On the Term ‘Globalization’
‘Globalization’ is one of those extraordinarily protean terms that seems to be relevant, and is increasingly accepted as meaningful, everywhere. In it the absolute embrace of the core word, the ‘globe’ itself, struggles against the modification of the suffix, the process marked by ‘-ization’. A wide variety of possibilities slip through that slight disjuncture between the absolute and the potential: the possibility of active globe-making, discernment of a global teleology, mediation between the bits (the local) and the whole of the globe, reference to systems that span the globe, the ambition of constructing global concepts, the desire of tapping into the material (resources, labour, markets) of the globe, etc. These possibilities do not necessarily sit together comfortably, and yet they are contained in the fertile suggestiveness of the term—meaningful or applicable apparently everywhere, but in a variegated manner.
Obviously, it isn't simply lexical reach and syntactic viability that gives the term ‘globalization’ its currency (the grammar of ‘globalization’ is important however, and has received little attention). There is, of course, globalization (without quotation marks): articulated, defined, or simply used with grammatical aptness but without attention to that grammar, a term that is used but not examined as a term. To try to come to grips with that currency of globalization is to engage its social, political, economic and cultural contexts, and to chart its contents and discontents. Yet that project too can, in a way, be plausibly undertaken by looking at globalization (in usage) in relation to ‘globalization’ (usage of the term). This is not a matter of plumbing the grammar of ‘globalization’, but of noting the history of ‘globalization’, its accruals and shifts as a term. The contexts and contents of the term are woven into its history, and undoubtedly have a bearing on where it is placed—whether in the USA or UK or Nigeria or India.
With the ever-proliferating extension and accrual of meaning in the term ‘globalization’ appears its abstraction from specific cultural and historical contexts. Globalization is now often used to conceptualize processes and histories well outside the remit of the term's history, emptying ‘globalization’ of its specific ideological baggage and normative nuances. Every history of wanderlust and discovery and encounter, of expansive systems of communication and economic transaction, of missionary enterprise and overweening imperial ambition, of intellectual endeavour with a universal perspective, of political internationalism (even of the left movement) seems to become coeval with and converges with globalization, is captured by ‘globalization’ (see O'Rourke and Williamson 1999, Pieterse 2003, Gills and Thompson eds. 2006). And yet this retrospective capture is uneasily poised against the term's brief career and post-modern Zeitgeist-y feel. It seems apt to begin an introduction to yet another book that uses globalization as its theme, and moreover one that plays on the slippage between ‘contents’ and ‘discontents’ in a specific context, to take pause and note briefly the history of the term ‘globalization’ before that history is elided again by proliferating usage.
Both the post-modern feel and the extensive capture of ‘globalization’ appear to be gestured towards in Marshall McLuhan's reflections on technological enhancement of media as the constitutive heart of the contemporary Zeitgeist in the early 1960s, though he didn't quite formulate the term itself. This was to be expected given McLuhan's location within the North American epicentre of post-war advances in communications technology and of advanced capitalist cultures of consumption. McLuhan's gestures were as much toward the term ‘globalization’ as toward the conceptual resonances of globalization because of his talent for coining suggestive phrases in his writing, his attentiveness not just to the theorization but the performance of the message (the massage of the message). Observations, such as the following in his seminal books, The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media, draw attention equally to the finger-on-the-pulse idea and the language it is couched in: ‘The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village’ (McLuhan 1962, 31); and: ‘Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned’ (McLuhan 1964, 3). The oxymoron ‘global village’ and the body metaphor (‘central nervous system’, ‘global embrace’) for ‘our planet’ condense and contain the complexity of McLuhan's work—prescient but of its time and place, of course—with particular phraseological aptness. It also did so with precisely the kind of contemporaneous weight, and protean possibilities, that the term ‘globalization’ was to come with a bit over a decade later. McLuhan's ‘global village’ and ‘central nervous system in a global embrace’—and soon ‘the medium is the massage’—passed into the repository of stock phrases of our time (extrapolated from McLuhan's texts, collectively denoting McLuhan's texts), gesturing towards, almost but not quite formulating, and soon merging into ‘globalization’.
If McLuhan's claims seem not to be ostensibly grounded in his 1960s North American location (though the very phraseological aptitude remarked here seems to me to locate it, especially apropos to the global reach of his vision), when the term ‘globalization’ itself surfaced for serious use (not the kind of passing early 1960s media coinage cited in the OED, for instance) in the mid-1970s it was largely grounded there. This came from several linked directions. One, it emerged from the desire to extend North American sociology (especially as it developed under the guise of area studies since the 1950s) to the so-called Third World—notably in recently decolonized contexts. Since this came both with the Cold War ethics of extending ‘free-world’ ideology and with an awareness of the fragility of postcolonial sensibilities, the ambiguities and possibilities of the term ‘globalization’ was apt. An early contribution to this debate, and of the appearance of ‘globalization’, is found in Paul Lamy's ‘The Globalization of American Sociology’ (1976) – the debate was followed up later by Fredrick Goreau (1983) and Walter Parker (1984). Two, and more importantly, the appearance of the term ‘globalization’ signified the consolidation of global labour and resources in neoliberal capitalism primarily centred in, and at the behest of policy makers in, the United States. That advanced international capitalism entails global interconnectedness—focusing precisely on the term ‘global’ in much the same way as McLuhan—was mooted severally by left-wing intellectuals in the early 1970s: e.g. in Eric Hobsbawm's (1975, 65) ‘drawing together of all parts of the globe into a single world’ (the point was more rigorously theorized with the late twentieth century in view in Wallerstein's ‘world capitalist system’, 1974, and Mandel's ‘late capitalism’, 1972). The appearance of ‘globalization’ was mainly, however, in an affirmative spirit and offered as such by voices within the capitalist fold and explicitly with the political and economic interests of North America at heart. This was exemplified in such academic texts on North American management practices and economic policy, with early usage of the term, as Raymond F. Hopkins's ‘Global Management Networks: The Internationalization of Domestic Bureaucracies’ (1978) and, particularly, Theodore Levitt's influential ‘The Globalization of Markets’ (1983). North American interests were, in many ways at the time, indistinguishable from those of Western Europe, and the term was soon recognized as associated with a broader North American-Western European capitalist nexus.
Three, and not unconnected with the above two kinds of early appearance of ‘globalization’, another kind of document threw up an example—the report of the Brandt Commission, published as North-South (1980). In January 1977, at World Bank President McNamara's call, an Independent Commission on International Development Issues under the chairmanship of former German Chancellor Willy Brandt was set up to resolve the impasse between poor and rich nations on terms of loans and assistance through the World Bank and IMF. Eighteen countries (none from the communist block) were represented in this. The report that followed called for a ‘globalization of policies’ to counter the ‘globalization of dangers and challenges’ (North-South 1980, 19). That included, among other measures, proposals for the removal of protectionist measures by developed countries against developing countries, and the extension of structural adjustment financing from IMF and World Bank to developing countries which are not too restrictive and have the long-term interests of the recipient in view. What actually happened as a ‘globalization of policies’ was rather different: the devising of the infamous Structural Adjustment Loan (or Structural Adjustment Facility [SAF]). These made the administration of loans conditional to extensive infrastructural changes within poor countries taking loans—especially by instituting greater dependency on market forces and reducing direct state intervention and control, encouraging export and mobilization of domestic resources, and making state enterprise self-reliant (see Stiglitz 2003, Chua 2003, Peet 2003). From 1986 to 1999 the IMF administered over 90 SAFs and ESAFs (Enhanced SAFs were introduced in December 1987) to 56 poor countries. Widespread and disastrous disinvestments by states in these poor countries followed, often without the hoped for growth and sustainable development and only falling deeper into a spiral of debt and sanctions. Between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s protests against SAF/ESAF-impelled state disinvestments and international economic regulation were evidenced in Algeria, Benin, Bolivia, Ecuador, Jamaica, Jordan, Mexico, Niger, Nigeria, Russia, Sudan, Trinidad, Uganda, Venezuela, Zaire (Congo), Zambia, among other countries. These localized actions were gradually given some coherence in the course of the 1980s within the fold of ‘new social movements’ (in a timely fashion in Touraine 1981 and Habermas 1981). In the course of the 1990s they came increasingly, in an interesting twist to the connotative possibilities of ‘globalization’, to be identified as ‘anti-globalization’ protests or part of a ‘globalization-from-below’.
Roughly till the end of the 1980s the term ‘globalization’ appeared unambiguously with the ideological weight of its North American–Western European neoliberal capitalist associations and affirmations—and was located (despite the spread of ‘new social movements’) in the polarized ideological discourse of the Cold War. With the symbolic end of the Cold War (marked by the 1992 fall of the Berlin Wall), and with the gradual disengagement of the left from the centrality of the working class and engagement with identity politics and ‘new social movements’, the term ‘globalization’ really came into its own. There were, in my view, two sides to this. One, the term's establishment, mass media and particularly academic uses proliferated exponentially in precisely the way noted at the beginning of this introduction, essentially with the effect of decontextualizing or a-contextualizing it and neutralizing its ideologically partisan affirmativeness. And two, the term's normative content was irrigated and adjusted as it entered the vocabulary of activists and NGOs, which in turn also impinged upon establishment, mass media and academic usage. The two sides of these shifting nuances of ‘globalization’ in fact unfolded simultaneously and with extraordinary speed, so that they constantly fed into each other and became paradoxically inextricable, and contributed equally to the term's prevailing potency. For the sake of analytical convenience, however, it is useful to put some brief markers of these two sides of ‘globalization’'s career separately.
‘Anti-globalization’—the prefix-based antonym of the term in question—appears to be primarily a media invention, and there is little evidence of its currency before 1995 elsewhere. The alignments which it was and is usually applied to—those involved in activism in ‘new social movements’, against global economic regulation and hegemony, and often in favour of local sustainable development—seldom accept the term happily (see Klein 2001). Its thrust in the mass media has often been a pejorative one (presenting ‘anti-globalization’ as a disabling, anarchic, anti-technological/anti-modernization stance), usually while descrying such large-scale and multi-front protests against World Bank, IMF, WTO, G8 etc. as Seattle anti-WTO demonstrations of 30 November 1999, the Genoa G8 summit protests of July 2001, etc. However, the negative normative thrust of much mass media use of ‘anti-globalization’ has occasionally been turned on its head by deliberately and positively assuming the term to oppose the neoliberal capitalist associations of ‘globalization’ (this occurs, for instance, in Alex Callinacos's Anti-Capitalism Manifesto, 2003). Those who were (and continue to be) placed in the so-called anti-globalization alignment and expressed reservations about the term ‘anti-globalization’ usually preferred the opposition of ‘globalization-from-above’ and ‘globalization-from-below’, and aligned themselves with the latter. This also involved normative negotiation of the term ‘globalization’ with awareness of the dominant associations outlined above: the dominant associations of the term were particularized by the qualification ‘-from-above’ and opposition to that bent was articulated through a reverse qualification ‘-from-below’ (the negotiation was most explicitly conducted in the early 1990s in Brecher, Childs, Cutler eds. Global Visions, 1993). This resulted, tellingly, in actually dislocating the normative weight of neoliberal capitalist ‘globalization’ and ideologically/normatively neutralizing that term itself, so that the term could be owned by both sides. The overall effect of these shifts in ‘globalization’'s career in the course of the 1990s had the effect both of: (a) giving the term a greater sense of normative complicity and complexity—which has thereafter been played upon in a variety of ways by Richard Falk, Naomi Klein, Joseph Stiglitz, Antonio Negri, Michael Hardt, Tim Jordan, David Graeber and numerous others—while, at the same time, (b) stripping it off its earlier one-sided neoliberal associations and rendering it more or less normatively neutral, a-contextual, applicable to claims from contrary ideological positions. ‘Globalization’ as a term thus gradually became decontextualized, and seemed to overtake/replace both socialist ‘internationalism’ and capitalist expansion/’multinationalism’ with retrospective effect.
As such, the normative negotiations of the term ‘globalization’ merged into another kind of conceptual effort that was simultaneously undertaken: one that simply defined ‘globalization’ as alluding to normatively-neutral and sociologically, economically, politically, culturally and historically relevant processes. Contributions in this direction have been too numerous to be discussed at any length here—definitions and elaborations of the term by Jürgen Habermas, David Held, Anthony Giddens, Ulrich Beck, Saskia Sassen, Arjun Appadurai, Anthony King, Mike Featherstone, come to mind among numerous others. Most of these gave content to the term by noting processes: in terms of disciplinary emphasis, geopolitical spread, measurable effect and so on. Some engaged the normative neutrality of the term with broadly liberal (not neoliberal) sympathies which easily slipped into liberal state and mass media discourses. Those from this direction who registered the normative complexity of the term—the shades of ‘globalization-from-below’ or ‘anti-globalization’—did so either by coming out as defenders of ‘globalization’ as process (see Bhagwati 2004) or by conjoining its normatively contrary possibilities as part of a single process (see Held and McGraw 2002, Held 2004). Through these moves the term became gradually abstracted from specific histories and cultures, a markedly protean and thickly connotative word. This process subsisted to a remarkable degree on the play of terminology, by the suggestive deployment of other equally abstracted terms, neologisms, variations in relation to ‘globalization’—such as the ‘local’, the ‘regional’, the ‘nation-state’, the ‘transnational’, ‘local’, ‘globalism’, ‘identity’, ‘hybridity’, ‘modernization’, ‘postmodernism’ etc. As the term thus became increasingly located in a field of decontextualized or a-contextualized abstractions it could be deployed as applicable to almost any kind of phenomenon or issue, without intrinsic normative content: so not just in the ‘globalization of media’, the ‘globalization of culture’, the ‘globalization of labour’, but also, by the same token, in the ‘globalization of crime’, the ‘globalization of surveillance’ and, of course, the ‘globalization of terror’.
And that's where the matter rests at present. This now normatively neutral, ideologically transparent, excessively applicable and superlatively meaningful term can only be repeatedly returned to specific contexts and histories – its own history as a term (this introduction so far), or to ‘global cities’, ‘imperial trade as globalization’, ‘globalization and India’…
This collection of papers is located where the term ‘globalization’ is located now. The papers in this collection are as diverse in their themes as the term currently allows, and as coherent as that term now enables. They are united in exploring the protean possibilities of ‘globalization’ in the context of India.
A final thought before ending these introductory reflections on the term ‘globalization’. The expanding reach of the term has meant that it is constantly subject to the pressures of linguistic/cultural translation. Within the linguistic/cultural coherence of the North American-Western European nexus, the term trips off the tongue unthinkingly and globalization simply is at large. In contexts where ‘globalization’ needs to be articulated in ways that are somewhat at odds with that nexus, the pressures of linguistic/cultural translation are felt in revealing ways—in ways which are sensitive to the normative complexities and ideological associations of the short history of ‘globalization’. The two ways in which the term ‘globalization’ can be translated into Farsi, for instance, has in recent years given rise to a sophisticated consideration of the local and global political and cultural nuances of that term in Iran. The translation jahanisazi has the implication of a more or less neutral engagement with or entry into the world through various means (and therefore is primarily associated with different modes of co-opting emerging technologies of simultaneous communication, knowledge transfer, international economic arrangements into existing local arrangements); the alternative translation jahanishodan has the implication of a more active construction of global arrangements (which is therefore primarily associated with anxieties about Western/Northern neo-imperialism in the name of globalization and the impact of that on local arrangements). Since the local arrangements in the state of Iran, and for the Iranian polity in general, have a powerful investment in religion, this debate centres around the relationship between the different nuances of ‘globalization’ and the prospects for religion (of the Islamic faith in particular). In India the pressures of cultural/linguistic translation are paradoxically both felt and not felt. The two current Hindi translations of ‘globalization’, bhoomandalikaran and vishwayan are revealing in an analogous fashion to the Farsi translations (without a necessary religious investment). But this does not matter as much in India (as it does, say, in Iran) because those who are most interested in the term and use it most frequently and discuss it do so in English. The term trips off their tongues, and enters academic and mass media and establishment discourses just as effortlessly as it does anywhere in North America or Western Europe.
Globalization in India
It is widely acknowledged that the term ‘globalization’ accrued increasing currency in the Indian context, among academics and activists, and in the discourses of civil society and the state from the late 1980s and the early 1990s. The increasing currency of the term in the public domain coincided with the highly-hyped process of economic liberalization that was initiated by successive Indian governments, from the government led by Rajiv Gandhi to that led by Narasimha Rao. In 1991, Manmohan Singh, the finance minister in Narasimha Rao's government, sought to speed up reforms in the national economy by curbing governmental intervention and participation in matters economic so as to facilitate India's integration into the international economy. Economic globalization seemed to have an inexorable spiral effect on other sectors of society—technology, consumer goods, culture and so on.
However, as G. Balachandran and Sanjay Subrahmanyam (2005) have cautioned, it is important to be aware of the pre-history of this moment of ‘opening up’ of India to the rest of the world and not imagine that India, prior to the end of the twentieth century, had no contact with the global world order at all. In their essay, ‘On the History of Globalisation and India : Concepts, Measures and Debates’, Subrahmanyam and Balachandran attempt to chart out this pre-history starting with India's trading links, between 1500 and 1800, with its neighbouring regions to both west and east, by way of both overland and maritime trade (28–32). By 1700, according to them, trade between India and Europe was on the ascendant as well. The trade between Europe and India in precious metals soon extended to India's exchanges on this score with Iran, Southeast Asia, Japan and the Ottoman Empire. There was also inbound and outbound human traffic during this period, in the shape of the poor of Indian origin seeking employment beyond the territories of India and foreign elites emigrating to India to improve their prospects through alliances, matrimonial and commercial, with native elites.
With the consolidation of colonialism in India by the beginning of the nineteenth century, the subcontinental trade was oriented by its rulers towards the export of agricultural goods rather than of industrial goods. Moreover, the impetus for trade was now more and more engineered by external agencies, especially exchange banks, which frequently took over the financing of Indian trade and consequently exercised influence on such matters as the standardization of the monetary system, pricing and priorities of production.
Balachandran and Subrahmanyam have cited scholars Nabendu Sen (1992) and Tirthankar Roy (2000) for instance, working with trade data compiled by the colonial state and estimates of India's national income at various periods to deduce that the ratio in India's national income of its income through foreign trade rose ‘remorselessly upwards’ from the decade succeeding the Sepoy Mutiny to the decade preceding World War I (1992, 34). They have further concluded that Indian society and economy grew more susceptible to trade links with the rest of the world during these decades. This trend was interrupted, according to them, during the First World War, but the mid-1920s appear to have witnessed a spurt in this direction once more with the share of income through foreign trade in India's national income approximating to pre-war levels if not higher, before succumbing to a steady decline, due in turn to the Great Depression, the Second World War and the strategy of fostering indigenous industrialization necessitated by the foreign exchange crisis that independent India faced with the implementation of the Second Five-Year Plan (32–39).
Now, to return to the discussion of contemporary globalization in the Indian context, that is the globalization trajectories evident in Indian society and economy as of the last two decades of the twentieth century, the most visible feature of this phenomenon has been what Pawan Verma (1999) calls the emergence of the ‘great Indian middle class,’ characterized above all by its symbiotic relationship to the expanding operation of international market-factors within the arena of a state-determined national business sector. At once enabled by and enabling for this operation, the heightened consumer capacity of a vastly aggrandized and aggrandizing Indian middle class reflects itself in the shifting values of the society as well as in the enormous growth of the economy. Manifest lifestyle changes among the middle class bespeak louder than facts and figures its enhanced consumer confidence. Lifestyle changes include higher pay packets, greater career mobility than ever before, accent on good living standards defined in terms of everyday use of commodities with brand names recognizable universally and, finally, speedy communication networks facilitated by a perpetually revolutionizing information technology. The revolution in communications, typically emblematized in the instant internet transmission of messages via the World Wide Web, has resulted no doubt in the shrinking of the globe in time and in space and its metamorphosis into a ‘village’—a much-touted ‘achievement’ of contemporary globalization claimed by the votaries of contemporary globalization. But the ‘village’ which was the globe is scarcely land marked by the traditional signifiers of the countryside and instead is profusely landscaped by the signposts of metropolitan modernity—the ultra-luxury apartment houses, departmental stores, shopping malls, multiplex theatres and rapid transport systems.
In fact, contemporary globalization in the Indian context has sharpened to an unprecedented extent the always already entrenched urban-rural divide, with the government in tandem with trans-national corporations neglecting agricultural needs to promote industrial needs. This holds true in the provinces as much as at the centre. The focus on industrial production at the expense of agricultural production has led to the marginalization of a major proportion of India's population which resides in its villages. Perhaps the most tragic consequence of this marginalization has been the unabated incidence of farmer suicides—self-annihilation by farmers driven to debt, deprivation and desperation by governmental policies in various parts of the country over the past decade. Governmental policies instigated by the globalization enthusiasm has met with more spectacular kinds of resistance from farmers who have feared that they would become victims of a land-grab movement in the name of granting territory to the so-called Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to be managed exclusively by business corporations. The uprising of the peasants of Nandigram in West Bengal against such a move in their area and their brutal repression by the government in power in the state has all but highlighted one of the emerging dialectics in a society going through the process of globalization.
Globalization has precipitated other kinds of dialectics as well—identity conflicts predicated upon anxieties among individuals and groups of being swamped over by the sway of a nameless cosmopolitanism. Scholars such as Patnaik (1995), Ahmed (1996), Hansen (1999) and Rajagopal (2001) have tracked the rise of the Hindu nationalist movement in its current assertive incarnation to the alienation of a huge constituency of peoples disjointed and dislocated from their ‘native’ moorings by the onset of ‘foreign’ cultures, thanks to globalization. The same logic could be applied to explain the emergence of other kinds of religious fundamentalisms too, Muslim, Christian and Sikh.
An inevitable offshoot of the ascendance of religious fundamentalisms has been the tendency of fundamentalist leaders of all religious communities to lay down codes of conduct to be followed by women (and sometimes even men) belonging to these religious communities so as to safeguard the communities’ ‘honour’. The assumption that certain universal, secular, human rights ought to be available to one and all has been surely, and very paradoxically, a casualty in the era of India's contemporary globalization.
Politics oriented around the assertion of identity is strangely self-reproductive. This accounts for the proliferation of movements orchestrated around identity politics not just of religion but equally of tribe, caste, creed and region in India today, often articulated in the shape of sub-nationalist movements and the corresponding retreat of movements inspired by more broad-based aspirations for economic and social parity of all citizens of the country irrespective of their community identities. (Patnaik 1995, Assayag and Fuller 2005). The politics of distributive justice can be no longer in vogue under these circumstances. Almost all of these issues, emanating from the process of the globalization of India, find their reverberations in this volume of essays.
Globalization in India: Contents and Discontents
The essays that comprise this volume offer reflections and analyses related to a wide variety of subjects and from varied disciplinary perspectives. The subjects range from the connotations of outsourcing to the medico-legal aspects of the Bhopal gas tragedy, from debates on migration to discussions on representations of globalization in film, on the internet, and print media. The logic underlying this heterogeneity becomes a little clearer if one looks at globalization not only in terms of the processes of economic exchanges and their concomitant creation of so-called global cultures, but also the ways in which the term has entered academic, establishment, and mass media discourses (a point mentioned earlier in this introduction by Suman Gupta). The essays, as Gupta points out ‘are united in exploring the protean possibilities of “globalization” in the context of India.’ Given the protean nature and applicability of the term ‘globalization’ it seems entirely appropriate that the articles that follow express this conceptual vastness. As with most analytical endeavours which are also collective, there are certain thematic continuities underlying the essays. These include the economics of globalization, the ways in which globalization impacts on and maps identity politics, conflict, and economic migration, the relationship between the global and the local, representations of globalization and the globalization of representations in film, on the internet, in literature, and in print media. The interdisciplinary nature of the essays allows for multiple perspectives to co-exist and in its entirety the collection sets up dialogues related to the core issue of globalization in India, its contents and discontents. The subtitle is perhaps indicative of the thrust of the essays in that they attempt to provide an informational as well as analytical archive of certain spheres that are within the ambit of the global or globalizing influences. The ‘contents’ of globalization in India can be best comprehended if one takes into account certain historical specificities that relate to present contexts such as the economic, religious, media, or literary. Thus, for example, the colonial archive and its imprint on attitudes to same-sex unions serves to better analyze contemporary attitudes to those unions and to homophobia. As Ruth Vanita points out in her essay, part of the paradox of globalized networks created by the internet are the ways in which both the proponents of same sex unions and the homophobes can use the technology for their particular purposes. What is significant in this case is not only the different constituencies that operate within a technological and cultural sphere but also the sense of a global fraternity, an end to victimization through isolation and here we see the intersection of the historical and the contemporary, the ‘contents and discontents’, as it were. The ‘discontent’ is not merely in terms of a critique of globalization – of which there are innumerable examples—or only in contexts of a somewhat stilted notion of the idea of ‘globalization’ as solely bound by the contemporary. It is in the constant interface between the historical and the contemporary, the economic and the literary that paradoxes and critiques surface. In many instances, such as the essay on the globalizing of Hinduism, the focus is on the history of Hindutva and the VHP, so as to foreground the manner in which religion and identity politics cohere in certain political spaces in contemporary India. The territories mapped out by essays on economic issues may not relate precisely to boundaries and problems sketched by the essays on the Tamil literary canon on the internet or British-Asian cinema. What marks these seemingly disparate essays is, however, their concern with the contextualization of various aspects of globalization within specific fields. India is not only the locus of processes related to globalization but also the subject of inquiry, investigation, reportage, and displacement. ‘Tope Omoniyi's essay deals partly with the idea of multiple identities, signifiers, and displacement in his analysis of the songs of Apache Indian. His commentary recalls Sandhya Shukla's comment on the same singer: “Apache Indian, like Indianness itself, is a floating figure onto which desires can be projected, and through which needs can be expressed.”’ (Shukla 2003, 220) Shukla is writing of Indian diasporic communities in England and the US but her comment is apposite for the manner in which India and Indianness are constructed through various discourses ranging from women's migrant labour to women's writing in Kerala to reportage of the Kashmir earthquake in 2005.
The essays in this volume can be notionally divided into four sections. These divisions have not been written onto the printed page because that seemed too schematic. As with all such schema the boundaries are not absolute and essays across subjects and disciplines share affinities and arguments as well as disagreements. Part of the endeavour of this volume is to engage with the diverse complexities involved in and arising from globalizing processes in India. As Edward Said writes in another context, ‘there is a difference…between an academic attention that flattens, cosmeticizes, and blandly assimilates social experience, and an attention no less academic that preserves, heightens, and interprets the great dissonances and discrepancies informing social, historical, and aesthetic forms’ (Said 2001, 170). The highlighting of various sections in this introduction is indicative of the rationale governing the ordering of the articles as well as certain core arguments underlying this collection, but the summaries are also pointers to the ‘dissonances and discrepancies’ informing certain analytical reflections on globalization in India.
Section I deals with the economics of globalization and the essays by Jayati Ghosh, Suman Gupta, and Suroopa Mukherjee examine certain contours of this development.
Jayati Ghosh details the processes and implications of imperialist globalization. She looks at the ways in which trade, income, and social inequities have increased in the current era of globalization along with a furtherance of revanchist cultural identities. Ghosh analyzes the ways in which the global media marginalizes the public sphere while seemingly integrating the world. She offers a way out of the seemingly inevitable hold of globalization through what she defines as a process of ‘deglobalization’. This would include a refusal to repay debts and an establishment of major controls on capital flows to allow governments to re-establish autonomy and credibility.
While Ghosh looks at a broad canvas related to economic and media globalization, Suman Gupta examines outsourcing to India and anxieties about the phenomena in the UK. He begins with a few urban legends about call-centre gaffes and then gets down to the more serious business of outlining the connotative shifts of the term ‘outsourcing’. From the beginning outsourcing was seen as a manager's weapon crucial in the ways it would cut operational and labour costs. Gupta points to the fact that by the end of the 1990s outsourcing was a term related not only to corporate organizations but to governments where services such as health, education, and welfare were outsourced by neoconservative, neoliberal administrations in the US and UK. Dwelling briefly on the conditions of inequality and post-colonial dependency that allow for outsourcing to thrive in India, Gupta analyzes how the post-colonial city is reconfigured by outsourcing in terms of cultural exchanges, as well as industrial, financial, and labour relations. Outsourcing is a source of pride within India, showcasing as it were the country's technical expertise and ease with the English language as well as cultural and financial mores that are ‘international’. It is a sign of prowess and integration. At the same time, however, outsourcing is perceived as a form of exploitation by multinational corporations and the ‘cyber coolie’ syndrome complicates the economic positives associated with the phenomenon. In his analysis Gupta highlights crucial disjunctions introduced in industrial, financial, and labour relations as a consequence of the practices created by outsourcing. That these practices impact on everyday lives and relations within Indian cities contribute further to the ‘content-discontent’ cusp within which these institutions exist.
The multinational corporation is, in many ways, the apotheosis of the impulse to wealth creation unhindered by government controls. Its seemingly transnational nature and power coupled with the possibility of industrial havoc were illustrated in the 1984 Bhopal Gas tragedy. Suroopa Mukherjee's article on the medico-legal aspects of that disaster highlights the collusion between the Indian government and Union Carbide in its settlement of compensation claims. The concept of a ‘disposable community’ aptly sums up the plight of the victims who have been silenced by the government and the media.
Bhopal highlights an extreme aspect of ‘disposable’ communities but in a sense one aspect of globalization in India (and elsewhere) has been to create such dispensable communities and a concomitant sense of dislocation. These anxieties are expressed in various ways and communal violence is one of the most egregious forms of identity politics using religious fervour to express discontent at what are often economic forces and processes apparently beyond individual volition. (Nandy 2001) The essays by Tapan Basu, Sanjoy Hazarika, and Shobana Warrier in this section relate to issues of identity politics, conflict, and economic migration.
Tapan Basu focuses on the politics of the production and projection of ‘heritage’ in the context of the Hindu nationalist movement in India. He begins with Swami Vivekananda's vision of Hinduism as a transnational religion and the fact that Vivekananda stressed the peaceful co-existence of all religions, unlike latter-day Hindutva ideologues. Basu then examines how the conflation of the punyabhumi–pitribhumi equation by V. D. Savarkar, marks a radically arrogant definition of India as the land of Hindus, a definition furthered by the activities of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Basu analyzes the ways in which the VHP mobilized expatriate Indians from the 1970s and how the Ramjanambhoomi movement added to that mobilization. For diasporic Indians the VHP constructs a symbolic spectacle of a resurgent India through images of the Ram Temple, images that are comforting for immigrants in distant lands. (Rajagopal 2001) In India the VHP ‘manufactures a victim complex’ blaming minorities and secularism for all ills. In the interplay of the local and the global and the ease with which the VHP switches from nationalism to ethnicity, from intolerance to co-operation lies the terrifying power of its brand of identity politics. It is significant that both within India and in the US and UK where the VHP has mobilized non-resident Indians, there is a desire for return to a contented Hindu past, a past cleansed of the Muslim ‘other’ as well as the invasive forces of the global economy.
Sanjoy Hazarika revisits the migration debate in India's North East and Assam in particular concentrating on the complex matrix of cross-border migration, and its ethnic, religious, social, and linguistic dimensions. Bangladeshi immigrants enter India illegally for reasons related to economic deprivation and environmental degradation and Hazarika considers problems related to ‘assimilation’ championed by the Asom Sahitya Sabha, but resisted by various anti-foreigner movements. Hazarika outlines the failure to curb the movement of people and goods across borders through efforts such as fencing and the infamous Illegal Migration Determination by Tribunal Act (IMDT). He suggests that illegal migration should be made a national political issue and a National Immigration Commission could be set up to tackle the problem. Hazarika looks to a future where mindsets may be transformed and the problems associated with illegal migration dealt with in a systematic, humane, and politically viable manner. Bangladeshi immigrants are marked in the eyes of the Hindu right as Muslim intruders and religious identity has been a persistent mode of denigration and harassment of these largely poor migrants. While MacLuhan's ‘global village’ is embodied in the ease of communication and permeability of borders, these markers of nations are continually resurrected to create coherent selves against invasive and ‘alien’ others.
M. V. Shobana Warrier deals, like Hazarika, with migration, but this time within the bounds of the country. She offers an ethnographic study of the impact of globalization on women fish workers of Kerala who are forced to migrate and work in terrible conditions. The caste-occupation network appears to collapse as the work in ‘alien’ parts of India is seen as ‘respectable’. Despite awful living and work environments, the women see their jobs as an occupational choice and as an opportunity to break the shackles of economic dependence and patriarchy prevalent in their villages. Once again the intermeshing of the global and the local has implications for individuals and communities that Warrier's micro study reveals in significant detail. One way in which global trade reiterates earlier patterns of colonial trade is the dependence on exports of primary products in developing nations. The canning of fish is one such example and while it represents a form of labour exploitation it is paradoxically a mode of empowerment for the women workers. Although the contexts are very different, a similar paradox operates in the outsourcing industry where exploitative labour conditions—long and inconvenient hours, low pay on a global comparative scale, lack of unions and basic labour rights—are nevertheless overlooked and the industry perceived as a boon for India's economic development.
This section is concerned with issues related to the relationship between the global and the local. In a crucial sense all the essays in this volume grapple with the ways in which the global and the local intersect; whether it is in a call centre, in the VHP's projection of a ‘moderate’ multicultural image in the West, or in the notions of the ‘insider’ and ‘foreigner’ in Assam. The essays by Ruth Vanita, Nilanjana Gupta, and ‘Tope Omoniyi delve further into the specificities of global–local interactions locating themselves in contexts as diverse as global gay rights and homophobia, Bengali cinema, and popular music. The diverse contexts, however, help to focus on the central argument of the varied contents and discontents created by aspects of globalization in India.
Ruth Vanita focuses on ‘how opposition to same-sex union as well as resistance to such opposition, bred by the present wave of globalization, intersects with other oppositions and resistances’. Vanita points out that homophobia in India is a British import subsequently embraced by all sections of society and although it is sometimes conjoined with family control, it must be distinguished from other and older patterns of authoritarian family control over lives and relationships. The latter is bolstered by collusion of the police at lower levels. Vanita gives numerous examples to illustrate how same-sex couples negotiate family opposition and how the courts in India have upheld the rights of same-sex couples. Same-sex marriage is also more acceptable in poorer and less westernized families, which overturns a stereotype of the westernized Indian as more liberal in outlook. In fact votaries of economic liberalization and global integration have been simultaneously supporters of social and religious conservatism (as was evident in the erstwhile BJP government). She dwells on the arrest of four gay men in Lucknow and the combination of homophobia and ignorance displayed by the police. This case, along with others, appeared in national and international media and media acts as a kind of force multiplier for corrective action if not for tolerance. Vanita argues that while homophobia is a globalized product so too is resistance to that bigotry.
Nilanjana Gupta deals with a segment of Bengali cinema and music that incorporates the dotcom revolution along with a return to traditional values. The low-budget Bengali films associate villains with the evils of globalization and display a complete lack of faith in state apparatus. Just as diasporic South Asian cinema in the UK, analyzed in Brinda Bose's article, speaks largely to the immigrant community so too the Bengali films discussed by Gupta address peculiarly Bengali attitudes and concerns. These concerns, however, have a wider field of reference particularly in their representation of globalization, the disillusionment with state interventions, and the interplay between technological modernity and ideas of the traditional. The articulation of seemingly immutable traditions threatened by the ubiquitous global—generally western—‘other’ is symptomatic of anxieties created in different contexts by the processes of globalization. That the western ‘other’ is an object of desire compounds that anxiety. From the 1980s onwards the comparative mode created a phenomenon in India that Thomas Blom Hansen defines as ‘“foreign technology fetishism”—an obsession with the stereotyped symbols of modernity: Japanese efficiency, American ingenuity, German solidity, French sophistication, Italian taste—as these qualities were believed to be embedded in commodities. Commercial advertising underlined the nationality of the foreign technology behind the particular product. It showed interestingly that “commodity fetishism” in the age of globalization is linked not only to certain global styles of consumption but also to the imagined location of one's culture and nation in a global hierarchy. The success of China and the East Asian economies attracted considerable attention among educated groups in India, and produced a feeling of being somewhat left behind a dynamic economic development in neighbouring areas. Hansen acutely observes an ‘ambivalence in Indians’ ‘imaginings of the hedonistic Westerner—the excessive, intoxicated, and immoral consumer—[who] is an established and fascinating other, not hated intensely, but rather somehow ambivalently admired for technical capability, while ridiculed for lack of self control’. (Hansen 1999, 140–211)
Tope Omoniyi analyzes the ways in which globalization has created a seemingly global youth identity (a point underscored by Nilanjana Gupta in her examination of youth music in Bengal) where satellite and digital information located in the South address issues and produce music and entertainment aimed at various diasporic communities. Apache Indian's song Make Way for the Indian asks for space within ‘alien’ communities through the reggae form. As spokesperson and role model for Asians in Britain, Steven Kapoor (aka Apache Indian) represents not rootlessness but the occupation of in-between spaces, a vibrant hybridity. Apache Indian's music and lyrics also connects to the relation between ‘roots’ and ‘routes’. ‘Roots are often proclaimed by far right nationalist groups and seem to be more about origins and “where you're from”, whereas routes bring out the movements and flows—cultural, geographical and emotional—that make up “where you're at”’. (Karim Murji 2006, 162) The anxiety of rootedness is an important one in a world seemingly devoid of firm boundaries and expressed in contexts as diverse as migration into Assam and British-Asian cinema. Apache Indian addresses questions of identity related not only to diasporic Indians but to the fraught relationship between India and its non-resident progeny. The second example that Omoniyi looks at, a programme called Groovoids on Minaj Broadcasting Corporation, Lagos, taps into the same cultural pool as Apache Indian. These instances of global youth identity create illusions of homogeneity and equality. While the flow of information from North to South has been partially stemmed and problematized, satellite channels located in the South do not necessarily reverse the hegemony of the North or imprint Southern identity. In a different context this phenomenon was observable in North American media coverage of the Kashmir earthquake which seemed to shape the contours of the debate for media representations within India. This is not to imply a simple model of media replication in the ‘weaker’ South but rather more complex forms of assimilation and reification that are indicative of technology, information, and power flows in globalized contexts.
The essays in this section deal with representations of globalization and the globalization of representations in film, on the Internet, in literature, and in print media.
Brinda Bose's essay on the negotiation of gender identities in diasporic South Asian cinema in Britain further problematizes questions of identity, memory, location, and nostalgia within the matrix of dislocation and the immigrant desire for ‘home’. Her analysis of Bhaji on the Beach and My Beautiful Laundrette emphasizes the fact that there is no pure Britishness possible at present, a point raised in Omoniyi's essay. Bose's essay relates not only to constructions of types of British identity but also to how India figures as a trope for ‘home’ within those ideations. The ‘roots’–‘routes’ ideas of immigrant identity are also negotiated in the films Bose analyzes.
Venkatachalapathy traces in detail the processes, nuances, and implications of the Tamil literary canon and identity in the colonial and post-colonial worlds. The challenge to Brahmanical hegemony located in Sangam literature significantly altered the canon in its recovery of older non-Sanskritic texts. Chalapathy highlights the collaborative work between Tamil scholars in Sri Lanka and academics in Tamil Nadu. With the global dispersal of the Tamil diaspora the Internet now functions as a mode of preserving and disseminating Tamil literature, just as in an earlier period print was perceived as a panacea for saving palm texts. Tamil is one of the most widely used languages on the net and the virtual community is not constrained by traditional boundaries of the nation. Yet through the (re)creation of a literary canon the net serves to reiterate an ‘imagined community’ that is also reflective of certain cultural and national locations. The co-existence of conservative homophobia and enabling community explored in Ruth Vanita's essay is one example of global paradoxes sustained by the internet. The Tamil literary canon Venkatachalapathy analyzes is another example of fruitful collaboration but one that is constitutive of canonical hierarchies, all the more powerful because they are disseminated on a global scale.
G. Arunima writes about how the statistically positive picture of Kerala obscures specifically gendered inequities and violence. Links between the debate on ‘women's writing’ and cultural identity and cultural politics in Kerala are the primary focus of the essay. Arunima also dwells on the ways in which patriarchal attitudes are normalized in the critique of women's writing. As in Venkatachalapathy's essay, Arunima deals with literary texts and, although the context and scope of the writings are different, there is a similar emphasis on the creation of specific cultural identities. Earlier essays in this volume have dealt with identity politics within contexts of religion or immigration or migrant labour. Within literary contexts Venkatachalapathy and Arunima dwell on aspects of identity politics which are equally troublesome and relevant in the contexts of globalization in India dealt with in this volume. None of these categories are totally self-enclosed. As Suman Gupta writes, ‘Overlapping of identity markers can lead to different kinds of fractures and shifts within any identity-based political position, as can conflicting allegiances operating on overlapping members of two or more identity-based political positions’ (Gupta 2007, 11). Some of these ‘fractures and shifts’ are enumerated and analyzed in essays across this volume, albeit in different contexts, and they further debates related to the processes, markers, and consequences of globalization in India.
Subarno Chattarji surveys some North American and Indian media responses to the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan and India. The editorials and opinion pieces from the US and Canada reflect a remarkable homogeneity of responses and this consensus was reflected hopefully and uneasily in the Indian media. The interface between the two media is indicative of the ways in which media practices mobilize aid and compassion on a global scale while contributing to the politicization of disasters. The US and Canadian media discourses were framed largely within an international humanitarian aid discourse, whereas Indian media projected the earthquake and its aftermath through the prism of Indo-Pakistan relations. While the ‘story’ of the earthquake was located in South Asia, the ‘storifying’ (to borrow a phrase from Michael Wolff's analysis of US media reports on the Weapons of Mass Destruction prior to Gulf War II) of the disaster—the setting of the parameters within which it would be reported—seemed to be located in media in the US and Canada. The articles in North American media create what Wolff calls ‘the Zeitgeist story’ (Michael Wolff 2004). While there is a local angle to the story in Indian media representations, that perspective remains limited without a sense of the global media attention devoted to the Kashmir earthquake and the implications of that media focus. The peculiar position that Kashmir occupies in the international strategic imagination, the politics of aid, and the visceral value of Kashmir in the Indian imagination are reflected in the comparative media frames studied in the article. As with all the essays in this volume, the contents and discontents, the locations and dislocations of economic, religious, literary, and media contexts and representations of globalization in India are comprehensible as much in particular local detail as in the interactions between the local and the global.
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