Critical World
Thinking Globalization Through Popular Culture
Globalization as Encounter


Baloji embarrasses Bono

“I spent my whole life trying to avoid tall persons?”

What can we say about the Black Atlantic that has not already been said…?

  • Ethnic Absolutism
  • Anti-Essentialism
  • Anti Anti-Essentialism

What is the nature of this third position proposed by Gilroy?  How is it related to everyday lived experience and how is it different from his discussion of “double consciousness”

Black Atlantic as “seachange” in our thinking about cultural history and politics

As scholars of Black culture, can we live with the legacy of racism?

Not from a position of denial or fingerpointing, or a feeling of shame, but as a scientific and social responsibility.


A few thoughts on following…

The methodology of following is not new to anthropologists, even though it became more explicit in the critiques of ethnography beginning in the 1980s (see Marcus on “multi-site” and earlier Appadurai on “the social life of things”)

Examples from the edited volume “Music and Globalization”

Albums, individuals, capital, sounds and populations

Some examples of what I have been following through my research on Congolese popular dance music:

The G.V. Series


The Congolese “atalaku”
(around 20 mins)


An Ethnography of Encounters

  • not hybridity
  • not cosmopolitanism
  • not creolization


While it is true that recent research in anthropology and ethnomusicology is increasingly concerned with the relationship between various types of local and global musical forms, including in some cases stylistic borrowing or appropriation, there is still relatively little research about the actual encounters—chance meetings, coordinated misunderstandings, ongoing collaborations—that bring together people of different musical or cultural backgrounds and the way these encounters condition musical practice and knowledge about the world. (White, Rethinking Globalization Through Music”)

A definition?

The notion of global encounter refers to situations in which individuals from potentially radically different traditions or worldviews come into contact and interact with each other based on limited information about each other’s values, resources and intentions.  An encounter can be limited in terms of its frequency or duration but it can also be characterized by constancy and repetition.  (White, Rethinking Globalization Through Music”)

A preliminary typology?

  • Chance meetings
  • Coordinated misunderstandings
  • Ongoing collaborations


Process rather than product

Throughout its history, anthropology has examined various forms of cultural borrowing or blending, though these movements have been more concerned with the result of encounters than the encounters themselves:  beginning with the early studies of diffusionism by Boas and his students, the literature on theories of acculturation, the study of religious syncretism, the study of creolization, bilingualism and bimusicality, and more recently the blending of genres in the study of world music.  (White, Rethinking Globalization Through Music”)

Hermeneutic approach to encounters (inspired by Gadamer):

  • Rests on the assumption that knowledge is either transmitted or co-produced
  • Result of interactions between different actors or between actors and objects
  • Encounters occur on the terrain and the terms of the powerful
  • When individuals meet it is never just individuals, but universes


There is a difference between understanding the Other and understanding what the other is saying…


Coordinated misunderstandings

Steve Feld and Nii Noi Nortey of the group “Accra Trane Station”

Accra Train Station


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