One of the many panels on the opening day of this year’s Conference on World Affairs, titled ‘Globalization and the Collision of Cultures,’ brought together four specialists with backgrounds that span the globe.
The four panelists, Gordon Adams, Kevin Bales, Alexander Grit and Kavita Ramdas, addressed a standing-room-only crowd in the East ballroom of the UMC.
Chet Tchozewski, founder and executive director of the Boulder-based Global Greengrants Fund, moderated the panel.
Kevin Bales, author of “Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves” and professor of sociology at Roehampton University in London, began the discussion.
“The collision of culture can be both negative and positive,” Bales said.
Bales said that while globalization has helped to create opportunities, it has also created vulnerability.
He explained that the growing presence in underdeveloped regions of two innocuous items – soccer teams and televisions – has opened a portal of exploitation.
Boys are recruited to play for a ‘far away soccer team’ or girls are offered an opportunity at the make-believe world they see on television. The reality is that they only become susceptible to slave traders who want to add them to the long list of global commodities, he said.
Kavita Ramdas, a senior advisor to the Palo Alto, California-based organization Global Fund for Women, followed by asking for a show of hands from the crowd of who had eaten Basmati rice, or cilantro, or worried where their coffee was from.
“To each the answer is globalization,” Ramdas said.
When Ramdas said that the iconic British take-out meal of fish and chips had been surpassed by vindaloo and tikka masala, she said it was a positive development in globalization and presented “a reverse process of colonization.”
Alexander Grit, academic dean at Stenden University of Applied Sciences in Doha, Qatar, took his turn to tackle the panel’s title and said that it was “not so much a collision of culture, but a collision of standards” that faced much of today’s world.
Grit gave examples of the academic world in Qatar, and said that people cannot live globally; they must live locally.
Gordon Adams, a professor of international relations at American University in Washington, D.C. began his portion of the talk by questioning the crowd as to how many had lived abroad for a significant amount of time or spoke a foreign language fluently.
A small percentage of people in the room raised their hands as Adams discussed how the forces of economics, technology and information were creating better and stronger linkages around the globe.
“I think the next generation will have more hands in answer to my question,” he said.
Jaylen Baca, a 20-year-old sophomore international affairs major, said he was drawn to this panel because of his interest in international economics.
Baca said he enjoyed the panel on globalization but thought it was lacking a greater diversity of panelist opinion.
”I definitely feel like they should have had at least one person that had more of a contradicting view,” Baca said. “Because it was just basically that globalization is good in some ways, but it brings too many bad things. It was great, I just wish they would have had someone with an opposing view to stimulate more discussion and debate.”
Paul Groth has been a member of the community since he and his wife moved to Boulder in 2004. Attending CWA events has become a tradition for them, he said.
Since 2005 the couple has come to listen to panels every year and finds the week-long exchange of ideas to be an invaluable way to opportunity to continue their education.
“You [students] pay a lot for this,” Groth said. “We go to about four of these a day all week long.”
Baca agreed with Groth as to the value of the panels.
“This is my first, but I’m planning on going to around ten, if not more,” Baca said. “I may even skip class to go to some of these because I feel like in a way you can learn more from these than you can learn in an hour sitting in class.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Thomas Cuffe at Thomas.firstname.lastname@example.org