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Globalisation - Australia and Asia

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Edward Said states, "No one today is purely one thing. Labels like Indian, or woman, or Muslim, or American are no more than starting points." Said's idea illustrates the evolution of relations between communities as a result of globalization, and the understanding and recognition of other cultures through the interpretation of cultural borders.

In this essay I will analyse to what extent globalisation is affecting identity formation, and also the roles of cultural borders in today's world. I will assess whether through globalisation of the media we are in fact overcoming cultural borders and traditional stereotypes and in turn forging a mutual respect between foreign communities, or as Said argues (Said cited in Crary & Mariani1990), whether globalisation and Western media dominance through peripheral and Third World societies is perpetuating Western superiority, "the ever rolling march of commodification, the old form of globalisation, fully in keeping with the west, which is simply able to absorb everybody else within its drive" (Hall 1991), and spreading hegemony, with little or selected representation of local culture. I will be using studies of Australia/Asian relations to illustrate these ideas.

In order to apply these ideas to Australian and Asian relations, we must first establish how we some have come to realise that "no one today is purely one thing", as opposed to years gone by. As Said (1978) and others have shown, Europe, from which Australia's culture originates, has traditionally viewed Asia and Asians with contempt and inferiority, and "one of its deepest and most reoccurring images of Other" (Said 1978, p.1). Asians have been "repeatedly characterised by some western texts as alternatively lazy, stupid, mindless, barbaric and untrustworthy [which has] served as a guarantee of the Ð''superiority of the Briton, American, German or Australian over many years" (Birch, Schirato & Srivastava 2001, p.5). As Said (1978, cited in Crary & Mariani1990) and Birch et al. (2001) show, Asians have been represented as inferior and essentially different to their colonising European counterparts. Australians, too, have looked (and arguably continue look) upon Asian people (and in light of this essay any other people) as essentially different to themselves.

As D'Cruz and Steele (2003) demonstrate, Asians have been ostracized in Australian society:

To further justify the isolation and exclusion of people-of-colour from the public culture, white Australians attributed to Asians the most putrid feelings and behavior their imaginations could muster. Archival accounts of the continuous race hatred directed against coloured people in AustraliaÐ'...reveal the sexual and other preoccupations that occupied those white minds from which such fantasies emanated (p. 43)

Australians wanted little to do with Asia, and besides those who wanted to "expand the Western Sphere of influence in the region" (Rizvi 1996, p.175), few Australians traveled to Asia. Asian people were essentially defined by their race, and by their embodiment of not being European.

It is with these historical perceptions in mind that Said's statement holds extreme worth. Said could be seen as acknowledging past stereotypical labels enforced on Asian people, and dismissing these labels in today's world, implying that something has changed to make these labels "no more than starting points". Relating this to Australia/Asia, we note that Australians previously judged Asians purely and solely on racial grounds: "Race became a key explanatory factor not only in academic anthropology, but more importantly in the popular imagination of Australians." (Rizvi 1996, p. 175).

Cultural confusion and an unwillingness to appreciate local customs and values gave birth to a contempt for local culture. Local people were simply seen as Ð''other', and "non-European people needed to be tamed or civilised, made Ð''normal'" (Rizvi 1996, p.175).

Whereas before people of different cultures, in this case Asians, were viewed in a somewhat confused and distant light, today's world offers far more in the realm of learning about other cultures and people thanks to globalisation. According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), globalisation has helped nations and communities interact, helping to break down cultural and lingual barriers, resulting in not only the evolution of international markets but the development of better cultural understanding:

The resolve of Western states to build and strengthen international ties in the aftermath of World War II laid the groundwork for today's globalisation. It has brought diminishing national borders and the fusing of individual national markets. The fall of protectionist barriers has stimulated free movement of capital and paved the way for companies to set up several bases around the world. The rise of the internet and recent advances in telecommunications have boosted the already surging train. For consumers and avowed capitalists, this is largely a good thing. Vigorous trade has made for more choice in the High Street, greater spending, rising living standards and a growth in international travel. And that's just the tip of it. Supporters of globalisation say it has promoted information exchange, led to a greater understanding of other cultures and allowed democracy to triumph over autocracy.

(BBC News 2000, pars. 10-14)

It is through globalisation that Said's idea of labels no longer being enough to describe a person is viable because cultures are experiencing and learning about other cultures through cultural studies (Patience & Jacques 2003, pp. 45-7) and the global media network. This is seen by many as an influential tool in combating racism, and breaking down the "colonising attitude" and "naturalised idea of European/American superiority" (Birch et al. 2001, p. 2).

However, many argue that globalisation is a Western power, and thus does not promote equality in relation to cultural understanding and respect (Crary & Mariani 1990, Grossberg 1997, BBC 2001). In this case globalisation is seen as spreading Western cultural hegemony throughout the world, threatening traditional cultures and national identities in Third World and peripheral countries, thus perpetuating the image of the "western colonising nation" (Birch et al. 2001, p.2).

Lawrence Grossberg (1997) points out that globalisation "is a power that generally belongs to Ð''the West'" (p. 20). He argues that globalisation



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