Travel log 10: “Encountering Globalization” By Jim Webb in Perugia, Italy

Globalization is the process of global integration arising from the interchange of world views, products, ideas, and other aspects of culture.  Given this definition I don’t think anyone can have a problem with globalization, it’s the mending of cultures and ideas to promote a better society for all.  After all we can attribute many technological advances to globalization and the mending of common ideas.  A good example of this is the telegraph, it was first invented by a German physician.  It was then improved upon by an English inventor and further improvements were made by a Russian diplomat.  The silk road and the discovery of the new world are also great examples of globalization.

 

In Italy I am taking history and culture of food class, it’s the best, and we just learned about the discovery of the new world and how it changed what foods were produced in Europe.  It turns out that a lot of the foods we associate with certain places are not originally from there at all.  Tomatoes, a staple food in Italy, were discovered in America and brought over.  Another big one is potatoes, both yellow and sweet, were discovered in America and are now one of the first things that come to mind when you think about Ireland.  These are just two small examples of how new discoveries were adopted into different cultures and have become so integrated over time.  But as the age of discovery came to an end and we moved forward into the age of information globalization also changed.  Now I think it has become more associated with chain food stores and capitalism, the world is becoming connected through enterprises.  Whenever I leave Perugia and travel around Italy or to a different country I can always find a McDonalds or a Starbucks, they seem to just be everywhere.  Another form of globalization can be seen in the importing and exporting between nations.  Clothes are a major import in some countries in Africa and many poorer nations.  I became aware of this fact and many more after watching The Travels of a T-shirt, a short documentary about the importing of clothes in Africa.  To quickly summarize it, many of the clothes donated to the Goodwill are sent to Africa and bought per pound at a discounted rate by, in most cases, an Indian business man.  These pounds of clothes are then sold at a markup price and then distributed around the country.  In the documentary they also interviewed many Americans about what they think happens to their donated clothes and why many of them are sent to Africa.  It was a little disheartening to watch all the people that were interviewed, they were just so clueless about the world around them.  I don’t think I knew everything about the t-shirt trade prior to watching the documentary but I feel like I had somewhat of a better understanding then most of them.  One man said that it was just the way the economic structure of the world was, North America and Europe were the economic powerhouses and South America and Africa were not.  But it is so much more complicated than that and one fact the documentary pointed out is that Africa’s larges imported product is used clothing.  It imports so much used clothes for so cheap that its impossible for clothing industries to exist in Africa because they just go out of business.  Another fact the video mentioned is that the word for used clothes in Ghana literally translates to dead white mans clothes.  This was a little morbid but so accurate that it was a little horrifying.

 

I think watching that documentary and kind of just exploring the topic a little more has made me really want to work on becoming more globally educated.  The picture I chose to accompany this travel log is of people of all cultures holding hands around the earth.  I chose this picture because I think its representative of getting a better understanding of what is going on in other parts of the world and knowing why some problems exist before we begin to form prejudices.  Until watching the t-shirt travel documentary I had no idea there wasn’t clothing manufacturers in Africa and its because of us.  I always kind of assumed the clothes we sent were cheaper, which was true, but its also because the cheap clothes we have sent have completely destroyed an industry that many jobs probably relied on.

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link to the photo:

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2 thoughts on “Travel log 10: “Encountering Globalization” By Jim Webb in Perugia, Italy

  1. I was so surprised to read that tomatoes were actually found during exploration and brought over to Italy; I always just assumed that they originated the Mediterranean.I had a very similar reaction to the T-shirt travels video. I think that as members of the global community we have a responsibility to better understand how our actions affect the world. I bet most people don’t think that by donating their clothes to certain organizations they are actually harming African textile industries. If they understand many people would think twice about their decisions and how it might affect the world around them.

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  2. I love the point you made on how globalization has caused us to believe that some products originate from places that they really do not. I learned the same thing in one of my classes in Barcelona where they pointed out all of the little things we believe to be native but that actually aren’t and only exist because of globalization and a history of trade. One surprising fact was that the palm trees are actually not native but were planted there because they are a symbol of wealth since they require so much water to grow and water centuries ago was scarce and typically expensive to get or required a lot of work.

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