Five Questions with Rachel Harvey

It’s another installment of our series of conversations with Framing the Global fellows. Each fellow was asked to answer the same five questions, dealing with the way they approach the global as well as how thinking through the global has impacted their work.

This week we hear from Rachel Harvey.

Harvey is a postdoctoral research scholar for the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University and her project is Grounding Globalizing: A Historical Study of the Global Foreign Exchange Market.

The University of Chicago trained sociologist explains how she enters the global via “the particular” in this week’s Q&A.

Rosemary Pennington: What drew you to Framing the Global?

RH: Framing the Global seemed like a wonderful opportunity to engage with scholars from a variety of disciplines exploring globalization.  The project has far surpassed these initial attractions.

Besides being able to dialogue with a dynamic group of individuals, it is a collaborative space of experimentation and theorization that facilitates grappling with the complexities inherent in global processes.

RP: What is your entry point and why did you choose it?

Image via John P. (Flickr)

Points of light linking together. Image via John P. (Flickr)

RH: My entry point is “The Particular.”  The concept is borrowed from Dennis Wrong (The Persistence of the Particular) and refers to the irreducible specificity of all sociocultural processes in terms of, at the very least, their spatio-temporal location.

Objects and dynamics associated with globalization are not exempt from this condition.

Deploying the global-particular dynamic facilitates tracing and analyzing the uneven, contingent, non-linear, and at times contradictory, characteristics of globalization.

RP: What challenges have you faced as you’ve navigated the global this way?

RH: The global-particular analytical vantage point is still “under construction.”  One key challenge is grounded in the theory-data dialectic.

As I develop the framework I am continually testing the degree to which it is useful in apprehending global phenomena and how the conceptual rubric needs to be modified.

A second issue is developing the framework beyond the idea that particulars are critical for global processes and the latter are never detached from the former.

Rather it is expanding the conceptual rubric in a manner that apprehends and detects which globalization related aspects represent not just transformative moments, but historical ruptures.

 RP: In her introduction to the upcoming book, Dr. Hilary Kahn writes that one of the questions scholars of the global are faced with is “How do we know this is global?”  How do you answer that question in your work?


Image via catchesthelight (Flickr)

RH: The general conception of globalization I deploy is the world’s increasing, yet uneven interdependence.

The global is not, therefore, characterized by homogenous, unidirectional, and linear spatio-temporal processes.  Rather some interconnections produce easily visible and rapid transformations, while other shifts are harder to discern and operate at different temporal rhythms.

Doing global research thus means being attuned to the variety of transnational connections and disconnections.

 RP: How have your discussions on the space of global studies within the Framing the Global interdisciplinary group affected your view of your home discipline?

RH: Disciplinary knowledge, theory, and subject matter is central for producing the specialized knowledge critical for understanding and theorizing spatio-temporal specificities and recognizing their transformation.

The complexities of global processes, however, reach beyond these disciplinary boundaries.  It is thus necessary to simultaneously utilize specialized knowledge and engage other disciplines.

This both augments our understanding of the particular subject matter and helps illuminate the limits of our own perspective.  Such collaboration only enhances our ability to discern the core contours of global dynamics.

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