Travel Log 10: “Encountering Globalization” by Stephanie Schmitt. Florence, Italy

globalization-pngWhile studying abroad, I have definitely noticed the incredible globalization that is occurring everywhere. I think that it is expected to see things from all over the world in America. Americans seem to focus on having the newest things, trying different things, and finding ways to mass produce items at a low cost, and a lot of these are possible by looking to other countries. However, before arriving in Italy I did not expect to see so many things from other countries. I had expected Italy to be a more traditional culture, with roots so deep that they would not let things from other places into the country. I guess that was naïve of me to think that way. In terms of just food, in Florence alone there are two McDonalds, one burger king, a subway, a few Greek places, many Chinese food places, and countless shops to grab a kebab. Also, the movie theaters show movies in English, there are cars from all different countries, and there are clothing stores that did not originate in Italy. The picture that I chose for this blog communicates this phenomenon. It shows that brands are no longer confined to just one place, but are spread throughout the world.  In his chapter entitled “Encountering Globalization,” Kevin Robins discusses the idea of globalization, which has become increasingly prevalent throughout the world in the past few decades. Robins says, “Globalization is about growing mobility across frontiers- mobility of goods and commodities, mobility of information and communications products and services, and mobility of people” (Robins Chapter 20, p 1). Robins means that globalization is all about an exchange and combinations of things from one country with things from another country.

Robins discusses how our ability to mobilize to different places creates the opportunity for encounters, and I have definitely experienced that benefit while studying abroad. A few weeks ago, I had lunch with three Italian university students in their school dining hall. We discussed the differences between things like school, social life, and ideas in American and Italy. In this way, we were able to exchange different things about our cultures. This encounter, as Robins talked about, paved the way for all of us to think about how things are done in our individual cultures, and consider incorporating new things into our own ways.

While globalization can often lead to innovation and new ideas, Robins also points out that it “…can produce tension and friction” (Robins Chapter 20, p 2). This is clearly demonstrated in the The Travels of a T-Shirt in a Global Economy. The video discusses how many people think that when they give away their clothes in America it is donated to those in need, but the shocking truth is that the Salvation Army sells 95% of the clothing to distributors. These distributors then sell the clothing to buyers in Africa, marking up the product 300-400%. The video highlighted a young man named Luka who buys the clothing and then sell the clothing at a secondhand market. He sells the clothing because it is his only option to make money and support his family. This video was shocking to me. I donate a lot of clothes each year, but I never knew that this is where a lot of clothing ends up. Africans in the video were walking around in Adidas, Chanel, and shirts with logos that they did not understand. It is deeply depressing to realize that people are paying for clothing that citizens of Western countries did not want anymore. While globalization can be good when it results in things like the exchange of ideas or the benefit of a global economy, it is detrimental in situations like this. The people in Africa who are surviving on this system are not creating their own industry in their own country, but are relying on the rejects of other countries. The video said that Western countries simply don’t care if Africa’s economy gets better, so they do not encourage the creation of new industries. This is a return to the idea from Shake Hands with the Devil that Western cultures do not really care that much about third world countries. I think that in order for a country to be able to benefit from globalization, it needs to have a strong cultural and economic identity within first.

At the workshops in the spring, our class tried to come up with a definition for global community. We said, “A global community is comprised of all living things who make up smaller communities that are conjoined by the desire to achieve human rights.” In travel log six, I discussed how in order to have a global community, the participants also need to be willing and want to learn more about one other. After this week, I would add to it that a global community is one in which ideas, goods, people, and services are transferred around the world, regardless of whether or not the cultures benefit from the new things. I am not sure that the global community is always mindful of human rights, as it seems that many things we have studied this semester have proven that we have failed to extend basic human rights to all participants of our global community.

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One thought on “Travel Log 10: “Encountering Globalization” by Stephanie Schmitt. Florence, Italy

  1. Steph, I agree with what you said needed to be added to our global community definition because the interdependence of countries on each other for services, products, etc. is a major part of globalization. I also think, however, that regarding human rights it seems that each country that is part of this global community may be concerned with human rights on different levels and in different ways which we failed to mention in the class definition.

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