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World Literature: Theories in the Context of Globalization

Photo by Greg Gershman via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Image credit: Greg Gershman via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

When we think of globalization and forms of entertainment, we immediately think of the Internet, social media, movies, or television shows.  But, contrary to popular belief, literature also holds an important place in the flow of entertainment media that is coursing through the veins of public consumption in our globalized world.  The technological advances that are connecting people worldwide through shared information are also serving as a medium to disseminate books across national and cultural boundaries.

The term “world literature” was first used by the German writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, referring to the dissemination of literature from and to countries across the globe.  Goethe famously stated in letters to Johann Eckermann in 1827, “National literature is now a rather unmeaning term; the epoch of world literature is at hand, and everyone must strive to hasten its approach.”  World Literature, in the modern sense, refers to literary works that are translated into multiple languages and circulated to an audience outside their country of origin.

World literature is not a new concept, but as new media technologies explode, so do new ways of disseminating books across national boundaries.  And as new ways emerge of delivering world literature to readers worldwide, many scholars are examining the implications of translations on literature, the impact that literature has on culture, and the ways that cultures can transform books.  World literature can be an amazing tool for analyzing globalization because it provides a wonderful example of the ways that information is shared across languages and cultures.

Valerie Henitiuk, a professor of Literature and Translation at the University of East Anglia, in a compelling 2012 essay, explored the process of translation and the meanings that it holds.  She posits that “texts become successfully worlded only through interpretive acts of mediation profoundly bound up in aspects of culture.”  In other words, a text can never truly be independent of its translation.  As literature moves across boundaries of culture and language, it is, in a way, transformed into a unique cultural artifact.

While some believe that world literature gains value in translation, some scholars, such as Gayatri Chakrovorty Spivak, hold the alternate view that the study of world literature often ignores the power of a work in its own language.  Spivak believes that scholars must take care to avoid homogenizing cultures and languages when undertaking the study of translated texts, and that consideration must be given to protecting the diversity of languages and cultures present in literary works.

Image credit: John Blyberg via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Image credit: John Blyberg via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Venkat Mani, in an essay published in 2014, submits that world literature is best understood in the larger context of global media dissemination.  Mani points out that in the globalized world that exists today, the place of origin of a literary work does not necessarily define the cultural or national context of the work.  He believes that modern world literature is being created and disseminated in a public sphere, aided by new media technologies and the interconnected nature of the Internet and social media. Mani’s viewpoint mirrors Goethe’s statement that “national literature is now a rather unmeaning term,” but takes on new meaning as, almost 200 years later, the world is more connected than ever before through modern technology.

The study of world literature is a powerful tool for global studies because it encompasses so many themes that are important to understanding globalization.  World literature can show us how information is shared between cultures and nations. It provides insight into how cultural artifacts are transformed as they traverse languages and boundaries. It also can help us to understand the ways that new media technologies could be facilitating globalization by creating a public space for the transmission of literature and other information across the globe.

Want to delve deeper into this topic? Check out the sources below!

Web Resources

Top 100 Works in World Literature – InfoPlease

Into to World Literature – Penn State

Words Without Borders

Books Set In… – This service lets you search geographically for books set in particular regions, countries, and cities.  It even has a Google Maps feature that lets you browse the map for books from a particular area.

Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

Hamilton, Grant. (2014). On world literature: when Goethe met Boltzmann. Textual Practice, 28:6, 1015-1033

Henitiuk, Valerie. (2012). The Single, Shared Text? Translation and World Literature. World Literature Today, (86)1, 30-34.

Mani, Venkat. (2014). A Pact With Books: The Public Life of World Literature.  Global E-Journal. 8(1). 

Books (Available through UIUC Libraries)

Apter, Emily. (2011). The Translation Zone: A New Comparative Literature. Princeton : Princeton University Press.

Damrosch, David. (2003). What is world literature? Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press.

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, Soret, Frédéric Jacob, Oxenford, John,Eckermann, Johann Peter. (1901). Conversations with Eckermann: being appreciations and criticisms on many subjects. Washington, M.W. Dunne.

Haen, Theo d’. (2012). The Routledge concise history of world literature. London : Routledge.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. (2003) Death of a discipline. New York : Columbia University Press.

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Ending Gender-Based Violence: Global Efforts

Stop Violence Against Women 2

November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and the 16 days between November 25th and and December 10th are designated by Rutger’s University Center for Women’s Global Leadership as 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. These events put the problem of gender-based violence in the international spotlight and provide an opportunity to discuss the issue and how it is being addressed globally.

Violence against women and girls is a problem that reaches across national boundaries. It affects women of all ages, races, ethnicities, and religions.  Because gender-based violence is often a result of deeper, ingrained  societal discrimination, it is difficult to address and more difficult to eliminate. No matter what form the violence takes, it is harmful not just to individuals but to communities and societies at large. It is a human rights issue with wide-reaching implications that garners attention from the highest levels of international governance but will require fundamental change at the individual and community levels to stop.

Statistics

Here are some jarring global statistics about gender-based violence:

  • Up to 70 percent of women encounter some form of violence during their lifetime. (UN)
  • 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime. The abuser is usually a member of the woman’s family. (WHO)
  • Of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked across national borders annually, women and girls make up 80%.  A majority of these women and girls are trafficked for sexual exploitation. (WHO)
  • The number of women alive today who have undergone female genital mutilation is an estimated 100 and 140 million. (WHO)
  • In some parts of the world it is more likely that a girl will be raped than learn how to read. (WHO)
  • Women aged 15-44 are statistically more likely to be harmed by rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria. (UN)

What can be done?

The UN campaign UNiTE to End Violence Against Women outlines 16 steps that they believe are necessary to work towards ending violence against women.  These include adopting and enforcing laws, engaging the mass media, mobilizing men and boys, ending impunity towards conflict-related sexual violence, making justice available to women and girls, along with several more.  International and regional treaties are also an effective tool in mobilizing large-scale action to eliminate violence against women. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, defines discrimination against women as “…any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.” This widely-arching convention is a powerful tool for gender equality that calls upon UN member states to enact laws and create institutions to eliminate discrimination.

The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) has been proposed as a piece of legislation in the United States, supported by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other advocacy groups, that would address violence against women through United States foreign policy, implementing a set of best practices for preventing the violence and prosecuting perpetrators of such acts.  The act was introduced in 2011 to the United States Congress, but was not passed into law.  Critics, such as Wendy McElroy from The Independent Institute,  claim that the act would unfairly ignore male victims of gendered and sexual violence.  Some international agreements, such as the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention, address this concern, pointing out that the principles and framework of such rulings can be applied to “men, children and the elderly who are exposed to violence within the family or domestic unit.” It will remain to be seen whether formal legislation such as I-VAWA will be passed in the United States, but advocacy organizations hope that awareness events such as International Violence Against Women Day and the 16 Days Campaign will spur the creation of new legal measures and activism throughout the world to address this problem.

Check out the resources below to learn more or get involved!

Web Resources

International Violence Against Women Survey

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2014

Unite to End Violence Against Women

No1Nowhere Campaign

Women Thrive Worldwide

Violence Against Women FactSheet – UN

Books from the UIUC Libraries

Nakray, Keerty. (Eds.) (2013). Gender-based violence and public health: international perspectives on budgets and policiesAbingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

Nichols, Andrea J. (2014). Feminist advocacy: gendered organizations in community-based responses to domestic violenceLanham : Lexington Books.

Renzetti, Claire M., Edleson, Jeffrey L.Bergen, Raquel Kennedy. (2010). Sourcebook on Violence Against Women. Thousand Oaks : SAGE Publications.

Rose, Susan D.. (2014). Challenging global gender violence :the Global Clothesline Project. New York : Palgrave Pivot.

Stewart, Mary White. (2014). Ordinary violence: everyday assaults against women worldwideSanta Barbara, California : Praeger, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC.

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

Casey, E. A., Carlson, J., Fraguela-Rios, C., Kimball, E., Neugut, T. B., Tolman, R. M., & Edleson, J. L. (2013). Context, Challenges, and Tensions in Global Efforts to Engage Men in the Prevention of Violence against Women: An Ecological Analysis. Men & Masculinities, 16(2), 228-251.

Devries, K. M., Mak, J. T., García-Moreno, C., Petzold, M., Child, J. C., Falder, G., & … Watts, C. H. (2013). The Global Prevalence of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women. Science, 340(6140), 1527-1528.

Mason, C. L. (2013). Global Violence Against Women as National Security “Emergency”. Feminist Formations, 25(2), 55-80.

McFarlane, J., Nava, A., Gilroy, H., Paulson, R., & Maddoux, J. (2012). Testing Two Global Models to Prevent Violence against Women and Children: Methods and Baseline Data Analysis of a Seven-Year Prospective Study. Issues In Mental Health Nursing, 33(12), 871-881.

Šimonović, D. (2014). Global and Regional Standards on Violence Against Women: The Evolution and Synergy of the CEDAW and Istanbul Conventions. Human Rights Quarterly, 36(3), 590-606.

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Transcending Nationalities: The “Global Imaginary” Seen Through Visual Culture

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Images are active players in the game of establishing and changing values. They are capable of introducing new values into the world and thus of threatening old ones.  J.T. Mitchell, 2005.

The concept of “global imaginary,” as coined by Manfred Steger, refers to the consciousness of belonging to a global community – a consciousness that has emerged in recent decades with the rapid rise of communication technologies and the decline of nation-based political ideologies. The concept builds on Benedict Anderson’s theories of “imagined communities,” but while Anderson used the term to refer to shared ideologies within nations, Steger posits that globalization is breaking down the imagined walls of nationhood and bringing about “a shared sense of a thickening world community.”  Steger insists that in order to understand and solve the great global problems of our time, we must first understand the “global imaginary” and all that it represents.

One artist and scholar has focused on visual culture as a way to understand the concept of “global imaginary.”  Tommaso Durante’s project, the Visual Archive Project of the Global Imaginary, explores the visual evidence, through photographs, of the cultural changes happening worldwide as a result of globalization.  Images are powerful conveyors of information. They carry a wealth of embedded knowledge about culture, values, and ideology. And Durante explains how, “due to the global spread of new media technologies, the massive uses of personal electronic devices and the development of intelligent architectural interfaces, visuality is increasingly eclipsing textuality and images, with their ‘surplus of value’, dominate the world.”  Indeed, if we look at how social media, with its image-heavy and text-sparse format, has become a unifying and polarizing force in the world, we can see how important visual culture is to the social forces that shape global society.

The photographs in Durante’s archive cover the cultural, political, and ideological dimensions of the “global imaginary.”  The photographs encompassing the cultural dimension are full of people, advertisements, storefronts, public spaces, and symbols that represent merging nationalities and ideologies.  The Apple logo is seen prominently displayed in a modern glass shopping center in East Shanghai, and then on a sign in from of an “iShop” housed in a beautiful historic building in Rome.  Through the images, we see how symbols and cultural icons stretch across the boundaries of nations and create a shared global visual landscape.  The images also venture into the political dimension, showing protest movements in the U.S. and Chile.  The ideological dimension shows advertisements and promotional imagery that deliberately make use of the the globe or words like “global” and “international” to produce a sense of shared meaning and influence cultural identities.

The archive may just be one artist’s perspective of the visual culture of globalization, but it is nonetheless a compelling portrait of the ways in which globalization is inciting a shared sense of meaning and belonging among global citizens.  The collection is a powerful illustration of the concept of the “global imaginary,” adding a visual dimension to Steger’s theory and, if Durante’s intentions come to fruition, serving as a historical archive of the process of globalization.

Learn more about globalization and the “global imaginary” with the resources below!

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals & Databases)

Benedikter, Roland;  Ziveri, Davide.  (2014). The global imaginary, new media and sociopolitical innovation in the periphery: the practical case of an Internet-based empowerment project in Palestine and Israel. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 28:4.

Crang M. (2010). The death of great ships: photography, politics, and waste in the global imaginary. Environment and Planning A, 42:5, 1084 – 1102.

Durante, Tommasso. (2014). Visual Culture and Globalization: The Visual Archive Project of the Global Imaginary. Global-E Journal, 8.

Ojala, M. (2011). MEDIATING GLOBAL IMAGINARY. Journalism Studies, 12:5.

Steger, Manfred B.  (2009). The Rise of the Global Imaginary and the Persistence of Ideology. Global-E Journal, 3. 

Books

Anderson, Benedict O’G. (1991). Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. London : Verso.

Baldacchino, John,Vella, Raphael. (Eds.) (2013). Mediterranean art and education: navigating local, regional and global imaginaries through the lens of the arts and learning.  Rotterdam, The Netherlands : Sense Publishers.

Djelic, Marie-Laure.Quack, Sigrid. (Eds.) (2010). Transnational communities: shaping global economic governance. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.

Krätke, Stefan, Wildner, Kathrin,  Lanz, Stephan. (Eds.) (2012). Transnationalism and urbanism. New York, NY : Routledge.

Shavit, Uriya. (2009). The new imagined community: global media and the construction of national and Muslim identities of migrants. Brighton [England] : Sussex Academic Press.

Steger, Manfred B.. (2008). The rise of the global imaginary: political ideologies from the French Revolution to the global war on terror. Oxford : Oxford University Press.

Vertovec, Steven. (2009). Transnationalism. London : Routledge.

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