A video dialogue program for young women in the USA and Muslim countries
April 21st, 2007 at 8:24 pm
Posted by Zia in Sessions

Below is a summary of our final discussion on the topic of globalization. I’ve posted some videos from the conversation; the videos are always more powerful than simply reading about the conversation.

This will be the last write-up from our sessions, but over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting some feedback and commentary from our participants. If anyone in the program – or reading the site – has thoughts on the program, please feel free to post your comments below or forward your thoughts along to any of our program leaders. And thanks to those of you who have already commented on prior posts.
Defining globalization. Perhaps the most interesting part of our final videoconference was that the participants had quite different interpretations of globalization. The participants in Gabes kicked off the conversation with a discussion of the impacts of globalization on youth in Tunisia. The discussion focused on globalization on a cultural and societal level; participants were concerned that young people in Tunisia were in such a hurry to emulate Western-style dress or to embrace Western music that they were losing their Tunisian roots. One of the participants indicated that by embracing Western values along with music and fashion, young people were starting to abandon some of the cultural and religious traditions in Tunisia. 
Globalization as an economic issue. In the US, by contrast, participants said that globalization was considered an economic issue, largely related to trade. Americans thought of globalization more in terms of the US losing global economic dominance to countries such as India and China. The concerns about globalization in the US were around labor standards and environmental regulations in other countries; there was not great concern about the US losing its cultural identity.
American cultural influence.  An interesting discussion about the influence on American culture around the world followed. One of the Tunisian participants pointed out that there was no counterbalance to US power; no other country offered the same influence on a global basis. The US participants said they found that surprising because many Americans felt the nation’s power globally was declining; the geopolitical situation over the past few years has made many people in the world look beyond the US to other countries. The American participants also pointed out that while the US may have a stronger influence on global culture than other countries, American culture itself was constantly in flux. Participants in New York discussed how many major cities in the US had become very international, and mentioned how immigrant groups such as the Latino population were starting to have a strong influence American culture.  The American participants felt this was a good thing since it was making American culture more diverse.
Loss of traditional society. The interesting part of the conversation was there was a certain fear of globalization in both places. In Tunisia, the fear was of losing cultural identity; in the US, the fear was of losing economic and political dominance. Both groups saw globalization posing a threat to traditional society.
In my opinion, the globalization discussion was one of the best of the entire program. We had different views on the topic, but were able to engage in a great conversation that enabled us to better understand the outlook and concerns of the other group. I think both groups of participants were genuinely interested in their counterparts’ concerns about – and approaches to – globalization. It was one of those conversations that could have gone on for hours but unfortunately had to finish after just one.
I hope participants will be encouraged by this final conversation to continue a dialogue via e-mail long after the program has concluded!

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