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- Overrun by fast changes

What do you do when a global cooperation pollutes your hometown, while the owners live on a different continent? Who can you complain to when your job is moved to China? The research project Overheating has studied local consequences of globalization.

The closing conference was June 1.

Thomas Hylland Eriksen

Project leader Thomas Hylland Eriksen (2012). Photo: Ram Gupta

A world where changes are happening at an accelerating pace. Where people feel helpless faced with overwhelming expectations, and where we lack a global mechanism to slow down. This is the background for Overheating, a global research project at the Department of Social Anthropology at UiO, led by Thomas Hylland Eriksen.

– An overall issue that we have observed, is that people feel overrun by fast and comprehensive changes. The decisions are made at one level while the people affected by the decision are at a completely different level. People feel powerless because they do not know whom to address when decisions that are made so far away have crucial impacts on their local area and their lives, says Eriksen.

Global actors and local people

These scale conflicts are one of the main findings in the project, where Eriksen and his team have been studying the accelerating changes in the world on three major areas: Culture and Identity, Economy and Climate and Environment.

– In Europe, there is a strong focus on immigration being a consequence of globalisation. In other parts of the world however, there are different issues dominating the agenda, such as local pollution, climate change, economy and labor market.

Regardless the issues, the researchers have found common features. Global actors take over and move the decision making process up to a higher scale to avoid conflicts with the local communities. It is much harder for a local inhabitant to know where to address his complaint, it is harder to make oneself heard and many feel overrun and overlooked.

– It is much harder for a local person to get to talk to and to be heard by a manager employed by a global concern, who lives far away and only flies in once a month, than to contact a business manager living in the local area. There are many legitimate complaints that ends up at the wrong addressee.

The feeling of bitterness and powerlessness and of being overrun, are also part of the explanation to last year’s political earthquakes in Northern Europe and USA with Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory.

Closing conference

Overheating started on July 1 2012. The closing conference will take place on Thursday June 1 at the House of literature in Oslo.



Published May 5, 2017 2:22 PM - Last modified June 21, 2017 10:22 AM