Globalization Writ Small: Ethnographic Fieldwork in Multicultural Social Spaces

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 09:20
Location: Seminar 31 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Irene SKOVGAARD-SMITH, Anglia Ruskin University, United Kingdom
Communities and groups are key sites for the micro-sociological study of individuals as embedded in local scenes, representing both the consequence and the cause of collectivity: ‘society writ small’ (Fine, 2012) and thus also globalization writ small. Studying the global calls for immersion in social spaces that represent lived globalization in various forms. In this paper, I reflect on two such fieldwork experiences. In different ways these ethnographic cases illustrate how people living local lives constitute and are constituted by the global.

The year is 2001 and the local scene a multiethnic group of girls in a Gymnasium (advanced secondary school) in Copenhagen with 80% ethnic minority students. Spending a year in their class, I experience how ethnic boundaries are maintained and strengthened in interaction, but also how these boundaries are in some situations trespassed, redefined and rendered permeable. Their lived globalization is one where societal categorizations and public discourse in the wake of the global shock of 9/11 contribute to internal polarization, but also one where unexpected identifications emerge.

The scene shifts. The year is 2009, it’s Sunday and I find myself on a boat in Amsterdam surrounded by partying ‘expats’ from around the world who work in MNCs. The following days everyone is 'tagged' in pictures on facebook enabling this diverse group of global careerists to cement their local scene in virtual space. Their weddings are ritual celebrations of bicultural marriages and the 'multicultural vibe' of their 'expat bubble'. In interviews, they talk about their dislike of the 'monocultural' and identifying with a 'new nationality called globalism'. Their form of lived globalisation is radically different driven as it is by international business activities and high-skilled migration, but it is also one of selectively emphasizing and downplaying difference and redrawing of boundaries in the constitution of new forms of cultural identification.