cultural globalization

International Students avoiding US

International Students. By Vrenibean (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
One aspect of cultural globalization is the movement of students amongst countries. Over the last few years I have noticed a strong trend as more of my undergraduate students ask me for letters of recommendation to apply to graduate programs in Latin America, Europe, South Africa and New Zealand. In part, I believe that the rising relative cost of an education in the United States drives this trend. At the same time, just under a quarter of the students in our International and Global Studies department at Portland State University are international students. In my program, a discussion concerning migration will be shaped by the fact that there is often someone in the class who is either a refugee, or the child of refugees. This exchange is part of what makes higher education in the United States a cosmopolitan world.

I am very concerned that the travel ban and anti-immigrant rhetoric in the United States changes how our country is perceived as a place to study on a global level. If students are uncertain that they will be welcomed, why would they apply here instead of the University of Victoria in Canada or the University of Manchester in Britain? Sadly, we seem to be already seeing declining international enrollments at my institution, as this article by Stephanie Saul in the New York Times discusses.

Shawn Smallman, 2017

Love, hate and novels

When I talk about globalization in my introductory class, it’s common for my students to think immediately of economic globalization, rather than other aspects such as cultural globalization. Yet to be a global citizen entails making connections between our worlds and that of others, and one of the best forms to do this is through music, art and literature, which make an emotional tie to other cultures. I recommend this interview with Indonesian author Eka Kurniawan, in this article “The Profound Reason we should all Read Internationally, not Locally.”

Shawn Smallman, 2017

The Globalized Arctic

Image of Polar Bear thanks to

This month’s issue of National Geographic has an article, “Vikings and Native Americans,” which focuses on archaeologist Patricia Sutherland’s work on Viking sites in the Canadian Arctic, particularly at Tanfield Valley. Sutherland has found a number of sites in the Arctic that contain Viking items. Other lines of evidence now suggest that there was a long trading relationship between the Dorset peoples of the Canadian Arctic and the Viking settlements in Greenland. These exchanges may have included genes, as is suggested by evidence for First Nation’s ancestry amongst a small number of modern Icelanders. The most likely explanation was that a Native American women came to Iceland around 1000 AD, about the time that the Norse first traveled to the New World.  Peter Schledermann’s chapter, “Ellesmere: Vikings in the Far North,” in Vikings: the North Atlantic Saga details other evidence that the Norse traders left in the Canadian High Arctic. …

Sheng: Cultural Globalization and New Languages in Africa

With cultural globalization comes cultural change. I have been on the Rio Negro in the Amazon rainforest, only to hear a canoe approach with someone playing Madonna. Hip hop has become a global phenomenon. Many people decry what they see as the emergence of a new global culture: shallow, celebrity-focused and American dominated. Part of this critique focuses on the danger not only to local cultures, but also to languages, thousands of which are endangered globally. The Enduring Voices project of National Geographic is currently seeking to record some of these tongues before they disappear forever, not only to document them for history, but also to facilitate efforts to revitalize them. I have thought about indigenous language based on my field work in Oaxaca around HIV/AIDS. How do you do HIV prevention work in a region that may have more than 16 different indigenous languages, each of which has many different dialects? Zapotec itself has more than twenty dialects, each of which has its own name, such as Lhej, Xan, Xhon and Xidza. The diversity of these languages is amazing. Mazotec is a tonal language, which has a whistled form, so that people can communicate across the valleys through whistles. But while we focus on language loss, and indigenous languages, it is interesting to also remember that new languages are also being born. …

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