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Cultural change across neighbouring territories

April 5, 2010

We are so used to the received notion of ‘glocalisation’ (the idea that the world is becoming  globalised, yet with ‘local’ characteristics) that we overlook precious clues to numerous other cultural developments on the ground.

1. Take the entangled cultural histories of any two neighbouring territories, say East and West Germany, North and South Korea, East and West Malaysia, Scotland and England, Senegal and Gambia, and so on.

2. Study their processes of cultural differentiation as well as de-differentiation from each other over a well-defined historical period, say from 1945 to the present in the case of the two Germanies, from 1963 to the present in the Malaysian case, etc.

3. I hypothesise you would find both processes of differentiation and de-differentiation between the two territories unfolding simultaneously and interacting with one another in complex ways. For instance, the fraught relations between the Sarawak government in East Malaysia and its hunter-gathering populations continue to evolve in ways that are influenced by, but autonomous from, the federal authorities in West Malaysia.

4. You will also find, I hazard, that certain historical phases will be generally characterised by greater cultural convergence between the two neighbours (e.g. post-1989 in Germany) and others by greater divergence (e.g. 1945 to 1989 in Germany).

5. At any rate, total cultural convergence between the two territories is an unattainable goal, a pan-nationalist fantasy. Neighbouring lands can become very similar in their ‘total way of life’, but some cultural differences will always survive political (re)unification.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 6, 2010 3:12 pm

    In other words, we are so accustomed to describing globalisation via the local-global interface that we often forget bilateral and other ‘horizontal’ relationships that obtain among territories. It is rather like trying to understand a text through whole-part relations only, without considering part-part relations.

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