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Around the world in 13 weeks

Around the world in 13 weeks

Ryan Schram

November 1, 2017


Mills 169 (A26)

Available at http://anthro.rschram.org/1002/13.2

With help from Terry Woronov and the ANTH 1002 tutors.

Global forces and cultural differences

  • Capitalism
  • Colonialism
  • Global religions, e.g. Christianity and Islam
  • transcultural discourses of conservation and sustainability
  • global warming and its effects on local environments

Capitalism is a culture

  • Capitalism is a culture, not a space of “freedom.”
  • In a capitalist system, people must play the role of the individual.
  • Capitalism creates illusions, e.g. commodity fetishism.

The conjuncture of cultures

  • No society exists in isolation; everyone lives in an intersection of two or more systems.
  • Contemporary societies are all different, but we can understand them all as variations on the encounter of reciprocity and commodification.
    • Efflorescence
    • Tension, conflict, segregation
    • Transformation
  • Global forces are context for local cultural systems, and vice versa.
  • This is not just true about global capitalism; we can apply the same perspective to any global movement, even climate change.
    • Climate migration
    • “Gone the bull of winter”
    • The fantasy that indigenous people are wise prophets of sustainability

The snake and the mongoose

Once upon a time there was a snake and a mongoose…

Many opposites - values, ideas, institutions - are not binary, either-or. They are contradictions and they exist in an ambiguous tension which is both a source of conflict but also creativity.

Snake and mongoose

That is, contemporary life is defined by its contradictions. There are co-present forces in tension, leading to conflict and also unexpected side-effects.

  • Globalization involves change in societies.
  • Globalization allows people to recreate a coherent cultural order with new materials.

Everything is mixed

Categories are not dichotomous; Many opposites are actually co-present.

  • Tradition / modernity
  • Developed / undeveloped
  • Custom / rationality
  • Gift / commodity
  • Love / money

Each society, big or small, is also a microcosm of the whole world.


Blain, Andrea. 2014. “'Snake and Mongoo$e' Races into Homes This Spring.” PR Newschannel. January 21. http://www.prnewschannel.com/2014/01/21/action-packed-film-snake-and-mongoose-races-into-homes-this-spring/.

Lacock, Hennie. 2013. Cobra and Mongoose. Caters New Agency. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/photo/2013-10/29/132841640_11n.jpg.

Pollock, Jackson. 1948. No. 5, 1948. Oil on canvas. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=No._5,_1948&oldid=631373543.

A guide to the unit

1002/13.2.txt · Last modified: 2017/10/30 21:25 by ryans