Framing the Global: Entry Points for Research

Framing the Global: Entry Points for Research


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Framing the Global explores new and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of global issues. Essays are framed around the entry points or key concepts that have emerged in each contributor's engagement with global studies in the course of empirical research, offering a conceptual toolkit for global research in the 21st century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780253012968
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Publication date: 05/22/2014
Series: Framing the Global
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Hilary E. Kahn is Director of the Center for the Study of Global Change at Indiana University. She is author of Seeing and Being Seen: The Q’eqchi’ Maya of Livingston, Guatemala, and Beyond.

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Framing the Global

Entry Points for Research

By Hilary E. Kahn

Indiana University Press

Copyright © 2014 Indiana University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-253-01299-9



Making the Global through Care


THE GLOBAL EMERGES NOT SIMPLY FROM THE WAYS PROCESSES, programs, and institutions intersect and form more comprehensive wholes, but also through the ways those links are understood in people's experiences, their lived and felt participation in making a global world. My take on the global in this chapter begins with affect, connection, alliance, and rule-bending, tracking what people make of the term "global"—and the ideas and networks they encounter behind it. For the Filipino migrants I work with, their global is an imaginary—a space of desire in their already-globalized lives. This global is, for them, about hope, possibility, and potential that emerge from their affective connections with other people. Affect is a valuable entry point to framing the global because thinking about the personal challenges and expands accounts of the global where people's agency is muted or lost. The global is not simply an effect of processes and networks but an object itself—something that people desire, despise, seek out, or avoid and to which they attribute experiences and ascribe meanings.

As academics, much of what we know about this kind of everyday global has been produced by mapping globalization. Studies of the global have focused on shifting sites of production for global markets and the making of these same markets, the reorganization of work and labor supply that this entails, and then the mundane bureaucratic practices and public rituals that support these movements of people and changes in work, and the public debates on citizenship and global belonging that support these changes. In my own work on the global in the Philippines, for example, the key academic work explores investment, migration, and public ritual. Philip Kelly's Landscapes of Globalization (2000) examines the way local elites capture the idea of globalization and redirect foreign investment to consolidate their social and economic position. Similarly, Steven McKay's Satanic Mills or Silicon Islands (2006) investigates the organization of Filipino workers in the global electronics industry. Rhacel Parreñas's Servants of Globalization (2001) charts the experiences of Filipino migrants in the global labor force, while my own Global Filipinos (2012) explores the ways public ritual shapes the desires of would-be migrants. Local and sectoral studies like these can then be drawn together by thinking about the shifts and changes they map in people's encounters with the everyday state, or with global products and brands—situations where economic actors and structures do things to people who are made over into the objects of their action. Such micro-level studies have then enabled other researchers to undertake meta-analyses and generate broader theoretical framings of the global. Saskia Sassen has led the way with her seminal work, Territory, Authority, Rights (2006). Following her lead, students of the global have both curated selected empirical data and developed their own original analyses of the ways of thinking and expressing ideas that shape the global. The combined result is an account of the global as an imagined realm being shaped and reshaped by a real-world assemblage of regulatory structures, their slippages and bureaucratic demands, and popular or institutional resistances to them. This is one very necessary and compelling kind of account of the global. But though this scholarly work is very necessary, it tends to gloss over some vital parts of the global story. It needs to be supplemented by something else, something more intimate and familiar to everyday lives, to provide the fullest possible understanding of the global.

We can also approach the global as an ethnographic object in its own right—as a concept or category that people use in their everyday lives to explain their circumstances, to express their desire or fear, and to give other experiences meaning. Thus we should study the global not only in electronics factories owned by foreign investors but also as it is being formed through people's interpretations of news stories, and shaping their imagined futures, hopes, and dreams. Such an approach would start with a form of words, a ritual or practice that endorses the importance of an imagined global realm while simultaneously bringing that realm into being. For example, we could follow what meanings and practices would flow from exhortations to "become a global citizen" or "think global, act local" or shared accounts of "global terror." We can track how the global thus comes into being through practices that condense and express globalism—the desire for the global—or reject globalism, through global fear or moral panics. Whether people desire or fear the global they imagine and discuss with others, the very practices and language of discussing and imagining makes the global a space of affect.

Too often, intimate, cultural ties have been elided from accounts of the global, not because they are unimportant, but because, as objects of research, they are difficult to apprehend. Such ties leave behind far too few artifacts for secondary academic analysis. These gaps in our accounts of the global have emerged because phenomena like affect, emotions, and intimacy are usually too obscure and language-based to be easily accessible to meta-analytical approaches. These phenomena are difficult to represent, let alone quantify, and seem somehow less urgent and relevant to policy than the calculations of foreign direct investment or descriptions of the making of financial markets. But make no mistake: affect plays a significant role in the manipulations of identities, markets, and value that make up globalization. Neglecting affect has meant that accounts of the global seem to hinge on the ubiquity of a universal, Western-style individuated subject. To fill these gaps, an account of an intimate and cultural emergence of globality requires a different sort of methodology: an approach attuned to the different—and differentiating—forms of personhood at work in a globalizing world. Thinking about the global through affect offers us an entry point where cultural specificities may challenge and extend methods that apprehend the global as simply an institutional super-object or artifact of a globalized popular culture.


Since the global is a contested and popular concept, it is something that people have strong feelings about. This global is something people understand through their everyday activities and the various ways people feel, want and make the global emerge through their relationships with others, near and far, and with the more abstract categories they appropriate to justify and explain their own dreams and desires. So the global of daily life incorporates both everyday intimacies and long-distance flows and connections, and this is where affect enters the picture. The global may be studied by academics, but it is not just an academic concept; it is constantly being reshaped by a dialogue between the popular culture of our respondents, interactions with academic colleagues and interlocutors in government and business or civil society organizations, often not in dispassionate exchanges but in heated debates. Negotiations over the shape of the global are mediated by shifting communities of practice and interpretation. Importantly, these communities do not come up with one fixed and widely accepted account of the global. Instead, the global remains a concept that is loosely defined—woolly, even. This woolliness does not stop people from feeling strongly about the global. These feelings are where affect comes in.

Here, affect names the field of communicable, manifested desire—positive or negative—that underpins people's emotions, behaviors, and actions. Affect is not simply individuated but shared or collective, working through flow and exchange and shaped by processes of mediation, and attached to the global. The global as an imaginary is something desired but not quite defined or understood, yet given substance and meaning through practices, projects, rituals, figures of speech, policies, and the like. Some people imagine the global realm they desire as a space of free movement where they may achieve economic security and be respected and recognized for their merits and talents. Their imaginary is one of round-the-world connections, increasing material security, and easy movement not just of flows of money but of migrants between nation-states, according respect and success to people who demonstrate a global awareness and build global personal connections. Affectively, their global has an expansive, positive valence—it's something to be excited about, to share, and to struggle for. Other people consider the ways the global and its connections open spaces, routes, and links for terrorism, epidemics, and economic crises, thus creating global fear, global surveillance, and paranoid or neurotic global citizens. This global, in contrast, is one of a diminished, fearful humanity with a negative affective valence—it's something to struggle against, repress, or undo. Not everyone would identify with one consistent affective orientation toward the global; people tend to vacillate between positive and negative affective attachments.

Rather than seeking a right and a wrong way to feel about the global, it is more useful to focus on the new ways the global as an imaginary offers us to focus on different and interconnected sites simultaneously (Pain 2009, 468). The global does not show us whether these connections are inherently positive or negative; instead, what the global imaginary suggests, through our responses to it, is that affect is a social and spatial phenomenon. Being more than purely an individuated, psychological phenomenon, affect makes the global social and spatial because it is embodied, connected, and shared. For example, people feel strongly about the processes and flows they know as globalization, taking to the streets or the hustings to decry its exploitations or praise its benefits. Globalization enacts desire for the global in a variety of contradictory ways. Again in the Philippines, where one of the ways people encounter their version of the global is labor migration, citizens have taken to the streets to protest the treatment of Filipino migrant workers overseas, but also to demand better access to those same overseas jobs for would-be migrants. Many Filipinos imagine becoming global migrants should mean financial security and personal success, but their shared desire for this can lead them into real-world life experiences that fall far short of their imagined futures. Coming up against exploitative placement agencies in the Philippines and even more exploitative workplaces abroad, many realize their own desires are in conflict with the global visions of more powerful agents or coalitions. For individuals, apprehending something recognized as the global opens up an epistemological trajectory of "what it means to be a person" on a level that blurs and subverts the now-familiar modern boundaries of nation-states, nationalities, and ethnicities (Chiang 2008, 66). Anti-globalization protesters in the Philippines are concerned that globalization's processes have been largely commandeered by national elites as a way of appropriating value from workers. These protesters do not contest the existence or value of global connections themselves—indeed, the protesters use them to organize global resistance. Behind their protests lies a vision of a more equitable, global world, populated by a new kind of globally responsible citizen: "another world is possible." This world Filipinos imagine is one where people are not impelled to migrate to find security and success because elite control over land and exploitative conditions in foreign-owned factories offer little hope. Instead, it is a place where people can move globally, if they so desire, with freedom and ease.

Desire to be or become global or fear and anger with the very idea come out of cathexis (an investment of feeling energy or affect) in "the global" itself. Yet what shapes this desire is people's very intimate relationship with the various materializations—always partial and imperfect—of the global that make up globalization. Their experiences of globalization mean people are resentful of, if not overtly resistant to, the structures, barriers, hierarchies, and surveillance that come with efforts to manage migration and direct investments, restructure labor markets, or create new kinds of aspirational citizens. Quite clearly, the outcomes of these efforts to govern the global by shaping globalization would matter less if people could not also imagine, and want, something else. As anthropologist Renato Rosaldo points out, via a poem about his humiliating encounters with airport security (Rosaldo 2004, quoted in Adey 2009, 274), the affect of the longed-for global is reshaped by everyday experiences of global migration to become fear and anger. Rosaldo tracks how he loses hope and has his longed-for connection refused in his encounters with borders and immigration authorities. What Rosaldo shows us, as he maps his loss, is how anti-globalization and the imaginary of a free realm of the global shadow each other.

What kind of subjective orientation, experience, or understanding might one require to become a globally responsible, globally hopeful citizen in the face of globalization's frustrations, disappointments, and violence? How could we construct the "we" that might enact different versions of global desire and thus a different, shared global? This is the juncture where attention to affect comes to matter in our accounts of what the global might be or become.

Genealogies of Global Affect

Recent debates about affect, emotion, and sentiment cross anthropology, human geography, and cultural studies, showing us three disciplines grappling with the global in different ways. To date, the focus of the more general debate on affect has largely hinged on whether the notion of emotion or affect offers the best account of global experience and what those terms themselves might mean. Not surprisingly, each discipline offers an account of global affect that re-enacts its own disciplinary limitations. Cultural studies accounts of emotion tend to be popular, ahistorical, and geographically limited, capturing public sentiment and its manipulation in the contemporary moment (see Ahmed 2004) and focusing on the ways emotions are manipulated to produce hierarchies of social identity and make these orderings appear natural. The use of emotion in such work has then contributed to debates between linguists and others on the limits to universal categorizations and accounts of emotion (see Nussbaum 2001; Wierzbicka 2004). In human geography, a series of useful debates over the merits of emotion and affect have similarly drawn on psychoanalytic and feminist theories to produce an equally flattened and universal account of the feeling subject (see Pain 2009; Pile 2010), considering phenomena such as global fear and global surveillance. In anthropology, the same terrain has been explored by nuanced, detailed, and historicized accounts of emotion (see Good 2004; Beatty 2005) as well as some very useful review articles on the disciplinary history of such inquiries (see Lutz and White 1986; Lutz and Abu Lughod 1990; McElhinny 2010). Of course, the anthropological account offers less a universal sweep of useful theory than a piecemeal, historicized account of locales and, for the casual reader, far too much arcane detail. But it is this anthropological account, however partial, that seems most compelling for global studies, because it accounts for and seeks out encounters with cultural difference as fundamental to the global.

An anthropological approach shows us that, while people seem to have embodied, shared, affective responses to the idea of the global, this does not mean that any particular affective valence (positive or negative) is attached to their imaginary. Rather, people process this affect, drawing on their context, personal history, and the emotional grammars available to them (Beatty 2005), to produce interpretations that they then recognize as emotion. That emotion they experience as generated by their encounter with the global might be fear, hope, elation, panic, or a whole host of other terms that do not translate directly into English. And this intransigence in translation is a key point: while emotion is difficult to translate, affect flows across class and cultural divides. An emotion is a culturally shaped, often very culturally specific, expression of affect. Given what we know about cross-cultural emotions and emotional communications in intercultural spaces, it seems unlikely that there could be any substantive and entirely global account of emotions—happiness, sadness, anger, or frustration. Perhaps it is only in the Anglo-centric and (post)imperial West that we could have a dominant understanding of the global as homogenizing and flattening people's subjectivities, rather than as inherently emergent from its performance in and through intercultural, multilingual spaces. Yet it is clear that the global offers people an epistemological trajectory for subjectivity—a sense of being and feeling as selves in the world—that re-territorializes them on to a realm of being both local and particular but also being worldwide and expansive in their felt and shared experiences.


Excerpted from Framing the Global by Hilary E. Kahn. Copyright © 2014 Indiana University Press. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Foreword / Saskia Sassen
Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction / Hilary E. Kahn
1. AFFECT—Making the Global through Care / Deirdre McKay
2. DISPLACEMENT—Framing the Global Relationally / Faranak Miraftab
3. FORMS—Art Institutions as Global Forms in India and Beyond: Cultural Production, Temporality, and Place / Manuela Ciotti
4. FRAMES—Reframing Oceania: Lessons from Pacific Studies / Katerina Martina Teaiwa
5. GENEALOGIES—Connecting Spaces in Historical Studies of the Global / Prakash Kumar
6. LAND—Engaging with the Global: Perspectives on Land from Botswana / Anne Griffiths
7. LOCATION—Film and Media Location: Toward a Dynamic and Scaled Sense of Global Place / Stephanie DeBoer
8. MATERIALITY—Transnational Materiality / Zsuzsa Gille
9. THE PARTICULAR—The Persistence of the Particular in the Global / Rachel Harvey
10. RIGHTS—The Rise of Rights and Nonprofit Organizations in East African Societies / Alex Perullo
11. RULES—Global Production and the Puzzle of Rules / Tim Bartley
12. SCALE—Exploring the "Global ‘68" / Deborah Cohen and Lessie Jo Frazier
13. SEASCAPE—The Chinese Atlantic /Sean Metzger
14. SOVEREIGNTY—Crisis, Humanitarianism, and the Condition of Twenty-First-Century Sovereignty / Michael Mascarenhas

What People are Saying About This

New York University - Arjun Appadurai

This book should be read by every scholar of globalization. It demonstrates conclusively that the locality is not the shrinking other of the wave of globalization but rather its precondition, its theater, and its co-productive other. Touching on such topics as affect, rights, materiality, and rules, the essays in the volume bring globalization into the dynamic center of some of the most vital debates in the contemporary social sciences.

University of California, Berkeley - Gillian Hart

This remarkable volume breaks new ground in the field of global studies. Going far beyond case studies, the contributors show how intensive ethnographic and historically-informed engagements can produce compelling new understandings of important changes taking place in the world today. The book is also a testament to the value of collaborative research.

University of California, Davis - Michael Peter Smith

[A] stimulating and well-researched book that clearly makes a contribution to scholarship in global studies. . . . [O]ffers a wide variety of ways to conceptualize, represent, and investigate, or, as its title suggests, 'frame' the global.

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