Cairo and Global Transformations

Anthropology: Sociocultural Impact through Economic Globalization in Consumerism and Tourism

Connectivity and globalization of technology

Globalization has been a gradual process and has existed as far back as the Middles ages to the present, as far back as the formation of states and the expansion of trade began. Some historians believe that globalization started to “boom” when Christopher Columbus made his famous journey to the Americas in search of spices, but it actually existed even further back in the past.

In Mesopotamia, ancient rulers had their own economic systems and traded with outside regions. In the Neolithic period, Chinese leaders held control over their domesticated rice with a system called “Wet Rice Agriculture,” which served as a reliable strategy to grow rice and helped them to expand. They spread into other parts of Asia including Japan, Thailand and Vietnam, and continued to grow rice where it become a main staple of Asia like it is today. In the 1650s, as soon as the Europeans were able to travel the Americas, more trade, slavery and government organizations grew fueling rapid modernization. Even the Silk Road that connected China to Europe, allowed people to sell items and make purchases. In the Europe Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, technology made a burst and many inventions were created, such as the steam engine and cotton gin. Prices began to grow and Europe began to trade with other countries because it was possible with the new technology. After all, growth in technology has been the main vehicle for globalization.

While the world is constantly changing, family values and traditions, consumerism and tourism have also transformed. The portrayal of globalization in this blog post will present it as a natural force that makes it irresistible as it shapes their identity and keeps them in touch with the world. With the unification of countries, growth of media, and consumer behavior, Japan, Egypt and Tahiti all become embedded in a globalized world.

Globalization in Japan and moving traffic

Globalization in Japan: Families, the Youth and Transforming Roles 

The influences of the globalization in Japan  are seen by the overflow of American products, fashion and food. In my most recent blog post, “Anthropology of Japanese Family Systems: Gender Roles, Marriage and Aging” I show that the ie system dictates and changes the ways that Japanese families live together. Families strive to become more modern and move away from their traditional values. Mothers are wanting to go back to work, and both men and women are not wanting to marry, raise children, or take care of their elderly parents. Globalization can be applied to family and marriage traditions in Japan. Cultures are constantly fluctuating and transforming, and the changes in a culture can be seen as a process that has been going on since the beginning of human-kind.

In Understanding Japanese Society, Joy Hendry reveals how the favoring of rapid development, new technologies and media creates a sense of liberation for the youth. We all know that Japan can be seen as one of the fastest growing nations in the world and is constantly developing new technologies. In relation to globalization, liberation is reflected in relation to how social statuses have been breaking down from the influence of global anime, rap and music. People and small communities have been development and even coming together with the intensity of freedom of expression and exposure to the media. Children no longer feel isolated and communicate with their friends on a day to day or hour to hour basis with technology and the growth of cell phones. Ultimately, Japan has also been integrating new markets in order to support their growth and continue as an economic powerhouse.

In one of my other blog posts, “Anthropology of Japanese Hikikomori: The Sociocultural Impact of Increased Exposure to Technology and Covid-19” I wrote that some Japanese people have become so pressured by the workforce and other family obligations that the youth have begun to resist. Hikikomori is a form of resistance against the adult order, where young men, especially, have begun to socially withdraw themselves and do not leave their home in order to avoid pressures (Hendry). The globalized media all over the world has played a large role in encouraging the population to do more work. In order to avoid these pressures, there are many ways for families to recover from the rapid modernization, such as leaving Japan, moving to a different school or changing jobs. Overall, globalization becomes acceptable in a place like Japan, as the people attempt to aspire for power and wealth, and also move away from traditional values.

Cairo and Global Transformations

Globalization in Egypt: Consumerism, Magazines, Coffee

In a globalizing Egypt and ethnography, Connected in Cairo: Growing up Cosmopolitan in the Modern Middle East, Peterson describes a variety of comic books and magazines which further an Arabic sense of identity and community for the elite parents and children as well as reveals how globalization is currently furthering their technology and deemed as irreversible.  He uses “thick description” in his novel to represent how socio-economic elite establish their identity and invest in a form of cosmopolitanism through consumption. In Cairo, “the ability to adopt appropriate Western” style, understand technologies and appreciate Western tastes have become “class markers” (Peterson 39). The majority of the magazines are written in Arabic, but are translated into other languages including English. The use of English allows children and parents to feel as if they are being connected to the world at large, and parents want children to be aware of the constantly changing world around them. The contents in the magazine help shape a sense of community and create a regional identity that is simultaneously Arab, Islamic and a bigger community of consumption (pp.47-48). Readers who read these magazines feel connected to each other by sending in photographs of their life events such as weddings or graduations to the publisher (pp. 46).

Cairo is transforming as a cosmopolitan society as globalization takes over and people are now communicating with each other through other modes. Peterson uses a child named Yaseen in his book as an example of modernization, because the child has less interest in children’s magazines. The magazines no longer help the boy to develop his identity in his native culture, because it is more important to him to feel connected to others on the computer. With the computer, he is connected to his friends at any moment. The process is irreversible with the advancement of these new technologies. Overall, the magazines portray a world of consumer goods and a transnational world of commodities where Peterson presents his informant’s sense of connection to each other, and their desire for the West.

Coffee Shops in Cairo closing early

Globalization, Cairo Coffee Shops and Gender Roles 

Peterson also shows that nobody actually dictates or controls globalization processes, and it actually can be characterized as a natural process that creates consumption for Cairenes. At the First Mall, a “self-contained world of consumption;” people exchange their money for “social-capital” and elite classes are able to show-off their wealth (pp.139-140). Peterson focuses on two cafés: La Gourmandise, a modernized coffee shop at the mall, and ‘Ahawis, traditional coffee shops around Cairo, where both act as a vehicle to bring Cairenes into the global world.  At La Gourmandise, people dress in their most expensive clothes, drink espresso imported from Latin America and eat French pastries (pp.141). For women, the modern coffee shops make them feel “cosmopolitan” and help them to construct their feminism, because lower-classes are unable to enter (pp.169).

At ‘Ahawis, men sit in circles and smoke while women cover themselves up in order to enter male dominated sites, or when they leave their husbands to go shopping (pp.156). Men go to Ahawi’ in order to display their masculinity, while women feel less comfortable there and choose to go to modern cafes. The coffee shops do not dominate each other, but co-exist together and open up new spaces for socializing. The focus on Euro-American style coffee chains and their contrast with ‘Ahawis’ highlights the unique ways men and women can assert their identity as well as not feel controlled by globalization yet participate in consumption.  The globalized transformations in Cairo are also relevant to other places such as Tahiti.

Democracy in Cairo

Globalization and Democracy in Cairo:

Lastly, globalization also promotes the spread of democracy especially in the Middle East. While modernizing authoritarian countries such as China use technology for economic development, they do keep citizens from using it in various countries. However, countries in the Middle East are rapidly modernizing and receiving support from the United States. As shown in the past paragraphs, Peterson has described how technologies and consumption have been spreading with new freedoms and equality. The promotion of democracy has been advertised on social media platforms. Overall, changing attitudes in the Middle East toward equal freedoms and rights have been allowing for better changes and advancements.

Tourism and Consumerism in Tahiti

 Globalization and Tourism in Tahiti

In Beyond the Postcard, Miriam Khan reflects how tourism has influenced Tahiti’s change to become more global, and actually benefits the whole population. She draws from her ethnographic field work and archival research, and shows that when tourists decide to travel somewhere their choice is influenced by the sights they would like to see. If Tahiti is one’s true destination, their decision is “based on specific images seen on brochures, videos, and websites.”

She argues that “globalization is the expansion of Western institution and lifeways into non-Western cultures and the emergence of new forms of cultural practice that are global in scope” (Kahn, introduction). In order to attract more people and make money, Khan says that “tourism can be seen as a collection of projected images that established the boundary experience and is meant to satisfy all groups” (102). These images do not represent traditional Tahitian values and only increase the desire to make more money, but reinforce economic benefits in the long run. The touristy performances, hula dancers, palm trees, white sands and blue oceans only create an objectifying experience for the people that live there, but the Tahitians continue to chase wealth and attracting tourists to their country. Tourism appears helpful to the majority of the civilians in Tahiti. While globalization may be negative in this ethnography, societies adapt it only to feel liberated, create new transformations and benefit everyone.

Globalization Around the world with a KFC and McDonalds

Significance in Anthropology:

When studying a place, anthropologists always look at all aspects including the “physical, tangible, geographical- landscapes, plazas, markets, spatial forms in the built environment, houses and ideas about homes, maps, images, tourist sites, recreated settings, urbanism and even ruins” (Kahn 2011). Many historians argue globalization as a new phenomenon, and this topic is deeply controversial and up to debate. According to Steger who looks at give aspects of globalization (economic, political, cultural, ideological and ecological), dynamic processes started thousands of years ago and it becomes important to limit the term globalization. While it does allow impoverished countries to grow, anthropologists and historians argue that these same countries are losing their traditional culture and are becoming too much like the West. Connections and relationships with other countries began with the growth of technology which included computers, airplanes and the internet. However, this is not the case at all times. While the world is indeed modernizing at a rapid pace, it would not have not become this way without the past relationships made throughout history. The historical approach that I summarized at the beginning of this blog post appears as the most reasonable to comprehend the aspects of globalization.

Tahitian Consumerism and Tourism

All works I used draw briefly on the dynamic processes that are created by globalization and modernity in Egypt, Tahiti, and Japan. This rapid takeover of technology, consumerism, and tourism are mostly helpful to Egypt, Japan and Tahiti. However, while tourism and dependence on technology seems to be more harmful, countries like Japan and Tahiti, they are still able to feel modern and closer to Western culture. As said before in some of the works I presented above, to survive the modern world today, society has to decide if modernization is worth sacrificing one’s culture as well as weigh out the benefits. More work on other cultures that are transforming and changing should be researched as well. While globalization may seem negative and harmful, cultures are constantly changing, and the changes in a culture can be seen as a process that has been going on since the beginning of human-kind. It will be much interesting to see what the next fifty years will bring us in this rapidly growing world as cultures are constantly changing and evolving.

Globalization Significance and World Map

Works Cited 

Connected in Cairo: Growing up Cosmopolitan in the Modern Middle East. Mark Allen Peterson.  Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011.

Hendry, Joy. Understanding Japanese Society. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2012. Print

Kahn, Miriam. Tahiti Beyond the Postcard: Power, Place and Everyday Life (Culture, Place and Everyday Life). Washington: University of Washington Press, 2011.

Mattová, I. 2003. Globalizácia. Prešov: Nitech.

Steger, Manfred B., 1961. author. Globalization : a Very Short Introduction. Oxford :Oxford University Press, 2013.

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