Category Archives: Theories

Imagined globalization (reviewed by Dustin Welch García)

Dustin Welch García, Book Review of Imagined Globalization, AmeriQuests 12.1 (2015). Nestor García Canclini. 2014. Imagined Globalization, trans. G. Yúdice. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Pages: 242. Paperback: $24.95 ISBN: 978-0-8223-5461-1

The recent English translation and publication of Nestor García Canclini’s Imagined Globalization, which first appeared in Spanish in 1999, offers a nuanced examination of globalization that is relevant despite its relatively late English-language arrival. Contrasting with mainstream academic views that have focused heavily on the economic processes of globalization, García Canclini utilizes art, culture, literature and audiovisual platforms as imaginative exploratory tools to analyze the evolving relationship between Latin America, the United States and Europe. His book shows that globalization simultaneously is and is not what it claims to be, as its effects are largely limited to the integration of select countries and their elites, while remaining a far off reality for most of the world’s population.

The introduction by George Yúdice places García Canclini’s work in intellectual and literary context; Yúdice cues the reader in on García Canclini’s background as a philosopher and anthropologist, as well as his socioeconomically oriented approach to literature, art and audiovisual media, which provides rationale for the author’s use of narrative and metaphor in this work. The author’s footnotes all through the book are helpful in updating the reader on the important changes that have occurred since the book was first published.

García Canclini goes to great lengths throughout his book to illustrate how the notion of a bright economic future brought about by globalization, as it is frequently understood, is precarious and fails to account for the importance of how cultural products and language imbue meaning and continuity into the social relations we hold dearly. In doing so, the author repeatedly rejects the tension between the ‘defense of identity’ and ‘globalization,’ but rather asserts that we must to learn the benefits of understanding of how we can act and be in relation to other groups, engage with heterogeneity, inequality and difference. The author describes globalization in a way that recognizes its structurally fragmented nature and the inherent difficulty in offering a unified explanation of a multi-dimensional process, saying that it is “…a collection of processes of homogenization and, at the same time, an articulated fragmentation of the world that reorders differences and inequalities without eradicating them” (25). He urges the reader to consider that globalization should not merely be seen as a series of economic operations and faceless transactions, but to see the fundamentally human foundation in this process and also, to recognize the “dramatic rifts endured by people who do not live where they are born” (41).

Demonstrating the continued relevance of his work, García Canclini discusses how interculturality is more prevalent through media communication than through in-person migration. It is quite easy for goods, communication and financial investment to pass from country to country and thus, globalization is thus more easily imagined for its market-friendliness than it is for its human-oriented element. As the author quite rightly puts it, we have transitioned from “enlightened modernity to neoliberal modernity” (51). Despite discussions about the integration of Latin America with Europe, more than at any other time in their history, interculturality comes a distant second to the demands of the market.

Perhaps where García Canclini’s argument is most deft is in his consideration of art, literature and other audiovisual media and related platforms and how they are conceived of within the processes of globalization. The author keys in on the tensions between producers and distributors of more traditional forms of art and culture and the commercial firms that dominate the field symbolically; a public arena that is geared towards traditional cultural expressions and the multi-national conglomerates that hold sway over much of the communication processes. He makes the case that recent advances in technology, coupled with large economic investments driving mega art projects, music, TV and movies, have allowed little room for experimenting into arenas that do not lead to large profits. The author highlights the pressures that results from attempts to play by market rules, which only augments the asymmetries between producers and consumers of content, urban centers and rural peripheries; and despite a newfound emphasis on cultural diversity, the range of entertainment produced is always constrained by the drive for market expansion. His greatest concern is not that the growth and prominence of cultural industries in the age of globalization may standardize and make uniform the world’s diversity, but rather that it will lead to “the institutionalization of innovation, criticism and uncertainty” (136).

In the book’s last chapter, García Canclini reiterates his main argument, discussing the patchy and unbalanced distribution of the effects of globalization. García Canclini frames the “dual agenda of globalization,” (152) where worldwide financial systems and mass communication grow amid evermore unified markets and lowered political discrepancies, all the while, they work to reorder and reshuffle the unequal distribution of wealth and resources while not actually eliminating these unjust circumstances. The book closes with an epilogue, an interview that takes place in the fall of 2011 between the author and Toby Miller, which provides the reader García Canclini’s reflections on the events that have taken place since the book’s initial publication, as well as more current developments such as the rise of Asia, recent trends in reverse migration, the Occupy Wall street movement, Arab Spring, the Chilean student movement and the emerging rejection of globalization.

The strongest attribute of García Canclini’s work is found in his approach that decenters the long-standing Euro-American focus on globalization, while adding great nuance to debates that have long been characterized by social scientists who have either celebrated the grand accomplishments of globalization or crafted sweeping narratives of the suffering and violence wrought by globalization’s multiculturality. García Canclini creatively marshals autoethnographies,fictional scenarios, metaphors and cultural theorizing to compel the reader to consider global horizons broader than those imagined and channeled by the United States’ and Europe’s anthropological purview.

Dustin Welch García
University of Washington

Very well. I will finally read the book.

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Another world

I got up in Dupont Circle and walked past the row houses to a café, had coffee and came back and packed. I walked to the metro and rode to the airport, changing trains once. At the airport I read old notes on Vallejo and transcribed them, including the outline of an old conference paper, and it was very interesting.

On the plane I finished rereading Bodas de sangre, which I am teaching, and it was interesting as well. When I arrived to New Orleans I picked up the car and drove three hours to western Maringouin, where I haggled with a telephone repair shop, and then came home.

At home in the country I was so shocked to have been in the city and now here, I went into a depression. I decided to hide from the world by reading a biography of Leopoldo Panero, which was fascinating. I have never seen the film El desencanto for some reason, and I must.

I was in another world and I immersed myself in reading about further ones. I felt terrible that I was not engaged in grading or local service, although I was traveling on national service and suffering with it. But reading is also part of my job.

__

The meeting I went to was sad, contentious and worrisome, but I was four nights in a cosmopolitan, urban area, and I am suddenly in the country. It is so different, it does not seem real. As usual I am terrified to go in to work, but I will do it.

Notice, though, how in a day of travel I read and thought quite a lot about these three authors, and how it is not that aspect of work that scares me — it is not the material, or the research, or the preparation of college-level classes.

It is that I must repress so much self here, perhaps, and that self arises so easily when I leave, and is so hard to shed. My graduate student feels this too, so I am not alone.

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Academic advice

Here is one of my favorite pieces on the Ronell case, and here is the other. Both writers are far better deconstructors and are tackling a far more difficult topic than are Ronell and Butler chatting on a line from Aretha Franklin. On her scholarship, I like this piece by Martin Jay.

The MLA wrote us a letter saying they had accepted Judith Butler’s apology for the letter she wrote, and were committed to justice for all. I responded:

Dear Professor Gere,

It was disappointing that so many colleagues signed that unseemly letter – I would have expected better judgment from them. As people who have been in the profession as long as Butler and her friends have should know, such letters tend to be detrimental and not helpful to people under investigation. I do also note the professional harm its circulation will have done the student. I regret that people this indiscreet have so much power in the MLA now.

Yours,
[P Z Realname]
[Membership Number]

As we know, I don’t like the words procrastination and avoidance, I like the word strike, and I don’t think anyone who has managed to get a degree is a procrastinator or an avoider. Still, after a few traumatic experiences on the tenure track I froze in fear. We are told to be cautious. I still fear that if I allow myself to get lost in the work, and to truly do the best I can in it, I will be forced to a death more painful than any torture I have suffered heretofore. I try to move ahead without really jumping in. In obedient attempts to avoid “perfectionism” I try to rush, skipping steps, and then accuse myself of “procrastination” when I trip and fall because of the step I did not build. We must take advice, but only standard advice, and not our own.

I have, however, finally found a piece of writing on procrastination that I like, because it speaks to fear, because it speaks to the issue of loss of voice.

Procrastination is a form of resistance to the flow of life. When we procrastinate, we are in resistance to our own flow, in other words in resistance to the call of our soul, to the energy of the Universe.

The piece is about living, not about producing, and about love, not self-control. It’s not from a refereed journal, just from someone’s website, and I find it quite interesting.

Axé.

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Things to read

J. E. Pacheco, Morirás lejos.

On James Mill, progressive versus traditional education, and charter schools.

The other Foucault — what led him to politics?

Crackeros, novelists I should read.

I want to read but first I need to calm down. I don’t feel calm in small towns. I’d also like to live somewhere with bookstores, and other signs of intellectual life. On the weekends, I’d like to go out in nature. It wouldn’t be humid, and there would be mountains.

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Resist

It is not what they do to you, it is what they can get you to do to yourself, is an important point for those of us who are dealing with misogyny or any kind of discrimination, really.

Another thing to remember is that although we are constantly told that most people can never admit they are in the wrong and that the sign of moral progress is to do so, even when you are in fact the wronged party, people lose respect for you when you apologize and you should consider not doing it. Do they? When they have in fact committed major crimes? They do not.

What I would like, though, for 2018 is to have more authority over the students, and therefore be in a position to be kinder to them or at least feel less wounded by them. In the old world, this authority existed in the structure of programs but now it does not. You have to be very, very solid in the bubble that is your courses, your world, and leave things at that.

I am on it.

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Je voulais dire

I had meant to post some time ago that you should not tell your children they are inferior / defective / less than. We were told we were incompetent, although we could not see it (that was part of the incompetence). That was why we were to do things our parents liked. We would fail, but if we failed at things our parents liked, then our parents would at least rescue us. Since we were impaired, we would need this, so we must take heed.

I woke up this morning thinking of how I like being an amateur. My current fantasy involves moving to Eastern Europe so I will have to acquire probably two difficult languages in order to function. I will be talented, at permanent disadvantage for research and scholarship. Just being able to go to the theatre and understand dialogue will be a great achievement, and it will be a private one.

I always think of fantasies like this as fresh-start fantasies: start again, become a world expert and feel free in a field my detractors do not control, and a language they do not speak. They are, but they are also amateurism fantasies. Perhaps I should activate the become-a-world-expert aspect of the fantasy now, with what I have at hand now.

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The question

How is it that, according to da Silva, the mestizo subject is produced? This is the question for today. Here is a fairly recent talk by her, and I have been trying to understand just this one book for far too long.

On pages 248-249 the mestiço as the Brazilian subject is discussed. What precise racial and color markings the particular mestiço has “will determine whether he or she belongs in the present and in the future of the nation.” To be Brazilian is to have to operate in this murky and changeable situation. (There is a great deal more on these pages about transcendental poesis and the scene of engulfment, and I still do not understand these paragraphs well enough.)

On page 246 the mestiço is shown signify Portuguese productive power, because s/he is produced in a gendered way (through the appropriation of black female bodies). Only whiteness signifies the transparent I. The blackness and Africanness inherited from the woman remain in the mestiço. They are dangerous signifiers of a subject of affectability who must signify Brazil’s unstable placing at the outskirts of the modern [world-system].

Axé.

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