November 6, 2005

Waves of globalization

This morning, I was chairing an attrition-attacked panel at the Social-Science History Association meeting, where one presenter just never made it and where the discussant had to e-mail me her comments because of a minor family crisis. But the comments started a very nice discussion after two papers that appeared to have an odd juxtaposition—one paper by an economics grad student on post-Civil War literacy rates (1870 census) and counties with Freedmen's Bureau activity, on the one hand, and a paper by Penn State-Behrend historian Liz McMahon on the relationship between Qur'anic and Protectorate/colonial schools on the 20th century Zanzibar colony's Pemba island, after the British takeover and emancipation.

I don't remember how we got around to discussing globalization, but the idea floated in the small group that there have been several waves of ideas, behaviors, patterns, spread by global mechanics as a conveyor or vector: disease, ideas, materials, wealth, and social relationship repertoires.

I'm not sure where to go with that—I don't quite have the span of knowledge to wrap my brain around it—but it seems far more historical than Thomas Friedman's "flat-world" book. Anyone want to pick up the idea and run with it (or let loose the cruel pack of vicious facts on the innocent hypothesis , to paraphrase from Bloom County)?

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Posted in Random comments on November 6, 2005 11:39 PM |