In a township community center outside of Cape Town, South Africa, LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” blasts through the speaker system. I am sitting among 140 American students who are currently being entertained by the townships’ youth as a welcome party for our upcoming weekend stay. The act following the “Party Rock Anthem” performance is called “The Black Kardashians.” These three young black women danced and gyrated to Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls)” with surprising accuracy. It’s safe to say that every American student in that community center was entertained by the Western-style entertainment we were witnessing. However, after the weekend was over, I couldn’t help but feel the unease and discomfort wash over me. Why did they call themselves “the Black Kardashians”? Why did I hear “Party Rock Anthem” twenty times that entire weekend? Didn’t I come here to learn about a new culture that is so vastly different from America? Maybe I was being naïve, but I did not understand their desire to escape their culture.
As we get deeper into our readings and discussion on globalization, the Black Kardashians become clearer to me. As I read “McDonald’s in Hong Kong” by James Watson, I immediately saw the connection to my homestay in the South African township. Much like the McDonalds’ in Hong Kong, the presence of Beyoncé and LMFAO in Cape Town brings into question the homogenization of global cultures. Is the whole world becoming “Americanized”? Will Kim, Khloé and Kourtney become the girls who “Run the World”? Scary thought. In a world where the interconnectivity between cultures, people, economies, and politics is increasing as new technologies create new pathways, it is easy to think that we will soon become one global culture. But as Watson points out, the transnational is becoming the local; McDonald’s is integrated into Hong Kong’s urban landscape. We must try to understand that to be globalization does not necessarily impose a unified identity upon a culture. The more connections are made, the more integrated our globe becomes, and as long as the local culture is not squashed by the McDonalds’ or Kardashians of the world, we may be able to see that globalization does not mean homogenization.
The Black Kardashians in action: