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architecture, counseling, public administration, criminal justice, marketing, or just
about any other area we could imagine. And as we shall see in this chapter,
anthropologists are helping to solve many of the global challenges of the twentyfirst century. Anthropologists are making a difference by drawing on the same
data, insights, methods, and theories that you have been studying this semester!
The purpose of this letter is to make sure that you have fully understood how
important cultural anthropology can be to the future of your personal lives, your
neighborhoods, your towns, your states, your nation, and the planet itself. Not only
is it important for you to appreciate the importance of cultural anthropology, but
you should also know it well enough to be able to communicate it to your parents
and friends (who still may be wondering why you are not taking only courses in
business management and finance) and also to your future employers, no matter
what field you actually enter. ?
The Growth of the Modern
World Order: Colonialism
and Globalization
As we have seen throughout this book, culture is an
ever-changing, dynamic phenomenon. This holds true
both for the general outlines of world cultures over
time and for the thousands of distinct cultures that
exist throughout the world today. Cultures change
internally by means of inventions and innovations, and
they change from outside forces through the process
of cultural diffusion. Cultures change in response
to changing technologies, economies, demographics,
natural environments, values, and ideologies. Although
it is true that no cultures stay frozen in time for long
periods, the pace of change varies from one society to
another and from one historical period to another.
Since the rise of state systems of government (approximately 5,000 years ago), state societies in China, Peru,
Mexico, North Africa, and the Middle East have solidified their power by conquering neighboring peoples
and incorporating them into their expanding societies.
Within the last five centuries, European societies have
expanded their territories and influence throughout the world even more thoroughly than previous
state governments. European countries created global
empires by not only expanding their own territorial
borders but also increasing their control over societies
in distant lands and continents.
colonialism The political, economic, and sociocultural domination
of a territory and its people by a foreign nation.
European colonialism over the past 500 years was really
the beginning of our globalized world—that is, the creation of a worldwide system of interconnected nationstates and commercial enterprises. Prior to 1500 C.E.
the world was composed of relatively insulated and
isolated nation-states. But with the age of exploration
came opportunities for Europeans to expand their
economic and cultural influence to all corners of
the earth. Technological advances in navigation, ship
building, cartography, and warfare enabled European
explorers, merchants, missionaries, and armed forces
to venture all over the globe. A number of motives
have been ­suggested for European expansion throughout the world. Some explorers were motivated by the
desire for adventure and the discovery of water routes
to the exotic lands of China and the Far East. Others,
no doubt, were motivated by a sincere desire to spread
Christianity to other parts of the world. But the major
motivation for European expansion was the desire to
obtain wealth and a more comfortable and secure way
of life, which wealth was thought to ensure.
European powers, especially Britain, France,
Portugal, Spain, Belgium, and Holland, solidified
their influence worldwide through the process of
colonization. To one degree or another, colonization by
European countries was imperialistic—that is, involved
empire-building through state expansion of both territories and commerce. European colonies were of three
types depending on their basic purpose. In the first
type, some European countries acquired colonies primarily for the sake of exploiting their local economic
resources (such as copper and diamonds) needed to
drive the industrial revolution and gaining cheap labor
and markets for their finished products. To one degree
or another, all European colonies were created and
maintained for economic reasons. A second type of
European colony was acquired to gain maritime areas
and thereby control trade. For example, the Dutch
settled Cape Town, South Africa, in the nineteenth
century as a restocking area and safe haven for the long
trade voyages between Holland and the Far East. And
third, some Europeans established settlement colonies
where groups of Europeans permanently resided; built
comfortable farms, (cash crop) plantations, and other
businesses on appropriated land; and used local people
as inexpensive labor. In all three types of colonies,
European powers exercised total, or near total, control
over the political, commercial, and social systems of the
colonial territories. The extent to which these state societies coerced the conquered peoples to give up their
indigenous cultures varied from culture to culture and
through time.
European colonization during the nineteenth century involved the actual possession and administration
of foreign territories by European governments. This
period had perhaps the most influence on our present
world order. Many of the European colonial powers
(Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and the
Netherlands) amassed great wealth and political power
as a direct result of obtaining, controlling, and exploiting their colonial territories. In fact, these acquisitions
of wealth and influence during the nineteenth century
created the world economic order of the twentieth
century. And most of these former European colonial
powers—even though they granted independence to
most of their colonies decades ago—have retained
their economic and political influence into the twentyfirst century (Figure 16.1).
Although colonization proved exceedingly beneficial for the economic and political ascension of the
European colonial powers, the indigenous populations
paid a high price.
Many colonies were conquered by military force,
including violence and slaughter if people resisted
colonial rule.
?? During the earlier stages of colonization (the
­seventeenth and eighteenth centuries), native
African people were sold like chattel in the
­trans-Atlantic slave trade.
?? Natural resources, which belonged to indigenous
peoples, were simply taken from the colonies for
the benefit of European industrialization.
?? The best land was often appropriated for
European settlers, and many indigenous peoples
were thrown off their ancestral (and often sacred)
?? Landless people, who could no longer support
themselves by farming or keeping livestock, were
hired for meager wages to work on plantations or
in factories. In some colonies unpaid work (corvee
labor) was demanded of native populations for
months or even years at a time to build roads,
bridges, and other public works projects.
© Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Global Challenges and the Role of Applied Anthropology
Figure 16.1 Until the 1960s the British ruled a number
of colonies in sub-Saharan Africa, including Kenya. Here the
Governor of Kenya (in white) speaks with British appointed
chiefs in 1952.
Many indigenous peoples were stripped of
their traditional livelihoods, forced to work for
low wages to produce commodities desired by
European colonialists, and then taxed to help pay
for the colonial system that was exploiting them.
?? This exploitation of natural and human resources
led to a permanently stratified social structure,
with European settlers and colonial administrators
at the top and indigenous peoples at the bottom.
When many colonies won their political independence in the aftermath of World War II (1939–1945),
the local populations were severely undereducated and
undercapitalized. At the time the former colonies were
euphemistically referred to as “newly independent but
underdeveloped nation-states.” In the years from 1960
corvee labor A system of required labor practiced during the
colonial period.
onward, these nation-states have remained among the
poorest nations in the world, while the economic gap
between the former colonies and the former colonizers has become increasingly wide. To illustrate, based
on calculations from the International Monetary Fund
(IMF), the World Bank, and the CIA World Factbook, of
the forty poorest countries in the world in 2010, 84 percent were former African colonies of Britain, Belgium,
France, Portugal, and Italy. The other 16 percent of the
world’s poorest countries, although not in sub-Saharan
Africa, had, in one way or another, a colonial experience in their histories. The relative wealth of one of the
first colonial powers (Belgium) and its largest colony
(The Democratic Republic of the Congo, originally
known as the Belgium Congo) makes an equally dramatic statement about the general gap in wealth and
power between the colonizers and the colonized. In 2013,
the country of Belgium had a per capita gross national
income (GNI) of $45,420 whereas The Democratic
Republic of the Congo has a per capita GNI of $310,
and (ironically) the former colony is seventy-seven
times larger in square miles than its former colonizer!
Moreover, the end of colonial rule brought a host of
other serious problems, including severe poverty, high
rates of unemployment, substance abuse, political corruption, rapid population growth, underfunded educational systems, human rights abuses, environmental
degradation, rapid urbanization, violent civil wars,
inadequate housing, exploitation by multinational corporations, staggering medical pandemics, and foreign
assistance programs that resulted in little economic
development while ensuring that the former colonies
became permanent debtor nations. Although colonial
rule is now a thing of the past, many nation-states of the
twenty-first century remain seriously scarred by their
colonial histories.
Neocolonialism (Multinational
Although the period of colonialism had all but ended
by the turn of the millennium, turning over the
reins of government to the local people has not
necessarily resulted in complete autonomy for the
less-developed countries (LDCs) Countries that have a
relatively low gross national product and low annual family income.
neocolonialism The process of developed nations continuing to
exert economic, political, and military influence over less-developed
countries, even though the official period of colonization ended in
the 1960s.
multinational corporations Large corporations that have
economic operations in a number of different countries throughout
the world; their resources may be greater than the gross national
product of independent nations.
developed countries (LDCs). Through the process
known as n
­ eocolonialism, the wealthy (former colonial)
nations continue to exercise considerable political, economic, financial, and military power over the LDCs. By
virtue of their economic dominance, the industrialized
nations control the international markets of the commodities they buy from LDCs, such as Ghanaian cocoa,
Bolivian tin, and Kenyan coffee. The wealthier nations
also lend capital to the LDCs, which has the effect of
turning them into perpetual debtors. Debt can be a
major form of control, with the creditors calling the
shots. Moreover, with the debtor nations obliged to
make large interest payments, they never have enough
surplus capital to invest in building their own economic
The wide gap between rich and poor nations is also
maintained by the increasing power and influence in
recent years of multinational corporations. In some cases
multinational corporations directly exploit LDCs, as
with the Firestone Rubber Company in Liberia or the
United Fruit Company in Central America. More often,
however, multinational corporations tend to exploit
LDCs simply by doing business as usual. These multinational corporations have assets and power that far
exceed those of most governments of the developing
world. To illustrate, the hundred largest multinational
corporations control approximately one-third of the
world’s assets. Specifically, the revenue generated by
Walmart (United States) is roughly equivalent to the
gross national product (GNP) of Belgium; British
Petroleum’s (United Kingdom) revenues are the size
of Denmark’s GNP; and Mitsubishi (Japan) generates
revenues roughly the size of Israel’s GNP. No matter
how they make their profits, though, one thing is certain: Most of the corporate profits go back to the home
country rather than staying in the developing nation.
This perpetuates the nineteenth- and twentieth-century
conditions of economic dependence and exploitation
of colonies by wealthy nations (Figure 16.2).
When a multinational corporation decides to open
a plant in another country, you can be certain that
it will exert considerable influence over the government of that country. For example, during the summer of 2002, India and Pakistan, both having nuclear
capabilities, were on the brink of war over the issue of
Kashmir. The two countries threatened to attack each
other as the leaders of the United States and western
Europe tried to bring them back from the brink. In the
end, the hostilities between India and Pakistan cooled
because of pressure exerted by the information technology (IT) industry—not the US government (which
has more military firepower than the next fifteen most
powerful nations combined). The global revolution
in IT (satellites, the Internet, and so on) since the
early 1990s has had an enormous effect on the Indian
economy, whose IT industry now brings in $60 ­billion
per year. Taking advantage of the large tech-savvy
Global Challenges and the Role of Applied Anthropology
© Reuters/Corbis
Cross-Cultural Miscue
Figure 16.2 These Vietnamese Buddhist monks walk
past a huge inflatable Pepsi can in Ho Chi Minh City. Many
multinational corporations, such as Pepsico, have more assets
than the countries in which they operate, which gives them
enormous control over those governments and their economies.
Indian population, many of the world’s largest companies (including American Express, Sony, Reebok, and
General Electric) have located their back rooms and
research facilities in India. If you lose your luggage
anywhere in the world, it will likely be tracked down by
an Indian techie in Bangalore (India’s Silicon Valley).
Accounting, inventory control, payroll, billing, and
credit card approval (among other functions) for many
of the world’s largest corporations are electronically
managed by highly skilled Indian engineers, computer
scientists, and information technicians. With India
so intimately involved in the IT lifeblood of so many
global corporations, the possibility of India going to
war threatened to seriously disrupt the world’s economy. In the final analysis, it was powerful international
corporations that convinced the Indian government
to disengage with the Pakistanis under the threat of
taking their IT business elsewhere.
Randy Lombardi from Pittsburgh, recently appointed
to manage his firm’s office in Singapore, was anxious to
do well in his first overseas assignment. Shortly after his
arrival, he called his first staff meeting to outline the objectives for the coming fiscal year. He had already met with
his senior staff members individually and was feeling quite
confident about the prospects for having a good first year.
Toward the end of the staff meeting, Randy, in his characteristic upbeat fashion, told his employees that he looked
forward to working with them and that he anticipated that
this would be their best year ever. To emphasize his optimism for the coming year, Randy punctuated his verbal
remarks by slapping his fist against his palm. The reaction was instantaneous: Most people laughed, giggled, or
looked embarrassed. He felt that the point of his dramatic
climax was lost amid the laughter.
Here is another example of how certain nonverbal
actions—in this case, the pounding of a fist into one’s
palm—have different meanings in a foreign country
than in the United States. In Singapore, as well as in
several other Southeast Asian countries, such a gesture
is a sexual insult, comparable in the United States to
extending the middle finger. This is just another example
of the importance of understanding cultural differences (in
this instance, the meaning of nonverbal gestures) when
living and working in another cultural during this “age of
The Recent Intensification
of Globalization
By far the most significant recent worldwide trend is the
rapid cross-national integration known as ­globalization,
a term that has become one of the most overused and
poorly understood words in the English language. For
centuries interconnections among countries and cultures have had far-reaching implications for cultural
change through diffusion. But when the Berlin Wall
came down in 1989, the world began to change in
dramatic ways (Figure 16.3). Economic forces, such as
deregulation, privatization, and the lowering of tariffs,
were unleashed that have had profound effects on
all cultures of the world. It is now generally assumed
that the well-being of all peoples of the world will be
maximized if economic systems concentrate on four
basic concerns: (1) continual economic growth (as
globalization The worldwide process, dating back to the 1989
fall of the Berlin Wall, that includes a revolution in information
technology, a dramatic opening of markets, and the privatization of
government services.
and even human organ replacement. In Chapter 14,
we described how even religious rituals are being outsourced from Catholic parishes in the United States to
Catholic priests in India. There is certainly no shortage
of examples of this growing global interconnectedness:
Coca-Cola sells more of its product in Japan than
it sells in the United States, even though Japan has
only half the population of the United States.
?? Foreign-owned firms operating in the United
States employ more than 5 million workers,
approximately one in ten manufacturing jobs.
?? Internet users worldwide increased approximately
545 percent between 2000 and 2010.
?? Direct foreign investments in the United States have
increased from $66 billion in 1990 to $328 billion in
2008, an increase of nearly 500 percent. And, in the
opposite direction, US direct investment abroad has
grown from $430 billion in 1990 to $2.3 trillion in
2006, an increase of 540 percent.
?? Major league baseball and football teams in the US
schedule some of their preseason games in Europe
and Japan.
?? Many high-skilled jobs, formerly performed in the
United States, are now being performed abroad,
such as a CPA in Bangalore, India filling out state
and federal income tax forms for someone in San
Francisco; a mathematician in Mumbai, India, tutoring a high school student in Cleveland via e-mail;
or a Western-trained Thai surgeon in Bangkok performing a heart valve operation on a New Yorker.
?? More than half of US franchise operators (for
example, Dunkin’ Donuts or Kentucky Fried
Chicken) are in markets outside the United States.
?? The environmental organization Greenpeace,
founded in Vancouver in the early 1970s, now has
offices in more than thirty countries.
Regis Bossu/Corbis
Figure 16.3 The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 marks the
symbolic beginning of our present period of globalization
characterized by a radical expansion of free market economies,
privatization, and information technology.
measured by gross national product), (2) the continued lowering of trade barriers between nations, (3) the
reduction of government control of free markets, and
(4) privatization (that is, shifting governmental functions and resources to the private sector).
These worldwide economic trends have been greatly
facilitated by the simultaneous revolution in information technology (that is, fiber-optics, satellite communication, and the Internet). People are now able to communicate with one another instantaneously. To illustrate
how dramatic the IT revolution has been, during the
mid-1980s, grandparents in Pennsylvania had to wait several weeks to see a photograph of their new grandchild
born in Istanbul. Today a photo of the new baby can be
taken on one’s cell phone in Istanbul and sent via e-mail
or text message to the grandparents on the other side
of the globe in seconds. In short, these revolutionary
developments in IT greatly facilitate the exchange of
ideas across national and cultural boundaries.
Previous chapters pointed out examples of the
recent acceleration of globalization. Anyone who is even
vaguely aware of current events knows about the outsourcing of not only manufacturing jobs but also more
highly skilled jobs in accounting, software development,
These and other facts and figures suggest the
dimensions of this movement toward greater global
integration, but we often do not fully comprehend
how intimately we ourselves are connected to the rest
of the world. Barbara Garson (2001) gives us a glimpse
into the international money marketplace by tracing a
small sum of money she personally invested in Chase
Manhattan Bank as it travels around the globe. Along
the way she interviews people whose lives are affected by
this initial bank deposit. She learned that Chase loaned
some of her money to Caltex, a US petrochemical company, to build an oil refinery in Thailand. The Thai
government’s initial opposition to the oil refinery was
overcome when Caltex spent some of Garson’s money
for campaign contributions to US politicians who lobbied the Thai government to relent on its opposition.
Another part of Carson’s deposit was used to bribe a
Thai government official. Once the opposition was
eliminated, still more of Garson’s money was used to
Global Challenges and the Role of Applied Anthropology
© Richard Allerby-Pratt/Arabian Eye/Redux
build the refinery, which, in fact, as government officials
had originally argued, damaged the environment and
Cross-Cultural Miscue
displaced both local fishermen and farmers. Eventually,
because of an economic downturn, the refinery was
Kevin Higgins had served as the manager of a large
shut down, thereby putting a number of Thai oil workUS
company located in a rather remote rain forest
ers out of work. By tracing both the flow of money and
in a South American country. Since it began its logging
its impact on the lives of real people around the world,
operations in the 1950s, a major problem facing the comGarson demonstrates how her own small investment
pany has been the recruitment of labor. The only nearby
in a US bank account had enormous and immediate
source of labor was the sparsely populated local Indian
implications for people on the other side of the world.
groups. Kevin’s company has been in direct competition
The globalization phenomenon itself is a dynamic
for laborers with a German company operating in the
process because markets for both labor and products do
same region. In an attempt to attract the required number
not stay the same for long periods of time. To illustrate,
of laborers, Kevin’s company has invested heavily in new
housing and offered considerably higher wages than the
during the 1980s and part of the 1990s, large numbers
German company, as well as a guaranteed forty-hour workof highly trained engineers and technicians from India
week. Yet the majority of the available workers continued
took jobs in the United States, particularly in the highto work for the German company, despite its substandard
tech center of Silicon Valley. During this time Indian
housing and a minimum hourly wage.
engineers had a comfortable living in California subKevin finally brought in several US anthropologists who
urbs and began the process of Americanization. During
had worked among the local Indians. As it turned out, the
the mid- to late-1990s, however, with India developing
answer to Kevin’s labor recruitment problem was quite
high-tech industries of its own, many of the Indians
simple, but it required looking at the values of the Indian
living in the United States returned to India, took
labor force rather than simply building facilities that would
even higher-paying jobs with Indian high-tech firms,
appeal to the typical US laborer. The anthropologists told
and reestablished their California-style neighborhoods
Kevin that, for the local Indian labor pool, flexibility of time
was of greater significance than housing or high wages.
in cities such as Bangalore. Moreover an increasing
Under the German system, which paid an hourly wage
number of US graduates from US universities are now
rather than a forty-hour-per-week salary (as with Kevin’s
choosing to take their first job in India’s software, IT,
company), local laborers could take time off for their festiand business-process outsourcing industries, rather
vals and ceremonies without fear of losing their jobs. The
than stay in their own country. Thus, the so-called
solution to Kevin’s labor recruitment problem required the
“brain drain,” which saw vast numbers of highly trained
relatively simple task of changing to a more flexible hourly
Indians emigrating to the United States in the 1980s,
wage system rather than a weekly salary system.
has been reversed a mere two decades later.
The long-term effects of globalization on the cultures of the world have yet to be fully
realized. Some early scholars (Jameson
1990; Robertson 1992) suggested that
globalization will eventually lead to the
formation of a single global culture.
They argue that the rapid flow of money,
commodities, and information to every
corner of the world, if allowed to continue unchecked, will tend to eradicate
cultural differences. In recent years,
however, an alternative view has emerged
to suggest that globalization, rather than
totally changing cultures, can stimulate
local cultures to redefine themselves
in the face of these external forces.
In other words, local cultures, though
eventually changing some features, will
reaffirm much of their uniqueness while
entering into a dialogue with global
forces (Figure 16.4).
It is certainly true that some languages and cultures are becoming virFigure 16.4 Young men in baseball caps gathering at a Starbucks in Dubai,
tually extinct, but at the same time
United Arab Emirates, illustrate the concepts of both globalization and cultural
other cultures and ethnic groups are
experiencing a resurgence. It is important to recognize
that states, formed by merging a number of ethnic
entities together, also have the tendency to eventually come apart. The best contemporary example of
this is the Soviet Union, established in 1945 from
fifteen constituent republics (Armenian, Azerbaijan,
Belarusian, Estonian, Georgian, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Latvian, Lithuanian, Moldovan, Russian, Tajikistan,
Turkmenistan, Ukrainian, and Uzbekistan). When this
strongly centralized federal union collapsed in 1991, all
fifteen republics, with their own distinctive languages
and cultures, became independent nations. Also during the 1990s, Czechoslovakia split into the Czech and
Slovak Republics, and the francophone province of
Quebec came close to declaring its independence from
the rest of Canada. Today this tendency for pluralistic
societies to fragment can be seen among the Kurds in
Turkey and Iraq, the Basques in Spain, the Tibetans in
China, and, according to statements made in 2009 by
Texas Governor Rick Perry, Texans in the United States.
Thus, it seems unreasonable to expect that the
world, through the process of globalization, is moving relentlessly toward a single, benevolent, culturally homogeneous nation-state. News media every day
report cultural differences throughout the world, with
each group operating from its own unique cultural
heritage and narrowly shared values and interests.
The overwhelming power of any single nation-state—
whether we are talking about the United States, China,
India, or the European Union—is insufficient to change
the rest of the world into its own likeness. At the turn
of the millennium, the United States was unquestionably the most influential power (politically, economically, militarily, and culturally) on earth, and yet its
attempt to spread its influence to the rest of the world
in recent decades has not been particularly successful.
Its attempts to open trade relations with other nations,
to spread democracy throughout the world, and to diffuse its popular culture into every corner of the earth
have met with considerable resistance. For example,
even though some Austrians may appreciate the convenience of being able to drink a tall latte at a Starbucks
in Vienna, they have no interest in becoming culturally

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