‘The Case for Contamination’ by Kwame Anthony Appiah
Globalization and cultural diversity are key life transforming tools in society (Smith 24). The article The Case for Contamination is the best way of explaining cultural diversity and the positive trends of globalization and them ways they transform life. Appiah gives globalization a positive outlook based on its positive influences to traditional norms of life. This paper is an analysis and discussion of the article based on selected positions and support arguments.
Globalization and cultural transformations has influenced human life in various societies. Through a careful selection of various examples, he gives a demonstration of the different forms of interactions based on culture and influenced by globalization. One key example of this is in his initial narration about the way Ghanaians enjoy traditional festivals and their demonstration of complete acceptance of the modern trend of life. Appiah explains how the people of Ghana have developed contacts with the western life. The author himself is also an intermarriage product between a British mother and a Ghanaian father. He also states that the current Ghanaian president got his education in Oxford and is a Roman Catholic. He further states that despite the fact that locals often have interaction with western cultures they never get assimilated completely. He explains this by giving reference to the missionaries’ arrival, which led to the transformation of most people to Christianity, though they still observed some of their traditions (Appiah 1).
Appiah also accepts the fact that certain groups of people have the thought that globalization is bad. Such groups also have the belief that modernity has continued to intrude into traditional rites. According to him, such traditions would vanish and be replaced by the ideologies from the West. On the contrary, he further argues that through globalization, cultures would evenly be spread to most places. While referring to the October 2005 UNESCO conference, the author points out that the purists’ fear is that the western values and images would significantly threaten the cultural diversity. According to him, the globalization allegations are not right. He gives a demonstration on how the same body of UNESCO gives an affirmation on the globalization benefits as freedom of thought and expression, human rights and free flows of ideas (Smith 24-28). He also argues that such types of values could become universal only with positive globalization view. According to him, universality could only begin at personal levels in contrast to changing the entire nation (Aphia 1).
Globalization is positive and life-transforming. In regards to Appiah, the life of Ghanaians has been hugely transformed through globalization. For instance, the diffusion of farming knowledge has enabled most of the people to gain livelihood means. The cocoa farmers also largely gain from the economy globally through the worldwide consumption of their chocolates. He also points out that under the globalization; there has been a fluctuation in the prices of cocoa leading to a rise in the living costs. Moreover, he also observes that makes an observation that globalization has established new opportunities for the young people. The younger generation never needs to depend on cocoa farming or the traditional ways of living as globalization has brought in technologies that they could get easily new job opportunities in the nearby centers for data processing. Globalization would, therefore, have different meanings to various people. To the farmers in the traditional days, this would mean suffering and pain as their traditional ways of life get eroded before their eyes. He, however, argues that the farmers’ children cannot be held back through the protection of their cultures from external interference so as to protect the practices that would not have any economic meaning (Aphia 3).
Protection of various cultures and authentic way of life are very significant. Appiah points out the fact that people of various generations would learn the traditional ways of livelihood through the preservation of the artifacts. The cultural preservation disguised as a preservation of artifacts should never be accepted. He further argues that the preservationists’ view is that Western market has brought in clothes in the markets of Ghana and is no longer able to afford purchasing their traditional silk clothes. In his opinion, the question should not be on whether such types of clothes never fit traditional ways of life, but rather a matter of their affordability. Globalization is therefore like a disguised blessing since the people are not able to afford the traditional silk because of extreme poverty. He further argues that the textile that has been assumed to be authentic to Western Africa was actually a Dutch diffusion that came in the region in the 19th century. Moreover, the silk used in the making of Kente in Ghana was an import from Europe, but a production of Asia. He, therefore, defends the cultural evolution as beneficial and also states that the averse of the society to change is have died (Aphia 2).
Different cultural values systems are influenced by the interaction of various people and globalization. The author makes reference to cultural imperialism referring to the belief system on the centralization of the world with peripheries constituting of the U.S and parts of Europe. Appiah also challenges cultural imperialism, which gives the suggestion that those within center states use mass media to influence peripheral cultures through their powers. He also uses an example of the interaction of a Zulu man with western culture and suggests that the people at peripheries have a decision, and they never easily accept cultural practices without making inquiries. Sipho, the author’s character denies the cultures of the west which encourage having the introduction of girls to relationships at early stages of between fifteen and sixteen years but instead prefers his cultural age of 20 years to enter a relationship. In his opinion, cultural imperialism has the assumption that those in the periphery as Sipho have no personal minds as they could easily get swayed by the capitalists. Instead, he points out that it’s a good thing to open the periphery to the western knowledge an argument which he supports using the example of personalities as Kwame Nkrumah who turned against the West despite being highly westernized (Aphia 3-4).
Various views of globalization play significant roles in the lives of people in society. One of such forms is cosmopolitanism. The cosmopolitans have the belief that there are varying values worth living for. They often expect people from various societies to uphold the varying values. They also have the belief on the imperfection of knowledge and its liability to being revised when faced with new evidence. According to him, the culture is never immuned to external influences and protecting it would be counterproductive. The author looks at the Chinese foot building practice that went for centuries but got lost within just a generation due to lack of practice from other cultures (Aphia 34). In regards to Pfau (2-3), cultural erosion and interaction of certain ways of life are therefore beneficial for the society. Appiah also looks at the transformations that have happened in regards to the participation of in certain professions that were only preserved for men a few decades ago. He also points out how the belief that the place of a woman was to be a homemaker and a mother has evolved through the years. This is a significant kind of societal change as opposed to the protection of the cultural practices (Aphia 5-7).
The article The Case for Contamination is a great resource in understanding globalization and cultural diversity in various societies. Appiah argues out so well and clearly on the interconnection between the cultural ties and its influences on globalization and the benefits of Cultural erosion and interaction of certain ways of life for the society. Different cultural values systems are influenced by the interaction of various people. Globalization and protection of various cultures and authentic way of life are very significant, is positive and life-transforming.
Appiah, Kwame Anthony. “The case for contamination.” New York Times Magazine 1 (2006): 32.
Pfau, Jens, Michael Kirley, and Yoshihisa Kashima. “Globalization and cultural diversity.” Proc. 3rd World Congress on Soc. Simulation WCSS (2010).
Smith, Rachael Craufurd. “The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions: Building a new world information and communication order?.” International journal of communication 1.1 (2007): 31.