The Impact of Globalization on Indigenous Peoples

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Updated: Mar 06, 2023
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The march of globalisation has homogenised language and cultural identity, subverting the integrity of native cultures in its process. Stephen Leonard’s essay “Death by Monoculture” follows the dynamic process of globalisation, grasped from his firsthand experience exploring the language and culture of an indigenous Arctic community. He writes in defence of the cultural integrity of indigenous populations, attesting to the disruptive effects the forces of consumerism and globalisation have on the ethnosphere. Leonard’s stance of solidarity is admirable in principle yet his poor approach undermines its efficacy.

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His essay represents a manipulated discourse that projects romanticised western stereotypes onto native communities, promoting an imbalanced understanding of indigenous populations. Leonard’s essay embraces a paradigm of power ultimately undermining his attempt to advocate for native conservation by deeming his experience central to their plight and maintaining a patronising depiction of native cultures.

Leonard’s narration of the effects of globalisation represents a common social undercurrent in which discourse is dominated by the white experience. This undercurrent is expressed when Leonard choses to emphasise his attribute of being a romantic even before detailing the more relevant focus of the essay which is globalisation’s active meddling with native populations. This sequence of report is not neutral, and is instead attached to a social discourse that is driven by power, or better yet an imbalance of power, which centralises the white experience. This is reflected in the manner in which Leonard recounts personal anecdotes. When leonard illustrates an episodes of globalisation in action, this being the image of adults and children glued to television screens with a bowl of seal soup on their lap, he chooses to analyse its absurdity from the perspective of a romantic rather than its dangers from the perspective of a concerned global citizen. Leonard reveals that witnessing this left him in a state of disillusionment. This fails to convey any concern for the cause as it pivots around the plight by focusing on Leonard’s reaction. This steers into the assumption that the motivation behind Leonard’s advocacy is to fulfill the superficial mould of what he perceives it means to be indigenous that is so clearly etched into his cultural imagination in order to combat the effects of globalisation. Leonard fails to voice the perspective of the natives and instead focuses on his shock. In this way,it seems like Leonard lacks an understanding that his take on advocacy is charity driven and dangerously attempting to shape the destiny of an indigenous people by allowing his discourse to shape and create a meaning system that has gained the status and currency of ‘truth’, and dominate how we define and organize both ourselves and our social world. He walks the reader through visuals that are at complete variance with what his romantic perspective had imagined and hoped for, describing adults and children glued to television screens with a bowl of seal soup on their lap.

The magnitude of disturbance the Inroads of globalisation has on the social ecosystem of indigenous peoples cannot drive change or even be fully comprehended when deemed secondary to the discussion. Choosing to detail single stories, that are neither whole nor true, in order to illustrate the effect globalisation has on indigenous communities therefore lacks substance, undermining Leonard’s attempt at advocacy. The narrative chosen influences the ways we think and talk about the integrity of indigenous communities and reflect the ways in which we act in relation to that subject. In this case when the narrative is shifted away from the native population and focuses on Leonard’s own desires, solidarity and advocacy morphs into an empty gesture as it fails to address the issue at hand. This is especially true when Leonard describes the effect of globalisation on indigenous populations as a juxtaposition when modernity meets tradition, He highlights its absurdity only in the context of his position as a romantic which fails to reflects any actual understanding of the cultural significance of this change. Leonard misses an opportunity to delve into the native’s insight regarding the juxtaposition by choosing to focus on his own experience. Leonard’s interest in protecting cultural integrity stems from his romanticisation. So even if it is true this perspective is questionable.

Leonard’s awareness of Indigenous people’s experience with globalisation often reflecting an unsettling, disruptive process that furthers their marginalization, urges him to take on the role of a spokesperson for their struggle. This role contributes to a patronising depiction of indigenous populations by stressing their helplessness and inability to defend themselves. This depiction is obviously distorted as globalisation is not a new phenomenon and indigenous populations have actually been engaging with its effects for years, even developing their own methods of defining what aspects it accepts and rejects. Hence, for Leonard to assume that Eskimo children playing violent and expletive crammed Hollywoodian video war games is a juxtaposition in itself Hallmarks a discourse of power. Indigenous populations should not be limited to the practices of their past advocated by the cultural nostalgia of the anti-globalization crowd. Instead they should be integrated into the globalised world. If there is a need to Need to protect indigenous people then it should be done as equals not as superiors the way Leonard presents the case.

The rhetoric that dominates Leonard’s approach to advocacy is rooted in an Anglo-centric paradigm of power, that fails to awaken his white consciousness. It is insufficient for Leonard to claim good intentions for his advocacy when his work unconsciously underpins indigenous inferiority by maintaining a patronising depiction of native cultures. Leonard should have manipulating his unearned power to establish a discourse to open a dialogue to be repossessed by the indigenous narrative, challenging the structurally oppressive narrative. but they also experience an enhanced ability to communicate globally and increase their voice after centuries of disenfranchisement.

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The Impact of Globalization on Indigenous Peoples. (2021, Oct 20). Retrieved from