Keep Buzzing: 20141118

What is the difference between “global” and “transcultural”?

There are confusions regarding “global studies” and “transcultural studies”, what they respectively do and how they do it. I have never studied Global Studies, but I would assume it has more focus on the political and social transformations in a global context that containing most parts of the world. It contains history studies (Global History), and focuses on contemporary issues and phenomena. The following is an explanation of Global studies given by Wikipedia (I know, I know…)

Global studies is the academic study of politicaleconomicecological and cultural relations and processes that in some way bear upon the world. Global studies is oriented around the study of globalisation as it relates to different fields of activity — areas as diverse as market relations, the movement of commodities, global communications and consumption, refugees, migrants and other movements of people around the globe. Global Studies incorporates transnational and local trends in its curriculum insofar as they illustrate broader questions of global change. Undertaking a global studies course can also include field work or research in a particular area of interest.

Global studies can also include international studies or international education. International studies more narrowly focuses on relations between national borders — one aspect of global studies. Similarly, international education refers more narrowly to the development of educational institutions internationally or comparatively between different nation-states. In both cases, the concept of ‘national’ confines the meaning of those fields of study. By comparison, global studies has a broader reach, from the global to the local.

Despite the “liberal” feature of my source above, this explanation of “Global studies” does cover a general scale what it contains. It seems that Global studies focus much on the circulation of object (in this case, human/people are also supposed to be seen as “objects”) As the mentioned in the citation, this studies orients around globalisation, which is originally an economic term. Of course Global studies also contains cultural aspects of the dynamics, but it is not the focus. Global studies  concerns much about contemporary. It is certain that Global history belongs to one of the fundamental subjects (if you ask why, then you’re questioning the sense of the existence of whole humanity. So don’t do that). In my understanding, Global history to Global Studies is mathematics to natural science in general. I remember my junior high school maths teacher once asked the class, why there are no Nobel Prize for mathematics. The reason she gave us was that maths is so basic and important for all science subjects that any Price winner must be/have been very good at maths, with reasonable exceptions of winner of literature and Nobel Peace Prize.

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The historical studies in Global studies link to Transcultural studies. After two months of studying, I realised the significant emphasis on history in this study program. It seems to me that Transcultural studies is less about contemporary or current situation of the world, but more about how the cultures were flowing around the world since whenever it could be tracked down to. But of course this will help us to understand our “present” world better (keep coming back to the reason for studying history). Contrasting to Global studies’ focus on objects, Transcultural studies stress on circulation of idea. Of course it also looks at object, since object is the carrier of idea. What Transcultural studies care about are those that behind the object itself: the people/culture who produces it, the transportation means that the object uses, the cultural respects of the transportation means, the receiver/consumer culture of the object and what impact the object has on the consumer culture, and what happens to the object afterwards — does it remains how it is, or does it transforms into a new object. Changes of sites, of time, and of scale determine the studies of the transcultural.

Transcultural scholars are a group of very nice people in a unique way: They try so hard not to leave anybody out of the picture in almost every occasion. They are so modest: they try to understand a story of a certain object, or a historical event, from every possible perspective.

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Transculturalism is all about identity: what makes of a person Japanese?  Is an iPhone American, or Chinese? Knowledge is transported from one culture to another, in this case, can we label this specific knowledge with a national or cultural “identity”? Say the cultivation of rice.

If you have “identity crisis”, you should study Transcultural Studies, because it is a whole study program about identity.

But probably you’d better not, since during the exploration of identities and definitions, you would get more confused and even be driven crazy of this whole “identity” idea.

Resurgence of Confucius?

Qufu, Shandong. It is the place where Confucius was born, in 551 B.C.. One of the most prestigious Confucius Temple locates there, appealing wave after wave of people’s visit. Currently stands there a 12 meters high statue of Confucius. However, there’s a 72-meter statue under construction — that statue will be “the highest Confucius statues in the world”… Wait, how many statues of Confucius are there in the other parts of the world other than China?

曲阜孔廟大成殿

What happened to Confucianism in China after the horror of Cultural Revolution, during which many temples were destroyed and thousands statues of the ancient philosopher were smashed into pieces?

In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Confucius Research Center in Qufu. He stressed on the urgency and need to promote traditional Chinese cultures, especially Confucius classics.

President Xi does possess a very positive image since he came into office in November 2012. He pushed forcefully wide- and deep-scale of fighting corruption process, and advocated “Chinese Dream.” Comparing to his predecessors, he is not merely a political figure, but more of a public idol. Similar to former Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, whom was known as “Baobao Yeye” (宝宝爷爷, literally means Baby Grandaddy) for his easygoing character, Xi Jinping has also a nickname, “Xi Dada” (习大大,”dada” is some dialects in China, means “uncle”). His popularity excels almost all of the previous and current politicians.

In China, or in any communist regime, idol worship plays a unquestionably role in politics and society (if we want to preserve pure solitude of “culture” in this case, which we should, so that here is no “culture” written). In old Chinese empires, the words came from Emperor’s mouth have their own title — Jin Kou Yu Yan (金口玉言,mouth and words are gold and jade). Surprisingly, this title still can be applied to political leaders’ words today. After a simple sentence from the President’s mouth, millions of books are sold out, authors of these books became extremely admired or envied, State Colleges (Chinese classics institutes) are founded across the country, and of course, higher statues of our national treasure — Confucius from more than 2500 years ago — are built up.

The current world largest Confucius statue is the following one in Japan. It may explain why people in Qufu insisted to say they are building up the largest statue in the world.

on November 9, 2014, this is still the largest statue of Confucius, at the Yoshima Seido, Japan.
on November 9, 2014, this is still the largest statue of Confucius, at the Yoshima Seido, Japan.

Ancient emperors had golden mouth and said jade words as symbol of taking responsibility of his own words. Today’s words on revival of Confucianism of party leaders can 1) build up new moral slogans for society, 2) stimulate economy growth by constructing sites and spending local financial reserves, 3) improve the common understanding of Chinese traditional classics and 4) help build up a more proud and concrete national identity.

Is this wave of Confucianism slashing back a sign of revival of Chinese classics? Or rather the other things that magnets the wave and those coming along really matters more? Reading classics needs certain mind of peace. Do the Chinese still have it? Or it does not matter at all?

Further readings:

南方周末:”曲阜,复兴儒学”。http://www.infzm.com/content/105345
The Independent: “Statue marks a major rethink in China’s attitude to Confucius” (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/statue-marks-a-major-rethink-in-chinas-attitude-to-confucius-2184291.html)

New York Times: “Confucius Statue Vanishes Near Tiananmen Square” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/23/world/asia/23confucius.html?_r=0)