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Globalization and Indigenization Relationship

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 3529 words Published: 3rd Jul 2018

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In this paper we will try to understand the relationship between indigenization and globalization by looking at how globalization in its process acts as a tool for homogenizing certain ‘culture’ and lifestyle as ideal over others and often works mainly through the market, media, music and other technology. Secondly we will also look into how globalizations try to reinforce itself through indigenization by adapting certain popular local culture which are selective and therefore marginalized certain culture over others in a society. Therefore, we will focus mainly on social, economic and cultural life of state and people in globalization era and will be looking through the lens of social science perspective. For further clarity we will also look at experiences of some countries in Asia that are changing due to globalization as an empirical evidence. In this paper I would like to argue that globalization and indigenization are interrelated and that globalization is an economic drive for profit maximization and therefore in the process of setting up markets it creates homogenization; and indigenization of selective cultural manifestation which often leaves out other cultures and creates tension within a pluralist society

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In social science discourse it is very difficult to define any term. Globalization, term origin of concept can be seen as first used by Roland Robertson according to Malcolm Waters, which came at the background of countering Immanuel Wallertein theory that has a heavy base on economy, Robertson suggested therefore that globalization is a phenomena both taking place in human consciousness and culture. For our present paper we will be looking at globalization as an economic process mainly driven by the so called developed or the western world through international financial bodies that ultimately challenges culture. Globalization therefore means a global economic process that controls international economy and nation state governance as trade and investment process produces growing interconnection between nations. Hirst and Thomson (1999, 8-10) said that interconnection between nations often result in the form of nations specializations and the international division of labours. The importance of trade also becomes increasingly centralized which acts as the organizational principle of the system. They become internationally autonomous and socially disembodied, as market and production becomes truly global. Domestic policies becomes predominantly international determinate. This creates a systematic interdependence as it is transform to be permeated by and for international. Thus, globalize economy posed a problem to the domestic actors in formulating its policies. Globalization according to Petra and Veltmeyer (2001, 11) carries both descriptive and prescriptive meanings, descriptive as [1] globalization referring to the widening and deepening of the international flows of trade, capital, technology and information within a single integrated global market. Prescriptive as globalization involves the liberalization of national and global markets in the belief that free flow of trade, capital and information will produce the best outcome for growth and human welfare (UNDP, 1992). On one hand, there are scholars like Keith Griffin (1995) who considers globalization as inevitable and needs adjustment for both necessary and possible human development. On the other hand, there are some who view it as a class and not as a process, the network of institutions known as the global economic system is an ‘intentional and contingent, subject to the control of individuals who represent an seek to advance the interest of a new international capitalist class’, this class consists of TNCs, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, etc and all these financial institution form a new system called ‘global governance’. Barnet and Cavenagh (1994) term this as a ‘global financial network’. Here the question do not only boils down to whether globalization is inevitable or not as we need to be very critical on this issue but for this paper we should move further and say that globalization is an economic process that is driven by few powers to regulate, generate and sustain capitalism. At the meantime globalization process can also be seen as the dissemination of religion and culture; it evolves interaction of people, groups, communities mainly through trade and commerce. Sociology study on globalization focus on the processes and flows in society whether at local level, national or global level. Sociologist like Barrington Moore, Charles Tilly, Theda Skocpol and Immanuel Wallerstein have looked at society broadly to understand connections of human lives with various field like economics, culture, media, technology etc, so, in short globalization is a process driven for economic growth by few international institutions that controls the process and outcome of global economy.


The term indigenization originates from the meaning indigenous. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary defines Indigenous as ‘existing or growing naturally in a region, country’, Sefa Dei (2002) said indigenous knowledge as unique to a given culture or society characterized by the common sense ideas, thoughts, values of people formed as a result of sustained interaction of society, nature and culture. In Sociology indigenous mean to integrate one’s refection on the local culture and society or history into his or her approaches. Yet it is important to note that not all culture is indigenous for eg in Yang’s article he clarifies that indigenous culture in Chinese context was to study traditional Chinese culture I.e. Confucian tradition and not local tradition like Gelao tradition in Taiwan. Indigenous people constitute more than 70% of the world out of which 250 million people lives in Asia. They are known by different names like ‘hill tribes’ in Thailand, ‘Scheduled Tribe’ in India, ‘cultural communities’ in Philippines, ‘minorities nationalities’ in China etc. Heterogenisation, globalization, hybridization and indigenization have all become part of the wide ranging cultural studies in different discourse and debate about the diversity of local interaction with global capitalism. Roberston (1995, 28) states relation to globalization with culture said that ‘in numerous contemporary accounts globalizing trends are regarded as in tension with local assertions of identity and culture’. Here we will not be focusing so much on identity but look at how social cultural practices gets undermined in globalization.

Globalization and homogenization

We will now see how globalization process works as homogenizing tools that are often selective in nature and homogenized certain culture over another leaving out the importance of plurality of a nation. According to Nederveen Pieterse (2004) [2], there are [3] three views on the issue of globalization. The first view looks at globalization as clash with civilization as expressed by scholars like Samuel Huntington. The second view is expressed by the term ‘Mcdonaldisation’ of the world that would also mean homogenization of particular culture over others, that often overlooks at the plurality and differences of cultures diversity. The third view is based on hybridization and synthesis, as this view suggest that much of the world’s culture has evolved through exchanges, mixing or diffusions where there exist a constant movement and interaction between people who are the carrier of culture. Here the idea of homogenization and indigenization becomes quite critical as it is driven by the market economies that are profit driven, which we will look at as we proceed further. To understand globalization and homogenization we will argue on the first and second view of globalization as stated earlier, as a ‘clash of civilization’ and ‘mcdonalization’ through global financial network. .Yamashita argued that ‘the history of Southeast Asia itself can be a good example of glocalisation’.The Economist (10 Oct 1994) predicted that China would be the world’s largest economy by 2020 overtaking United State and also the developing countries will dominate more than 60% of the world’s economy leaving just 40% with the developed countries. The experiences of many Asian countries like Hongkong, South Korea, Taiwan etc showed rapid economic growth in early 1990s. Global economic institutions like World Bank 1993 reports ‘The East Asian Miracle’ observed and perceived these policies to be stable, market friendly policies with internal and external financial market liberalization to attract foreign investment. However, by late 1990s the economy of East Asian went into crises, which World Bank commented as inability to turn their domestic banks into ‘western style institution’ that emphasis on transparency and rational market oriented criteria. On the other hand, addressing this same problem Hirst and Thompson (2002) said that South Korea and Singapore have suffered the most in this crises as they both depended heavily on short term loans from international financial institutions, and generally they concluded that the nations were ‘heavily depended on the Western advice, and receiving praise for it from such institutions as the IMF which complimented Thailand on its macroeconomic policies in 1996. Polity was driven by conformity with Western doctrine’. Thus, East Asian Crises clearly showed the bias policies of the West to expand its market that often demands so much from the recipient nation to make their policies favorable foe investment otften at the cost of the nation. Still there are some scholars like Khondker who argues that intellectual closure to others will close dialogue between societies or nations. He urges that in globalization era nations should open up yet not be a blind imitator of western ideas and concepts and give importance to local context and values. This crisis shows how global financial institutions controls and directs the policies of other developing nations and homogenized certain ‘western values’ as ideal values over local values. State sovereignty in the process itself becomes restructure and reorganized through globalization, it systematically becomes a puppet at the hands of the financial giants, so there should be a space and right for nations to reject or reform or influence the policies and conditions that will affect them. There is also this tension with globalization as on one hand it seems to be creating diversity yet on the other hand it has further strengthen localization.

According to Ritzer, ‘McDonaldization does not represent something new but, rather, the culmination of a series of rationalization processes that had been occurring throughout the twentieth century’. He said that globalization is not necessarily westernization. At some point this argument seems acceptable but as we look around we cannot ignored the McDonaldization as the popular culture even in India shows more Americanization as top chart music are dominated by popular singers like Madonna, Rihanna etc or hip hop culture, all the latest loud style statements are made through foreign products like Nike, Addidas, Puma, Samsung, Vodaphone etc, television shows like Simpsons, American Idol, Friends etc capture the popular media culture. McDonald, KFC’s international food joints are seen in every cities and in many products they modify or indigenized it with selective culture to fit into new culture a classic example can be the introduction of ‘aloo tikki’ in McDonald menu or ‘nimbu pani’ drinks in KFC menu. The process of globalization started with trade and commodities now is moving towards services.

Globalization and Indigenization

The term globalization and indigenization have become a coveted term. According to Samuel Huntington in, ‘The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order’ he argued that because of new ideas like modernization, urbanization and mass communication and the end of Cold War there will be contest of ideology, this would lead to a conflict that will not be based on ideology or economy but on culture. His prediction seems to be coming true as we see the contestation worldwide on globalization and indigenization that challenges the base on culture. The impact of globalization on culture is seen differently by different scholars. Some like transformative says that culture is evolving and changing therefore needs interaction that will promote integration and removed negative cultural barriers. Spectics have argued that it will create uneven cultural globalization, Many other see it as a negative influences upon each other, as the global financial institutes like IMF policies has shown very bias approach driven for economic profit. The growing protest against international organizations meetings like G-8, European Union in Seattle, Washington, Genoa and Barcelona is a proof of growing discontent among many people. Indigenization of certain culture becomes important question as we see that it is intractably related with the state, identity and economy. Lieber and Weisberg suggest that culture within globalization have to do deeper than its surface phenomena and ‘McDonald, American music, language, art and lifestyle’ has within it a form of alienation that owes to the changes and disruptions brought by modernization and globalization. They argued that in Middle East, South Asia and Africa there is a rage of anger against corrupt and authoritarian rule, which came into being after the breakdown of their traditional social, political and economic relationships. Thus, these new institutions fails to meet the needs of the societies thereby there is a deep resentment against the Americans that have pose a challenged to identity [4]. They considered culture as an area of contestation. The US, considered as the main actor of globalization has been playing a dual role in sustaining and protecting capitalism. The United States of America with less than 5% of the world’s population accounts for one fourth of its economic accounts. They have all captured power in international institutions and dominate world economy. Thereby, homogenizing popular culture of other nations. American English is the most common spoken language in the world; approximately 380 million people use English as their first language and 250 million as their second language. A German diplomat Karsten Voight with US said that

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The USA has long been setting standards on a worldwide basis, not just for the general populace, but has been leading the field in the classic cultural spheres, for example in research and teaching, or films and modern art. Its global role rooted in a hitherto unknown blend of economic power, the ability to set the global cultural agenda and military superiority. (International Journal of Politics, 2002, p277)

Media also plays an important role for indigenization process as Hollywood films captures more audiences than any other film production company. As there are many generations of men who grew up all wanting to be a ‘cowboy’ as the influence of cinema was very strong in earlier time, even though due to space and time, physical constrains the degree of homogenization might be lesser though am not denying the massive lifestyle influence that time. Now, we can see that social and cultural globalization over lapse with commercial economy. The global media are control by few countries through radio, internet and cinema. There are scholars like Ben Beakidn, who wrote ‘Media Monopoly’ and argued that global economy is controlled by only few countries. He gives an example that by 1998 only six Multi National Corporation or MNC control more than half of world social and cultural life like Disney, other minor MNCs were Fox, BBC, Microsoft, Yahoo all these are dominated by developed nations and even localized within their territory, I would like to argue here that these MNCs acts a major tools for homogenizing and indigenizing western culture that gets strongly reinforce through popular mass media and this has intensify due to continue interaction over the years under rapid globalization era. These social and cultural phenomena as seen above often subscribe to few dominant cultures mainly term as Americanization that creates a universal history. Media has created ‘soft power’ in homogenization and indigenized few cultures at the expense of other, eg in India the introduction of cold drinks like Pepsi, Coke, Sprite etc has wiped out many traditional drinks like Lassi or nimbu pani, and many traditional small scale earner that depended on these trade for livelihood are displaced and almost non existent now, we can also see now market also commodities goods like the introduction of ‘packet nimbu pani’ which are projected as more healthy over traditional drinks. There are hardly any signs of traditional culture of lifestyle especially in the market like traditional earthen pots ‘ghara’ as water cooler is almost non existence, which are natural, environment friendly and healthy. The indigenization process that caters to new customers for profit by selecting popular culture over other are very evident as discussed earlier the introduction of ‘aloo tikki’ or vegetarian menu in McDonald, the latest fashion are also projected as wearing certain logos and tags like Reebok, Adiddas, Nike (JUST DO IT) etc replacing traditional attires like kurtas and salwar kameez, though we see them yet still but we need to realized that many traditional trade that deal with these product are now non existent or struggling for survival as new technology can produce the same more efficiently and in large amount, which makes the traditional product more expensive and since so called rational consumer goes for cheaper goods it ultimately lead to the decline of some efficient traditional culture. This phenomenon also artificially creates a division among people as we also see the indispensable growth of Trans national elite in every society. There are greater connection among people around the world and which also lead to some positive outcome like growth in Human Rights Movement, Feminist movement and Environmental lobbies etc. not overlooking the positive aspects of globalization as well we can still argue and before we can conclude it would be interesting to ponder on what Gupta (2007, 88-89) writes in chapter title ‘Business as Usual’ that globalization bring in new ideology that are clearly visible in which business are projected in India, trade union has been laid down, productions are driven by consumers want it is no longer about employment, economic independence or strong trade union. In this competitive capitalist process unfortunately for country like India it poses a problem to citizenship and neglect of underprivileged people. Business or corporate giant in India are part of family business so it puts family above all else, this vividly captures the state of India present scenario that is driven for economic growth and profit driven in globalization world and has intensified over the years.


Through this paper I have tried to highlight the underlying current of globalization that is basically driven by few developed countries mainly US. Globalization as a process starts and ends with economic expansion, by which it homogenized selective culture and projects it as superior over others and indigenized itself to be accepted as it enters new markets. In this process globalization creates a complex phenomenon that creates contradiction within the notion of culture, for some nation like Singapore globalization has been beneficial as they are driven with the quest for latest technology as they have high standard of living in generally. However, for a nation like India it is problematic as we have seen that by homogenizing and indigenization only selective culture dominants over other and India been a pluralist country with so much of diversity. The roles of citizens also greatly diminish as there is no space for choice, so underprivileged sections of society bears the greatest burden. There should be a constant effort on the part of nation to provide substantive equality to citizens make welfare policies free from any foreign influences. Culture keeps changing and evolving but we should keep in mind that any chances should be directed to make every individual live a respectable and dignified life and in right cultural context.


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