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A Hybrid Global Youth Culture?

Hybrid Culture and Glocalization–Please comment with your observations

Taika observes from Ethiopia, “Globalization made us unable to find our identity. The more educated we are the more we want to get better at being like western countries.” In his book on Globalization, Manfred Steger describes the global age as characterized by a dynamic process of interconnectedness and increasing interdependence, technology, mass-market commodities, growing awareness of being part of a global community and weakening nationality. He gives examples of vanguard hybrid exchange occurring in New York, London, Tokyo and Shanghai. Enormous waves of migration increase cultural and economic interchanges. The number of international migrants increased by 30% to an estimated 214 million people by 2010.[i] If all the migrants were put in one country, it would be the fourth most populated, surpassed only by China, India and the US, according to the United Nations’ Population Division. The largest internal migration is the exodus of rural girls from the Chinese countryside to work in factories in coastal cities. The subhuman conditions in textile factories where low-paid workers are forced to go without adequate sleep or breaks with low pay is documented in China Blue (2006), about Jasmine, a 16-year-old migrant.

Educated young people have migrated in large numbers to Commonwealth countries, the US, and Middle East due to shrinking job markets. Yvon Resplandy, USAID Senior Advisor, reports, “Global Citizens already exist, although they’re not yet fully recognized. There are more than 100 million people across the globe who have left their countries of origin to try a new life elsewhere, a good number of them are refugees (or IDP, Internally Displaced People) but the vast majority are migrants.” Taika adds that much of immigration is done illegally, which results in loss of life daily. Only about 5% of the world’s populations still think of themselves as rooted to their ancestor’s homeland in an indigenous culture, like the Yanomami in Brazil or the Congo Pygmies.[ii] Films portray efforts to stamp out indigenous cultures, as listed in the discussion activities at the end of the chapter.

By 2010, the United Nations reported that almost 214 million people had migrated, mainly to cities (20% of the international migrants moved to the US). Around 44 million more people are refugees fleeing violence or persecution, or recently climate refugees, such as those escaping drought in Africa. This trend will increase, especially for people harmed by sea level rise, loss of arable land, and drying up of underground water aquifers. Video interviews with migrants from rural to urban areas in developing countries are on YouTube.[iii] One of the BBC interviewees, a young migrant from Sierra Leone, Chernor Bah explained that youth migrate to improve their lives and that education is the number one way to achieve this goal, or like him, to escape violence in his country. Slightly more migrants were male and migrants were likely to move to developed countries.             The median age of international migrants was 39 and youth comprise about 30% (an estimated 27 million between the ages of 15 and 24). They share ideas and skills back and forth from country to country. An example is popular British rapper M.I.A. whose family is from Sri Lanka. Her music draws from Jamaica, Angola, India, Britain and the US with political messages that advocate “pull up the poor.” She quoted Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, in one of her videos. He in turn called her “the most courageous woman working in Western music.” She’s seen on YouTube, as on this video with Hindu images.[iv]

Globalization and immigration leads to cultural clashes such as the French government outlawing signs of religious affiliation like Muslim or Sikh headcovering in schools, and the rise of anti-immigrant political groups such as the Golden Dawn in Greece, the National Front in France, and the Tea Party in the US.

The borders between education, entertainment, and advertising and—to some extent–countries have collapsed, creating a “hybrid global influence” transforming how people define their identities and values.[v]  For example, a 15-year-old girl from Romania, Ariana reported that the TV show Grey’s Anatomy “made me consider becoming a surgeon, despite the amount of information you have to learn,” and another US TV show called Suits inspired her to think about becoming a lawyer. A Chinese only child said he grew up feeling “lonely and fragile” and was comforted by watching Growing Pains with its family of three children. A Puerto Rican girl who grew up in a tough South Bronx neighborhood was inspired to become a lawyer by watching the TV show Perry Mason and eventually Sonia Sotomayor became Supreme Court justice. In Egypt, Shereen El Feki sees a “mesh of civilizations” in popular culture, as illustrated in her TED talk.[vi]

Roohi, a 17-year-old girl in Singapore of Indian ancestry observes:


With regards to consumerism and youth, I feel that we can be divided into two main categories. Those who accept it and integrate it into their lives and those who don’t. It’s difficult to be in the middle, because once you see the impacts of consumerism around the world, it’s hard to be accepting of it. There are many times where having the right clothes, the right look, things like these are given more emphasis and importance than what used to be more valued, such as friendships.

I mean no offence to America, but in so many cases people are losing their culture and tradition to adopt a foreign one. In this globalized world, it’s definitely important to have international interactions and be accepting and integrate with people of other cultures, but youth should not forget their roots and the more important things in life.


Anthropologist Mitzi Goheen reports that both Matlock and Sesame Street are popular on Cameroon’s new television system, along with German game shows and Brazilian soap operas. In India, the media developed “Hinglish,” blending Hindi and English, like “Spanglish” in the US. “Brazlish” developed in Brazil in preparation for the Olympics. Another example of eclectic global tastes and “global youth flows,” Lbeth, (17) from Ecuador, mentioned a New Zealand band “The Naked and Famous,” liking their lyrics “We’re only young and naïve still….” An Iraqi college student called Hadia or HNK lists her likes on her English-language blog.[vii] Her favorite movies are American and British: Home Alone, Zorro, Shrek, You’ve Got Mail, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Secret, and Harry Potter. Her favorite music includes Josh Groban, Enya, Kadhim al-Saher, Fayrouz, and Abdulhalim Hafeth. Her diverse list of favorite books includes The Holy Koran, Haiaty, She’s the Queen, Harry Potter, and Gone with the Wind.

Because of a lack of research on “the intersection of youth, religion, and globalization,” Princeton Theological Seminary researchers interviewed 20 to 100 young Christians in each of eight countries (Japan, Russia, Germany, India, Argentina, Paraguay, Ghana and the US).[viii] They found that youth in developed countries and religious young people in various countries tend to be hopeful about global unity. Young people in developing countries and the non-religious worry about the negative impact of globalization on their job prospects and increasing poverty in their countries. Influenced by postmodern culture of “radical pluralism,” youth tend to value tolerance and openness. As an Argentinean youth told the Princeton interviewers, “We are confronted by different cultures, languages, and a diversity of thoughts. I believe that is good. . . It is OK to consider accepting other people’s values, providing that we use caution and discernment.”

Globalization means that youth are growing up in a more integrated world with more influences from outside the family than previous generations: finding jobs outside the family enterprise and away from home, learning more skills from school than family, increasing awareness of the world outside the local, more gender equality, and longer life expectancies.[ix] A Nepali high school teacher told me about his students, “They’re influenced by American culture and music, and modern technology. They think they know more than their ancestors and their teachers.”

SpeakOut youth report that just because adults were once teenagers, it doesn’t mean they understand today’s teens because life is different now. The context youth face is described by book editors Susan Dewey and Karen Brison.[x] New influences on young people are access to global trends that stress individualism and consumerism made possible by Internet, mass media and mobile phones. Migration or warfare separates some youth from their parents. Mass education takes children out of the home and away from family labor that may impact socialization of the students differently than what the family values. Other influences identified by Dewey and Brison are NGOs in developing areas teach “youth agency” emphasize rights, such as the right for children to go to school rather than have to work or girls’ right to be safe and empowered. In some areas, youth are proselytized by religious groups such as evangelicals. All these modern trends open young people to global influences.

Dewey and Brison follow psychoanalyst Erik Erikson’s belief that the adolescent task is to establish identity. They maintain that young people’s task in facing all these modern changes is to define their own special gendered identities within their local cultures. Developing nations are also attempting to define their cultural identities, so that, “ideas about children and youth are integral to national and regional attempts to define self relative to former colonizers and wealthier nations.”[xi]

One of the main issues youth face is the opposing forces of global consumerism and local tradition, existing in a tug of war. Yann Martel, author of the novel made into the popular movie The Life of Pi, believes that “cultural globalization is anathema to real culture, which is local.” Rural village life is very different from global consumerism, as Hassan described how he would be different if he grew up in his ancestral village rather than the city of Peshawar: “I would have been living in a society of decent people where fashion and style doesn’t matter. All that matters is tradition, religion and respect. I would have been more religious than I am right now.” Taika said, “I would have been married with a bunch of kids totally oblivious about globalization and any of its broods.” In India, a girl in Haryana State complained that parents give cell phones to city girls, but not to villagers, so as a college student she secretly got a phone and changes into jeans when she leaves the village. A father in her village of Dhakla warned, “As long as the girl lives within moral codes, she can have as much freedom as she wants. If they are going after love affairs or extra freedom, then they are killed.”[xii]

Some young people fear imported entertainment disrupts their local culture. Brazilian teens told me that as kids they watched Disney movies like The Lion King, cartoons like SpongeBob SquarePants, and other kids’ TV shows on the Nickelodeon channel, and now they listen to hip-hop and rock. Vivi, 19, fears that American media undermines Brazilian culture—his favorite is samba music. He and his girlfriend said appearance is very important to them, especially when going to church. Brazilian kids are very brand conscious and want popular brand clothes and shoes.

From Ethiopia, Taika reports,


American productions have become the main and basically the only veto power of our world. In Addis, the capital, speaking Ethiopian is considered uncool. Except some popular things, teens don’t read Amharic (working language) books, but they can stop going on and on about the Twilight videos. Teens don’t listen to cultural songs, because they might not fit the crowd. Speaking English is given more value than it should have. The worst in all this is teens don’t actually understand that it is wrong and the parents just don’t seem to care.


Concern about globalization and its destruction of local traditions and communities was expressed at a UNESCO Asian Youth Forum representing 21 countries and 60% of the world’s youth, held in South Korea in 2009. The young people resolved that globalization over the last few decades was harmful; “In the face of cyclical economic crises and the continuing decrease in human values, Asian youth are losing their identities and dreams that inspire them to build the future in which we want to live.” Instead of being “passive recipients of so-called global solutions that have often failed to reach the most marginalized and vulnerable people around us,” they resolved to find Asian alternatives based on local traditions and Asian values of respect for others and for nature. They recognized the need to encourage youth activism at the community level although students and job seekers lack free time to do volunteer work.

A youth from Ghana said, “They should not forget that they have their own culture to learn and practice to become good citizens of their country.” Others adopt “glocalization” maintaining their cultural identity while adapting to Western ideas. Globalization is associated with McDonaldization of American music and film, sports, and junk food. Youth report big differences between how they and their parents grew up in countries like Russia or in developing countries where youth are more informed by media than their parents were as teens.


[ii] Wade Davis, “The Issue is Whether Ancient Cultures Will be Free to Change on their Own Terms,” National Geographic, August 1999, p. 64.

[iii] http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ-u0_yuYIIQuAviPrDGxEg?feature=watch

Taped by the Global Youth department of the US State Department in 2013..

[v] Jane Kenway and Elizabeth Bullen. Consuming Children: Education-Entertainment-Advertising. Open University Press, 2001, p. 3

www.cornerstone.edu/…/GLC%20Global%20Contrast%20Stats.pdf facts about global consumption

[vii] www.blogger.com/profile/05385172984445391831

Her younger sister, also a college student, blogs at http://iraqigirl.blogspot.com where she wrote, “I am a 20-years-old girl, living in Mosul/Iraq (the most dangerous place in the world) where I face death every day.” She wrote a book Iraqi Girl: Diary of a Teenage Girl in Iraq. Haymarket Books, 2009.

[viii] Richard Osmer and Kenda Creasy Dean, eds. Youth, Religion and Globalization. Transaction Publishers, 2007, pp. 251-267.

[ix] Cynthia Lloyd, et all., Introduction, The Changing Transitions to Adulthood to Adulthood in Developing Countries, National Academy of Sciences, 2006.


[x] Susan Dewey and Karen Brison, editors. Super Girls, Gangstas, Freeters, and Xenomaniacs. Syracuse University Press, 2012, pp. 1-21.

[xi] Ibid, p. 17.

[xii] Ellen Barry, “Policing Village Moral Codes as Women Stream to India’s Cities,” New York Times, October 19, 2013.


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