When I first think of the word globalization, I tend to immediately translate it in my mind to reflect what is better understood as “Westernization”, which is reasonable enough given that my semester abroad was littered with McDonald’s and American pop-culture references. As a powerhouse of the world in entertainment, thought, and politics, it is easy to understand why a great deal of our cultural material has transcended national and cultural boundaries. We talk about the Westernization of indigenous groups and how it’s such a shame that everything is becoming homogenized to mirror the ideals of the West, when in fact globalization is so much more than that.
Amartya Sen’s chapter on “How to Judge Globalism” mentions that approximately a thousand years ago the “global reach of science, technology, and mathematics” was slowly changing the world, but the dissemination of knowledge occurred in the opposite direction in which it occurs today. Many of these inventions and technologies originated in China.
This got me thinking about the ways in which Eastern ideals and technologies affect those of us in the West today, such as with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). I have received treatment for ailments and suffering via acupuncture and TCM herbal supplements — and let me tell you, that stuff works! It’s a “miracle” of sorts in the Western scientific paradigm in which we live. We are used to seeking doctors and pharmaceutical prescriptions when something goes wrong, rather than understanding the holistic balance of energy and health in our bodies as those in TCM strive to do. We often discount alternative systems of health and medicine as “trendy” or new age hullabaloo, especially those that don’t align with our Western conception of what is medicine. More recently though, TCM has gained clout in our society and is increasingly becoming something people turn to with confidence. It is interesting to note, however, that it is only gaining in popularity and assigned value as it is validated by the scientific method of the West. In this way, globalization seems to be a dance of sorts. One society puts forth ideas and technologies and others adapt them to make them more comfortable for their own purposes and to fit within their own ideologies, thereby sharing information but maintaining cultural distinctions.
Sources & Related Lit:
Zhan, Mei. “Does it Take a Miracle? Negotiating Knowledges, Identities, and Communities of Traditional Chinese Medicine.” Cultural Anthropology 16, no. 4 (11, 2001): 453-480.
Sen, Amartya. “How to Judge Globalism” The Globalization Reader 4th ed. Ed. Frank J. Lechner and John Boli. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. 16-21. Print.