Table of contents
Culture and Globalization
The influence of globalization on Grenada’s culture
Positive impacts of Globalization on Grenada’s Culture
Negative impacts of Globalization on Grenada’s Culture
In 1964 famed communication scholar and theorist Marshall McLuhan coined the term ‘global village’ in reference to the world and its evolving transformation. The term has since been widely used in media, communication, and culture research studies. McLuhan used the term to “describe the world that has been “shrunk” by modern advances in communications, he compared the vast network of communications systems to one extended central nervous system ultimately linking everyone in the world” (The American Heritage, 2005).
It is on this premise that globalization has been revolutionized. Globalization is not a new concept but has changed drastically as a result of advanced communication and information technologies creating border less landscapes politically, economically, socially, and culturally. Globalization is not universally defined, as it is understood from varying perspectives and academic disciplines. Jones M. Jaja (2010) suggests that “globalization is the aspiration to integrate all the societies in the world, all the societies on the globe” (p.115). Jaja (2010) further concludes that globalization and Americanization, although share the similarity of homogenizing the globe, they are not the same; “Americanization of the globe is the worldwide spread and dominance of American influence and culture” (p.117).
This conclusion clearly speaks to the cultural environment in Grenada which is highly influenced by American culture. This paper focuses on the influences globalization has on Grenada’s culture, it also looks at globalization and culture as an inseparable unit and highlights the cultural changes and consequences of globalization on the island of Grenada.
Grenada is a small tri-island state located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, it houses a population of just about 110, 152 people (Central Intelligence Agency, 2015). It is a developing country which depends on tourism and agricultural as the main contributors to its economy. Grenada’s culture resembles patterns of American way of life, and those patterns are evident in the food, music, language, and mode of dress, all of which forms part of our cultural identity. Grenada’s participation in this globalized world came without debate or questions, fragments of globalization were everywhere; in the media, at home, at schools, work places, hospitals and at church. It was a matter of accepting of risk being marginalized.
Like globalization, culture by definition is not unanimously accepted, it “is a notoriously difficult term to define” (Spencer-Oatey, 2012, p.1). This paper employs the definition by Ember and Ember (2011) that “culture is the set of learned behaviors and ideas (including beliefs, attitudes, values, and ideals) that are characteristics of a particular society or other social group” (p.16). These scholars emphasize that culture is generally shared, but noted that culture is also learned.
Culture and Globalization
As pointed out earlier, there are varying definitions of globalization. One of which says:
“Globalization is a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology. This process has effects on the environment, on culture, on political systems, on economic development and prosperity, and on human physical well-being in societies around the world” (The Levine Institute, Globalization 101, 2015, para.1).
Among the array of definitions for the term globalization, the key ingredient in its recipe is connectedness -- which constitutes its foundation (Samovar, Porter, & McDaniel, 2012, p.2). A globalized world or a global village will be a mere imaginary thought without the modern technological infrastructure which is necessary to eliminate time, place, and space in global communication and interactions. In their discussion on ‘Globalization: Interconnected Worlds’ James R. Faulconbridge and Jonathan V. Beaverstock (2008) note that globalization and human geography are inseparable, that if we ought to understand globalization it is mandatory to understand the all the changes in various human practices (p.332).
On the notion of culture, globalization should be assessed by looking at the types of flows influencing cultural practices. Faulconbridge and Beaverstock (2008) state that Appadurai (1996) conceptualizes cultural globalization by identifying five forms of flow which are ethnoscapes, technoscapes, financescapes, mediascapes and ideoscapes, “combined, these flows are said to have the ability to move, reconfigure and reproduce cultural practices, something that was less intense during previous periods in history” (pp.336-337).
Scholars and researchers maintain that “interaction between globalization and culture is not a recent phenomenon” (Hassi & Stori, 2012, p.7). Cultural exchanges existed centuries ago, when “spices, silk, tea, and coffee made their way to Europe from China, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East via the Silk Road trade routes” (Samovar, Porter, & McDaniel, 2010, p. 2).
In a Panel Discussion on Globalization and the State, Apolo Nsibambi (2001) put forward that point that:
“Globalization is not a value-free, innocent, self-determining process. It is an international socio-politico-economic and cultural permeation process facilitated by policies of governments, private corporations, international agencies and civil society organizations” (Nsibambi, 2001, p.1). In essence, the set agenda to standardize the world in all aspects involves many networks and facilitators, the agenda is not a stand-alone process, it is being fueled by those who intent to use their global influence for world dominance.
Traditionally, culture viewed in the primal sense of the word was solely among those who shared similar value system, morals, beliefs and other cultural characteristics. The globalization phenomenon resulted in sharing one nation’s or community’s culture with the rest of the world, “culture can no longer be described as property of a single nation” (Samova, Porter, McDaniel, 2012, p.45). Globalization with the genesis of communication and information technology has created a diverse platform which enables all aspects of cultures to be shared, reproduced, and redefined.
The influence of globalization on Grenada’s culture
Habitually, globalization is discussed in relation to issues surrounding politics and economies; in fact these are the roots of the term. Somovar, Porter, & McDaniel (2012) pointed out that there are three stages of globalization “the first one was political, the founding of the United Nations in 1945. The second one was the economic globalization, the spread of free-market capitalism in virtually every country of the world since 1980. The third one is … cultural globalization, which has an essential function for the efficient working of the political and economic globalizations of the world (p.46). These stages are the connecting dots between globalization and culture.
John Tomlinson (2003) observes that the general stance on globalization in regards to culture has been negative and that “it has been associated with the destruction of cultural identities, victims of the accelerating encroachment of a homogenized, westernized, consumer culture” (p.269). Given the nature of globalization—integration through connectedness, a global influence is undoubtedly inevitable on Grenadian soil.
Historically, Grenada’s culture and our cultural identity were linked to cultures on the African Continent, given the widely accepted assumption that our ancestors came from African. However, with the exception of what is termed broken English as the spoken language and our genuine hospitality, it is somewhat difficult to identify other unique aspects of Grenada’s culture. Empirically, Grenada’s culture has always been influence by globalization and regionalization. Going back to Jaja (2010) insights on Americanization, American has definitely dominated the cultural landscape of Grenada.
When it comes to culture change and intercultural relations, I think that Grenadians are in the acculturation zone. There little hesitation to borrow other people’s culture, which has had a major influence on our own culture—it has diluted immensely. There is a sense of ease in the borrowing process, since the societies (American, Jamaican & Trinidadian) in contact are much more powerful than Grenada, giving way to acculturation—“a process of extensive cultural borrowing in the context of superordinate-subordinate relations between societies (Ember & Ember, 2011, p.29).
In Grenada, Cultural penetration occurs not only from the West but also from the dominant countries in the Caribbean region. The globalization influence is present in our ideological perspectives on life which are largely defined by our exposure to American media but throughout the island, many Grenadians have adopted a Jamaican or Trinidad way of self-expression through dance, language, and mode of dress.
Positive impacts of Globalization on Grenada’s Culture
As in other developing countries, globalization has both positive and negative impacts on Grenada’s culture; globalization is a phenomenon that resembles a double sided sword.
Impact on Education: The tsunami of new and exciting technological advances is inescapable and has greatly impacted the Grenadian society. A large number of Grenadians are pursuing online degree programs made possible because of globalization, this is a positive impact on education as more minds are opened to the new trends of learning.
Language and culture: other languages are part of our schools’ curriculum; it is mandatory for all high school students to study either Spanish or French. Additionally, Grenadians who are pursuing studies in countries like China, Mexico, and Cuba learn the respective languages of those countries. Language is a vital element in culture, and as such, learning a language is one step closer to understanding other cultures.
Modernization (modern way of life): technological changes have carpeted every corner of the globe, Grenada is no exception. Web 2.0 and the emergence of information and communication technologies have reshaped and redefined the way we live, communication and interact. Many Grenadians live a modern life; this is attributed to the consumerism habits we have adopted from America. Most homes are furnished with flat screen TV sets, washing machines, smart phones, tablets/iPads, laptops/computers, and dishwashers.
Unlimited access to everything: globalization has removed barriers to goods, services and information, granting Grenadians access to the global market. Jaja (2010) argues that “globalization has helped to liberalize national economics by creating a global market place” this freedom permits all with the necessary means to participate without hindrances (p.114). Globalization has given us a world where nothing and no one is distant, off course with the use of the internet “which is at the centre of the information technology mediated world, critical to the globalization process, that is integrating the world into what is termed as the Global Electronic Village” (Y’AU, 2009). Globalization has also afforded Grenadians the opportunity to experience every other culture and to gain global knowledge. Tomlinson (1999) attributes this impact to connectivity, which he says is responsible for how people now view distance. He said “we think of such distant places as routinely accessible, either representationally through communications technology or the mass media, or physically, through the expenditure of a relatively small amoun of time on a transatlantic flight” (Tomlinson, 1999).
Culture sharing: our openness to adapt and accept new cultures is commendable. I think Grenadians are extremely accepting of other cultures and that acceptance helps adds diversity to our culture. Grenadians are also active in making videos of our music, dance and carnival activities which help with the promotion of our culture.
Negative impacts of Globalization on Grenada’s Culture
Notwithstanding the positive influence of globalization on Grenada’s culture, I have to admit that adopting the globalized way of life infringes upon traditional cultural standards or practices. Many would argue that globalization has resulted in the creation of a modern way of life, a life which can be identified with the rest of the world. Such an argument may have merit, however, merit can also be found in the argument that globalization has diluted the traditions and values of Grenada’s culture.
Globalization of media: Our television sets are flooded with American programming and channels (BET, CNN, ABC, and NBC). I share the sentiment of Nickeisa Stacey Ann Gordon (2009) that “the rise of media globalization has precipitated the porosity of cultural boundaries, giving rise to concerns over cultural sovereignty and cultural rights” (p.311). It is fair to conclude that our American programs have unlimited power of the media landscape of Grenada.
This is evident in the cable packages available and the radio content which is filled with American music and news and limited with local content. Jaja (2010) observe that the “US culture is now penetrating every continent through the dramatic growth of mass communications such as music, television, films and the internet” (p.117).
Loss of cultural uniqueness and identity: Culture is the one element that sets us apart from each other, it is unique—the one thing that globalization has taken away from cultures in its quest to standardize the world into a global culture. Going back to Ember and Ember’s definition, I think it is safe to say that our culture has been rearrange to a point where collectively, we are learning new patterns of behaviors of other social groups, particularly, American and Jamaican. I concur with Nsibambi (2001) that “as cultures interact, some cultures are being diluted and/or destroyed at the expense of others and negative values are being spread all over the world with relative ease” (p.2). I also agree with Tomlinson (2003) that “cultural identity is at risk everywhere with the depredations of globalization, but the developing world is particularly at risk” (p.270). As a people I think, we have embraced the cultural characteristics of American, Jamaican and Trinidadian cultures because we feel that those cultures are superior to ours. In essence, we risk losing our culture as a measure of being part of the bigger, preferred cultures.
Social exclusion: as a consequence of globalization, communication revolution has emerged which has given way to communication poverty which separates the digital haves from the digital haves not. This is a serious problem in Grenada, many people are socially excluded from the new globalized technological world either because they are financially challenged or they do not have the digital know how. For those who are not in the global loop of things, they become isolated from the rest of the society which will ultimately have a negative impact on the cultural fabric of the country.
Music: An example is the type and production of Soca music; in their pursuit to be ‘global’ many Soca artistes have lost interest in producing their music with local rhythms, they prefer to write and produce songs that can take them on the international stage. One cannot fault these artistes for looking outside their local borders as a means of seeking international recognition; however, the fact that they are adapting music to the likeness of the global community has resulted in the lost of the authenticity of Grenada’s soca music, which has a negative influence on our culture.
Moreover, among the Caribbean Islands, Jamaica and Trinidad are the most recognized internationally, both countries have exceptional talents particularly in sports and music. Jamaica is labeled as the Reggae and Dancehall capital of the world, similarly Trinidad is known as the Soca capital of the world. As such, the musical aspect of both countries culture is the envy of the rest of the Caribbean. The dancehall and reggae flavor of Jamaica’s music is incorporated into to Grenada’s soca music. Furthermore, annually, there is an influx of Jamaican and Trinidad artistes in Grenada as the featured acts of concerts. This paper argues that it is commendable that other cultures of our neighboring Caribbean countries are shared and appreciated but the imbalance in terms of cultural penetration cannot be ignored.
Language: Another negative impact of globalization is its influence on language; almost every household has a family member who permanently resides in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom. When these nationals visit Grenada, the way they speak is easily emulated by some Grenadians. Western culture is the dominant culture and it is for this reason, we believe it is the culture to adopt because our culture is primitive.
Cultural hegemony: Globalization has resulted in the rise of ‘cultural hegemony’ whereby the social and cultural influence of the West dominates the Grenadian culture. There is unevenness in how much is shared and how much is received. Faulconbridge and Beaverstock used the example of MacDonald’s to highlight the fast food culture which is now embedded in countries around the world as it is in the United States, as a form of accepted hegemony (p.338). In Grenada eating at KFC and Subway now forms part of our lifestyle.
Globalization has become a critical phenomenon in all societies, it has unavoidable impacts. Some of those impacts are on local cultures which are no longer exclusive to their native environment but rather open to the ‘global village.’ Culture is always changing, something that is shared and learned, and as such the globalization cultural package is expected to have an everlasting influence whether we like it or not. Cultural change is inevitable; preparation, adaptation, and adjustment are the key watch words to go about it. Globalization is geographical in nature; it relies on human movement, flows, and activity in all capacities and is highly dependent on interconnectivity which is the prime foundation for its existence.
By all indication, globalization influences changes in the world and as many continue to accept the common value system, views and global trends push forward by the West, I think globalization will continue to be the phenomenon that dictates the paste and direction of the world’s future, particularly from a cultural perspective. Grenadians will continue to look to the West which is the main author of our way of life and hopefully as we read along, we may be tempted to re-examine our newly formed identity and cultural values.
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Hassi, A., & Stori, G. (2012). Globalization and Culture: The Three H Scenarios. doi: 10.5772/45655
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Y’AU, A. Z. (2002). Globalization, ICTs, and the New Imperialism: Perspectives on Africa in the Global Electronic Village (GEV). Paper for the 10th General Assembly of CODESRIA, taking place 8-12, December 2002 at Kampala, Uganda.
 See for example, Samovar, L. A., Porter, R. E., & McDaniel, E. R, ‘Communication Between Cultures, 7th edition,’ (2010).
 Broken English is used by a large majority of the population in social settings to communication with friends and family but not in academic and professional settings. Examples: ‘wa go’, ‘wa sey’ in place of how are you doing?, ‘gee me dat nuh’ in place of can I have it?, and ‘wey you dey’ in place of where are you?
 Carnival is the major festival in Grenada, it is held annually in August but has more than a month of cultural activities leading up to the last two days (Carnival Monday and Tuesday) which are the climax days of the festival.
 Grenada has one cable provider, Columbus Communication, which provides many packages of cable channels. Among those channels, 3 of the channels regardless of the packages chosen broadcast a few hours of local programming, 1 carries Caribbean programs and all the others depict America content (news, entertainment, sports).
 Soca is a genre of Caribbean music, each Caribbean Island where Soca is prevalent has its unique style of Soca music.
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