Geography N20: Globalization

Geography N20
CCN: 46615
(3 units)
Anthony Fontes
Location: 145 McCone
Times: TuWTh 9-11:30

Globalization is the zeitgeist of our era. Over the last several decades, we have witnessed an unprecedented extension, intensification, and acceleration of worldwide interconnections that make a difference in people’s lives. Ideas, information, objects, technology and people move around the world faster and farther than ever before. We all have a sense of this. Without leaving your home, you can watch footage of bloody protests in the Ukraine, massacres in Syria, the hottest Korean music video, and the results of national elections in India. You can purchase rare West African insects on Amazon, learn to speak Swahili, and video chat with your best friend in Australia. Access to such immediate global connections is truly unprecedented in human history, making the present era of globalization unlike any other that came before. But as growing global connections open new avenues to empowerment and exchange, they also create a sense of powerlessness. Every day, myriad aspects of our lives are shaped by people we will never meet in places we have never been, even as our own actions have consequences for others that we cannot guess.

Some people and societies experience the dark side of globalization more sharply than others. Amidst all this global connection and exchange, we continue to treat our close and distant neighbors with terrible disregard. Even though our capacity to witness and know about far-flung places and people has increased exponentially, our ability or willingness to understand, empathize with, and take action against violence and suffering remains terribly ineffectual. And this violence and suffering is often provoked by or rooted in state policies, unequal socio-economic relations, and histories of domination and devastation that we, wittingly or not, benefit from everyday.

This class will explore the unprecedented connections made possible by globalization, and the ways these exchanges transform or deepen relations of inequality and elite domination. Through this exploration, we will examine what it means to be a “global citizen”, and strive to form an appropriate ethical stance towards the pain and suffering of people we will never meet but are connected to in ways we cannot deny.

In addition to newspapers, scholarly material, and non-fiction stories, we will also make extensive use of contemporary films (Sin Nombre, Hunger Games, and Frozen, for example). Students will complete a research project exploring a commodity in history and tracing its contemporary geographic routes and relations of production. There will be a final exam. Finally, much of our learning will take place in conversations, debates, and presentations, and I place great value on both attendance and participation in lecture.