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.

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