Shanghai Students Discuss Global Entry Points

Framing the Global Fellow Sean Metzger is teaching at Fudan University as part of a University of California-Fudan exchange this fall.

In his class ‘Debating Globalization‘ Metzger is asking his students to think about globalization, what it may or may not be, and how it intersects with their lives. The Framing the Global volume is one of the core texts Metzger’s students are working with.

Early in their semester, Metzger asked his students: What would you like your entry point into global research to be and why?

This week we share three of their responses to that question; next week we’ll share two more.

 Cultural Dimensions of Globalization — Freya Twigden

I am specifically interested in the political and cultural dimensions of globalization. To what extent do different cultures and political systems have the capacity to converge under one global umbrella, and produce global norms and ideologies.

More specifically, I am interested in the extent of America’s power in shaping these global norms and ideologies. Would this future ‘global umbrella’ of politics and culture simply be a gradual process of Americanization? What does this even mean?

With such cultural diversity in the world, how will we ever come to accept ‘global norms’? Cultural relativism provokes the biggest issue here – is the West simply imposing its ‘Western values’ on other less developed nations?

For example, many African countries have a tradition of female circumcision — yet, by Western standards this procedure disregards human rights.  Who are we to judge a culture what we are not part of? Will there ever be a universal standard of human rights?

Similarly, on a more political level, I am interested in the emergence of a global politics. Would this type of politics be a product of Western thought?

For example, by offering financial and military aid to less developed/volatile countries (such as Libya and Syria), is the West simply helping to rebuild democracy based on its own ideas or the ideas of the states at play? What do we even mean when we speak about ‘the West’ – where is the line drawn and how do we measure this?

On the other hand, to what extent is globalization just ‘globaloney’ (Susan Strange) – how do we rationalize this concept of globalization and is it merely a subjective concept?

Freya Twigden (age 20) hails from England and is pursuing a degree in politics at the University of Edinburgh (UK).

Globalization, Economics, Individuals — Adrian von Jagow

If slave trade is thought to be the forefather of today’s globalized economy, isn’t that kind of depressing? Is it true that only Marxist capital, the expected return on investment, or a ferocious genocide will make us leave our snug homes and form the global?

In other words: bondage, greed, or horror? “This assertion (…) arises from ignorance of the science of history,” Mao would say to me.


Shanghai as seen from the top of the Shanghai World Financial Centre. Image by Creeper-Sleeper. (Flickr Creative Commons.)

I currently live in Shanghai. The city has served as a hub for millions of people chasing after or being chased by something, someone, there was never much talking. Everyone just seemed to mind their own business.

But after all, these individuals have helped shape the metropolis. Their stories have become intertwined with the architecture, the attitude, the history of Shanghai.

When I enter the academic discussion on globalization, I want to focus on the individual and their power to tell a story. I would like to enter the debate through the movements of refugees and exiles from Europe in the 1930s.

While Globalization Studies, as Rachel Harvey points out, is menaced to “descend into the study of everything” (I can totally see that!), the many frameworks applied to the global all seem to call for a people-centered perspective. “What does this do to us?” and “What do we do to it?”

While the German-led genocide applied the most simple single-dimension framework on Jews of the entire continent — all that mattered was Jew or not — the Nazis created an imagined community of people with a singular Jewish heritage, when Jews came from diverse backgrounds. It should be interesting to reenact and map the emergence of a physical community here in Shanghai, across the globe.

Adrian von Jagow (21) studies Economics and East Asian Studies at the University of Tuebingen, Germany. He’s been involved with oikos, an international student organization promoting sustainability in economic education. Working for the Global Ethic Institute, he’s helped creating the Student HUB, a network for globally and socially committed student organizations.

Cultural Exchange and Ice Cream — Jeremy Chan

What I would like to begin to research about is the cultural exchange that occurs when foreign companies and people bring their customs and ideas from their native land and how it might affect the local population. In Shanghai alone, you can see the ‘Westernisation’ of many of the wealthier districts of the city.

Many of the premier, high end malls like those near Jing ’an and Pudong riverside carry exclusively American or European brands. This phenomena is made even more interesting due to the fact that several Western brands are able to change their market image within Asia. Häagen-Dazs is probably the most notable example of this brand change.

In North America most would equate Häagen-Dazs in quarts, pints and, bars from supermarkets or convenience. Here in Asia, the sit down locations seem to be the most prominent and unlike North America, shops here serve afternoon tea and even sell mooncakes.

In Shanghai, it is possible to see one Häagen-Dazs store and another is within eyesight. Starbucks seems to have the opposite problem, it has not converted Chinese tea drinkers into coffee drinkers.

While one may find coffee flavoured drinks in the convenience store, there are few places that offer a hot cup of coffee and when someplace does it seems it’s targeted towards foreigners.

What makes an ice cream brand seemingly more successful than one of the largest coffee chains in the world here?

Jeremy Chan is from Canada and attends the University of Toronto. He is currently in his third year and is completing a bachelors in Political Science and Contemporary Asian Studies.

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