neville Hoad, ku‘ualoha ho‘omanawanui, Anne Keala Kelly, S. Krishna, Karl Marx, Masao Miyoshi, Aihwa Ong, Arundhati Roy, Saskia Sassen, Amartya Sen, S. Shankar, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Joseph Stiglitz, Mililani Trask, Rob Wilson (among others)

Laura E. Lyons is Director of Graduate Studies in English. With Purnima Bose, she co-edited the collection Cultural Critique and the Global Corporation (Indiana UP, 2010) and with Cynthia Franklin she has published a number of articles on testimony and co-edited a special issue of Biography on “Personal Effects: the Testimonial Uses of Life Writing.” She is working on a book manuscript about the cultural politics of pineapple in Hawai‘i.