Are some places more global than others?

Testing, testing…  Hi there.  I’m a new blogger on the Terry network, and looking forward to writing a thing or two from time to time.  I’m a professor who specializes in Latin American Studies, so if the point of Terry is to promote interdisciplinarity and “global issues,” then I’m right there already.  After all, Latin American Studies is by its very nature interdisciplinary and Latin America… well, that must be global, right?

Or maybe not.  Let me say from the outset that I’m fairly skeptical about both interdisciplinarity and global issues.  Perhaps that’s because it’s already what I do.  Perhaps not.

But let me start with a question.  Are some places more global than others?

Or to put it more concretely.  The university is starting up a UBC Arts Global Citizenship Term Abroad.  First stop, Guatemala, in the Fall.  I’m sure it’s an excellent initiative, and I encourage you all to sign up: Central America is a marvelous place, and there is much to learn there.  I’ve spent plenty of time in the region myself.  My only query is: why go to Guatemala to learn about so-called “global citizenship”?

Market Day in Nebaj Guatemala

Is Guatemala more global than Vancouver?  Why take the bus to Quetzaltenango and not (say) to Commercial Drive, the Downtown Eastside, or the Pacific Center to learn just as much, if not more, about globalization?  “Do you want to get off the beat [sic] path? Meet the locals? Shop in the open-air markets?” Why would you want to do that in Guatemala and not here?  Indeed, why not start right here and right now, in New Westminister, Richmond, or North Van?

I think people who are attracted to Guatemala are in fact looking for the local (“meet the locals”), in a world in which the local seems to be fast disappearing.  “Global citizenship” is a way to construct and identify with new imagined localities, and in the process to distance yourself from your own back yard.

Do you agree?  Answers on a postcard.  Or in the comments box.  I look forward to the conversation.

(Image: “Market Day in Nebaj Guatemala.” Courtesy of virtualreality on Flickr.)

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Jon Beasley-Murray is an assistant professor in the Department of French, Hispanic, and Italian Studies. He teaches Latin American Studies.