Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2006

The Anthropology of Global Process

Lecturer: Professor Jonathan Friedman,
Department of Social Anthropology, Lund University, Sweden
& Directeur d'études at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences
Sociales in Paris, France

Main discipline: Social Anthropology, Sociology

Dates: 31 July - 4 August 2006
Course Credits: 10 pts (ECTS)
Limitation: 30 participants

The purpose of this course is to situate an anthropology of global systems or global process in contrast to currently popular versions global discourse concerning globalization, empire and the like. Via an analysis of the discourses themselves it seeks to lay bare the logical structures and inconsistencies as well as situating them in terms of their social positional origins. By starting with globalization as a contemporary phenomenon the course seeks to demonstrate the degree to which the phenomenon is historically specific and repetitive rather than world historical or evolutionary as often presented in the popular discourses. The analysis seeks to locate the latter in terms of larger global systemic processes and to explore the historical precedents of the contemporary situation in order to relativize the latter as well as introducing another kind of approach. This part of the course is to be presented in the form of a series of arguments in which prominent examples of the globalization approach are presented followed by a critical discussion.

The next section takes up a number of central issues that have arisen in the development of the analysis of global process. The phenomenon of the transnational is presented and discussed as the closest empirical basis of much of the globalization discussion, but here it is dealt with in global systemic terms in which the articulation of social forms and global processes are the major focus. The issue of closed versus open worlds is taken up in relation to diaspora formation. The historical and quite discontinuous processes of transnationalization of populations and the mechanisms of identification are related to the articulation between demographic movement and "integration". This is followed by the question of empire formation and shifting hegemony in world systems, past and present. The discussions related to the apparent expansion of US hegemony and its equally apparent failure are discussed in historical perspective and related to issues of order/disorder, the sociality of fear and the decline of social solidarity, the emergence of "new2 identities both locally and globally. The issue of the relation of declining hegemony to globalization is also broached in this section, following ideas of the French historian Fernand Braudel. We then return to the issue of globalization in relation to cosmopolitanization and class reconfiguration in terms of a global systemic approach. The theoretical issue of culture in global terms is a focus of this section of the course. The final section of the course applies the preceding analyses to the phenomenon of contemporary terrorism and to the geopolitics of cultural/religious/ethnic identity.

The course is meant to answer a certain deficiency that has been expressed increasingly among many graduate students, concerning the fundamental lack of empirical foundations for much of the current analysis of world affairs in both anthropology, cultural studies and postcolonial studies. This course attempts to correct this by including the discourse of the global within its field of analysis and by proposing a contrasting approach to the understanding of global/regional arenas that focuses on the structures and dynamics of social process.

Essential readings



Lecture 1: Globalization: Discourse and Reality

This introduction deals with the popular discourse of globalization, its origins business economics and its diffusion to other fields including anthropology. It analyzes the forms and underlying premisses of the representations of the world that are embedded in this massive textual operation. Literature from sociology (Castells), geography (Harvey) is left out of the required reading but will be discussed in the lecture and is part of the longer literature list.


Lectures 2 and 3: Globalization: critical analyses

This section deals with the critical analysis of globalization in terms of two axes. The first is the question of scientific adequacy and the second is the analysis of the relation between social position and the production of such discourses. Here the issue of global social systemic analysis is introduced as a way of understanding globalization talk.



Lectures 4 and 5: The transnational and the local in the global arena

This section deals with the empirical realities of transnational relations in terms of the global approach that we have suggested. Issues such as the historical conditions in which diasporas are formed and the way in which they disappear or become national minorities is part of an analysis of the way in which states and the culture of state organization is transformed over time.



Lectures 6 and 7: Empire and declining hegemony

This section begins with the suggestion that "globalization" is related to periods of declining hegemony and develops this as a long term historical argument. It deals with the issue of empire in similar terms. The question of empire as an evolutionary versus a devolutionary phenomenon is discussed in relation to the influential works of Hardt and Negri and the concrete experience of declining US hegemony is taken up in relation to the question of failed imperial strategies.


Lectures 8 and 9: Globalization, cosmpolitanism and class

This section focusses on the relations between group formation and cultural production, not least the nature of cultural process in relation to transforming conditions of class formation. Issues of cosmopolitan identification, transnational community formation, global elites and their strategies are central to this discussion.


Lecture 10: Terrorism and geopolitics as expression of the historicity of the contemporary

This sections applies the global anthropological approach to the contemporary conflictual situations that have arisen in relation to the rise of islamism, terrorism, occidentalism, in which the re-configuration of the world arena can be understood in terms of hegemonic shifts and increasing instability. The latter in turn are related to emergent new identities, not only locally but also in terms of world regions. In order to grasp such situation we need a specific orientation to particular histories, such as Islam as it relates to world history as well as to the world systemic connjucture.

The Lecturer

Jonathan Friedman is Professor of Social Anthropology at Lund University in Sweden.

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