Globalization and Anthropology

Globalization and Anthropology

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1. We live in a world where nothing is sacred if selling it can make a buck. Be it “tourist” indigenous memorabilia or your own “extra” kidney, you can bet there’s a viable market, and someone’s willing to buy. Given the fantastic stealth of international transactions, globalized markets evoke particularly ominous possibilities for the marginalized in our capitalistic economy. Exposing obscure global issues from “tourist” art to bio-piracy, Schneider and Scheper-Hughes complicate our understanding of globalization by questioning one’s responsibility to the agency of others in an increasingly interrelated world.

According to Schneider, defining “authenticity” is a battle between indigenous peoples and the tourists who purchase their arts and crafts. As “tourist” art grows with the realization of international tourism as means of development and economic growth in marginalized communities, foreign assumptions affect the perception of indigenous arts and crafts as “legitimately” indigenous. Indigenous peoples readily “transform” functional items into feasible commodities; “goods such as “indigenous blouses and shawls” easily become “alien place mates and pillow cases,” enabling indigenous peoples to survive (Schneider 80).

Schneider asks, does this practice rob peoples of their culture, or simply generate a new kind of survival market culture? In seeking “to recognize and question Eurocentric imaginings of the world,” the discipline of anthropology complicates the right of tourists to judge the commodities of indigenous communities, as it questions the right of a global economy that forces peoples to produce such commodities to survive (Schneider 83).

In her more gruesome study of organ theft in impoverished communities, Scheper-Hughes similarly demands that consumers understand the implications of “neo-cannibalism” on an international scale. Rejecting the idea of impoverished peoples as “uneducated and gullible informants,” Scheper-Hughes questions the meaning of doctors, organ brokers and prestigious anthropologists denying people voice about body-snatching (35, 39). Her research proves that “eviscerated bodies” do appear in allies and morgues, and verifies the accounts of poor peoples denied as mere “inventions” by authorities (36, 38).

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Voices of impoverished communities evaluate the ethics of organ transactions, of “altruistic” practices and complicate the efficiency of organ sales. Globalization is further complicated as organ theft erodes “the enormous trust invested in bio-medicine” around the world (Scheper-Hughes 58). Can authority be trusted in our modern world?

By questioning stipulations of control and agency in the politics of commoditization, these anthropologist demand new definitions of justice in a world market where anything goes.
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