Jenkins’ discussion of global convergence and pop cosmopolitanism, focuses on the idea of the world’s youth seeking to be a part of a wider, global community. He first discusses the concept of internet phenomena by introducing the ‘Bert Is Evil’ franchise, created by a Filipino high school student: “[he] created a Photoshop collage of Sesame Street’s Bert interacting with terrorist leader, Osama Bin Laden.” (Jenkins 114) As a result of posting this image and various other similar ones to his homepage, the student found his work being utilised by terrorist, anti-American forces. Undoubtedly, the student did not intend to assist the terrorist cause in any way, but rather they sought to be a part of a wider culture by politicizing one of America’s iconic, beloved characters in a satirical way whose irony would appeal to a wider-viewed youth around the world.
Jenkins goes on to define this global convergence in terms of its pop cosmopolitan sensibilities: “I will be using the term ‘pop cosmopolitanism’ to refer to the ways that the transcultural flows of popular culture inspire new forms of global consciousness and cultural competency.” (Jenkins 117) By this, Jenkins means that with the advent of the internet and more particularly, YouTube, the global cultural idea has morphed into a much bigger picture with a wider, more varied audience. , He establishes that Comospolitans, “embrace cultural differences” and seek to “escape the gravitational pull of their local communities” (Jenkins 117), and this has never been easier than today when a click of a button can mean you are playing a game of scrabble with someone who lives thousands of miles away. The internet enables people to live without boundaries or the need for a passport: varying cultural experiences are only ever a few clicks away and as such, political comments such as the above example are more readily available and received by more people than ever before.
Pop cosmopolitanism is very much a term for the 21st Century: it is relevant and provocative and it’s being embraced by more and more youths. Young people who wish to experience other cultures can now watch American and Japanese animation one after the other with relative ease. A prime example is that of Bert and Bin Laden within the Sesame Street concept: “Consumers worldwide know Sesame Street but don’t recognise Bert or Big Bird because the Muppets are re-designed for local tastes.” (Jenkins 123) As such, the high school student who made that image would have definitely intended it for American audiences, however it was adopted by terrorists to establish their own anti-American message because it was significant to America but being noticed by an international audience. My own interaction with pop cosmopolitanism is the same: I enjoy watching the latest funny videos on YouTube; post them to my Facebook page to share with my friends and then share them with my friends on Twitter who are a range of people from around the world. Social media has enabled me to live beyond the means that I have been born into.
Watson discusses globalization in terms of an anthropological viewpoint. He states that the big question is how globalization is affecting local cultures and traditions. Watson argues that anthropology is asking smaller questions: “it focuses on the micro to demonstrate the macro” (Watson 142) and by this he means that by asking smaller questions about everyday life, anthropologists are holding a magnifying glass over these changes and their role within in the wider view of cultural change and pop cosmopolitanism. Watson elaborates on some of the questions that are being asked, with regard to Asian culture: “Does the introduction of American television programs transform life expectations in China? … What do Hong Kong office workers eat for breakfast? … Are young Pakistanis who wear Nike sneakers, drink Coca-Cola, and eat Big Macs agents of cultural change?” (Watson 142) Due to this, Watson seems much more pre-occupied with how other cultures on the global stage can affect local cultures in Asia, whereas Jenkins seems to encourage the concept by discussing it in terms of its ‘trendiness’.
Seemingly preferring to keep his discussion realistic, Watson states that, “Homo Sapiens is still a far cry from creating a single, overarching cultural system” (Watson 143) and he’s correct: the idea of globalization and pop cosmopolitanism is that subcultures and cultural identities mingle, interact with one another but still maintain their own allegiance to their own, defining mainstream culture. For example, in Hong Kong, there is a real collision of eastern and western cultures: people listen to traditional Chinese Guangdong opera music while also listening to club music in nightclubs. (China Daily) However, as their sovereignty is Chinese, their mainstream culture will always reside firmly in tradition, with national holidays being celebrated in traditional fashion.
Watson’s discussion of globalization and pop cosmopolitanism differs from Jenkins’ in two ways: Watson seems keen to acknowledge that the primary culture of a country is still its own, traditional one whereas Jenkins seems to take the view that our global community is now an over-arching one that consumes all others. Additionally, Watson is quick to point out that we are not close to creating this global culture but that we are taking steps towards it in our sharing of cultural elements (for example, American television in China), whereas Jenkins is arguing that we are already there. Ultimately, culture and subculture is defined by the people who participate under its heading and as more and more young people are inclined to living a ‘virtual’ life through YouTube, Second Life and social media, we are taking ever-closer steps towards that one, unifying cultural experience.
1. Watson, James L. “Globalization in Asia.” Globalization: culture and education in the new millennium. Ed. Orozco-Suarez, Marcelo M. & Qin-Hilliard, Desiree Baolian. California: University of California Press, 2004. 141-172. Print.
2. Jenkins, Henry. “Pop Cosmopolitanism.” Globalization: culture and education in the new millennium. Ed. Orozco-Suarez, Marcelo M. & Qin-Hilliard, Desiree Baolian. California: University of California Press, 2004. 114-140. Print.
3. “Hong Kong: a fusion of east and west.” E-Zine. China Daily. 24 Aug. 2007. Web. 17 March 2011.