Travel Log 10 – Encountering Globalization

While Japan is certainly not a third world country like that of Zambia, displayed in the documentary “The Travels of a T-Shirt in The Global Economy,” there are definitely traces and signs of globalization throughout Tokyo that have been present since the postwar period.

In the documentary, it’s shown that second hand clothes from America is the largest export into Africa, making bigger conglomerate companies billions of dollars, while leaving those who sell these clothes on the streets of Zambia not much income. It’s said that the commercial dealers make the real money, and that’s definitely a showcase of globalization in our modern world. The term “one mans trash is another mans treasure” comes to mind, in that things we as Americans think are old, or even culturally irrelevant are important for most people’s survival in third world countries. It’s interesting to see how the redistribution of material goods works in Africa through the eyes of someone directly in the middle of globalization (in the form of the main person highlighted in the film). It’s also interesting to note that while these people are selling these items, making to support their family all the while clothing themselves, Americans often take this notion for granted. In America it’s easy to get proper shelter, food and water, but for those in Zambia, for example, it’s much harder. I noticed that most people interviewed in the United States during the film would be aware of the problems faced in globalization, but would often laugh it off or awkwardly chuckle to make up for their understanding of it. Someone asks a very important question, that of: “whose interest were they designed to serve?” I’m brought back to my history class I took sophomore year, when we thoroughly discussed the origins of African globalization. This took form after WWI, when at the Berlin Conference, European nations basically split up the continent of Africa into bits and pieces, inciting both slavery and colonialism. The people of Africa were forced into European culture from the government, and it seems like that trend continued into the modern day.

It’s discussed in the film that US culture is exhibited in everything from books, to magazines, music, and clothing. Kevin Robins, in his piece “Encountering Globalization,” begins by stating that globalization is about growing mobility across the world. I think this is totally true, and even more so when you realize the relevance of American culture brought to most every facet of the globe. Japan is definitely subject to this, and it’s most notably seen during the postwar period during and after the US occupation. During that time, everything from American popular culture was influencing Japanese society. Disney is something we’ve talked about here in class that transcended media and drove straight into culture. The influence of Hollywood and American music also helped form early concepts of Japanese cinema and the popular music industry here. Conversely, it’s interesting to note how much of Japanese culture has come back to the US (I’m writing this listening to a “Best of Anime Soundtrack” playlist on YouTube). Despite this, there are countless things I’ve encountered here that are very “American.” For example, McDonalds and Coca-Cola are ever present. In fact, coca-cola is one of the only sodas you can find here besides Sprite and Fanta orange/grape. I liked how Robins mentioned cultural convergence toward the end of his piece. “What globalization in fact brings into existence is the new basis for thinking about the relation between cultural convergence and cultural indifference.” (Robins, 245). From what I’ve seen, Japan has converged with not only the diversity of itself, but with other countries. For a huge example that most people don’t know, ramen is from China. Our global community is a lot more interconnected than we initially realize, and I think the documentary and Robins’ reading exemplify that notion.


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