Religion In The Process Of Globalization Cultural Studies Essay

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Issues concerning globalization and its impact on societies have encouraged scholars and academics to write papers for both specialist and non-specialist audiences in the field of globalization. The aim of this paper is to examine, describe, compare and contrast, conduct analysis and evaluation of two different articles, each of which discusses the same theme from a different perspective.

Article 1, "Religion in the Process of Globalization", is written by Peter Beyer who carried out most of his research in the field of the sociological theory of religion and religious diversity and multiculturalism in Canada. In the 1980s, he shifted his attention and focused in depth on the area of sociological understanding of the relations between religion and globalization. This particular work concentrates on two main subjects: religion and globalization, and their place in the modern world. It is a theoretical piece of work which discusses some serious and complex issues that have emerged in the twenty-first century. The tensions between global and local scales, between universal and particular, between homogeneity and heterogeneity are all discussed in detail and the author cleverly manages to link all these issues together and present them via an historical narrative approach.

Article 2, "Disjuncture and Differences in the Global Culture Economy", is written by Arjun Appadurai, Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Languages and Civilization at the University of Chicago. He specializes in sociocultural anthropology, globalization and public culture. Like the first article, this is another theoretical, complex sophisticated piece which discusses globalization, culture and economy from different perspectives. The author establishes five different theoretical models of global cultural flows to present his arguments. These models are: ethnoscapes, financescapes, technoscapes, mediascapes, and ideoscapes. (Appadurai, 1990, p.296). These terms are used throughout the article, with moderately sufficient explanation being given for each term as the arguments unfold, though again in a complex manner. The style of writing is very complex, using many abstract nouns, extremely technical words, phrases and metaphors, and a somewhat rigid style.

Comparison of the two articles

Similarities: Issues of cultural and economical globalization are clearly discussed in both articles. Each uses theoretical approaches and case studies to facilitate the concept of globalization. In addition, theoretical models dominate the argument, whereby each author presents and illustrates how the impact of globalization on western and eastern cultures alike is colossal, and the fact that researchers in this field have either intentionally or unintentionally passed over the actual problems that the world is facing.

Points of difference and contrast

Although the two texts have some similarities in their arguments concerning globalization, there are differences in the context of the arguments, because each author deals with the subject from different angles, so that the reader may understand that the pattern of globalization is complex. In article 1, for example, the author attempts to explain the core problem of globalization, the tensions between homogeneity and heterogeneity from the religious point of view. Moreover, he establishes a theory of connectivity between modernity and globalization in this era of a fast-paced global culture. In contrast to article 2, the author looks at the issues from the cultural and economic aspects of globalization. Furthermore, the issue of religious globalization is rarely mentioned which suggests that the author does not consider it relevant to the overall concept of globalization.

Analysis and evaluation

The key issue in these readings is the attempt by the authors to illustrate theoretical approaches to the concept of cultural, economical and religious globalization. Each author uses a theoretical model to engage with the reader and demonstrate the results of his research and contribution to the understanding of globalization, approaching the subject from different perspectives. Globalization is not a new phenomenon, but its existence may be traced back to past history and civilization. David Held states that, throughout history, human beings have travelled, settled in new lands, explored the seas, built empires and searched for the means of subsistence. However, it is important to note that it is only in the last five hundred years or so that they have travelled the world, conquering and linking together the Americas and Oceania. (Held, 2000, p. 1).

The articles highlight the fact that through migration, travelling, and economic and religious interchange, a new era of regional and global movement of people, goods, and information began. As a consequence, religious, political, and, economical activities spread across many communities, regions and continents. Article 2, for example, uses five different dimensions of global cultural flow to illustrate the historical background of globalization. The dimensions are: ethnoscape, technoscape, financescape, mediascape, and ideoscape. (Appadurai, 1990, p. 296). Wise suggests that each of these dimensions, referred to by Appadurai as a "scape", moves in a slightly different way, and each movement has implications for the others. (Wise, 2008, p. 37). In contrast to article 1, the author uses different elements of globalization including individuals, societies, internationalization, and humanization processes to illustrate the connectivity between globalization and religion, which emphasize that globalization has guided religious activities. (Robertson, 2001, p. 17). The authors use theoretical approaches in an attempt to identify the core problems of globalization. In addition, many other scholars in the field of globalization express different views and different ideas. For example, Romero states that in the context of globalization, religion should be looked at as a complex set of phenomena to be analyzed, not only on its own terms, but also in relation with other areas of religious activity, which has to be redefined in global terms. (Romero, 2001, p. 488). This indicates that globalization may be analyzed in different ways, particularly as regards the sense of connectivity and balance. Hefner, on the other hand, links globalization to Modernity and Enlightenment to express the theory that Christianity was in decline in the eighteenth century Enlightenment. His argument is based on the impact of globalization on religion in the West. He states that the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries witnessed not merely Enlightenment attacks on religious authority but new and vibrant religious movements. (Hefner, 1998, p. 87).

The views and theories of these scholars are important contributions to this dynamic and exciting debate. Clearly, there are many similarities between these additional texts and the two articles being discussed, even if these similarities are not direct, but on the grounds that all discuss the same issue. Furthermore, the theoretical approaches in the articles are to some extent very complex in contrast to the readings of the scholars. It is not surprising to encounter these types of complexity coming from both articles, especially when the authors' main attempt is to go beyond the interpretation of globalization and establish a link between past and present theories.

In most cases, anthropologists tend to examine their subjects on the grounds of connecting culture, politics, religion, and history, in order to engage the reader in a lively and interesting debate. It is worth mentioning that both articles have presented unusual theories on a complex issue that runs through the entire works, and this in itself is a challenge for the reader. There are no right or wrong answers to the questions asked in the texts regarding the issue of globalization, but, on the contrary, the reader is given choices to reflect, digest, and comment on these theories of globalization.

It is true that we interpret the world in our own ways and try to establish a sense of understanding of what is going on around us. We see the world from different dimensions and this facilitates the path towards understanding and coming to terms with the problems we face and attempting to find the right solutions. Appadurai indirectly asks us to see the world in terms of a map or landscape. The world is therefore divided into two categories: economics and movements of people. If we lean towards economics, than we get one particular map on which are marked key financial centres and important flows of investment and information connecting specific places. But if we lean towards the movements of people, we see people moving to where jobs are, or away from famines or wars. (Wise, 2008, p. 36). This is an economical argument, in which immigration and mobilization of people from village to city, from the peripheries to the centre, from local to global scales, remains the central argument among scholars and anthropologists. In terms of religious globalization, deep understanding of the core problem is vital to link the past and present together. Robertson has succeeded in linking past incidents to present through religion in the process of globalization, in a narrative that is chronically well structured with clear references to dates throughout, and thereby paves the way towards fruitful discussion. He states that he will discuss the ways in which religion is bound up with globalization and shifting circumstances of our being interested in the significance of religion in the late twentieth century world. (Robertson, 2001, p.3). Arguably, comprehensive works and literature have appeared on the issue of globalization from a wide range of perspectives, for example, technological, political, sociological, economic and cultural. However, it is rare to read an academic paper discussing religion and globalization in depth which tries to appeal to contemporary thinking.

Despite the complexities of the arguments in both articles, they are effectively well presented and detailed discussion indicates the importance of the subject in relation to the concept of globalization and its theoretical approaches. Therefore, it is hard to favour one reading over the other. As a reader, I find article 1 more convincing and interesting because it touches on a subject that is very sensitive and which has rarely been discussed previously. There are many theories and definitions of globalization and occasionally these theories overlap each other in one way or the other. Naturally, the reader encounters these theories, which may never have been discussed in the past or even have been addressed or acknowledged in the public or academic domains.

Since the world is continuously changing, new ideas and theories emerge and this may be the starting point for developing different understandings of globalization that affect all human beings.


In conclusion, both articles have presented not only very complex arguments, but also complex narratives and styles of writing. The authors argue their cases through theoretical approaches and manage in one way or another to build a bridge between past and present. Both historical and contemporary aspects of globalization are well balanced and argued.

Each author has developed a different set of theories that accommodate his beliefs and arguments with the intention to link these theories to the history of enlightenment and modernity. The writers also expand their arguments beyond the contemporary scope in order to highlight the factors that have shaped the concept of globalization.

Globalization is not a new phenomenon and many scholars and academics have written books, journals and articles in an attempt to explore or argue this concept from economical, cultural, sociological, and religious points of view. One author approaches the subject from the religious standpoint, to argue that there is a link between religion and globalization. The other author uses cultural flow to establish a link between globalization and the modern world.

Religion has become an increasingly controversial topic in both personal and public life; it can be seen as a positive or negative influence in historical change. This interconnectivity of elements is vital for one of the authors when it comes to analytical approaches to the issue of globalization.

Comparing the two theories of globalization in the readings may result in establishing a new understanding of the term and also opening many other doors for interpretation and discussion.


Appadurai, A. (1999). 'Disjuncture and Differences in the Global Economy', in Global Culture: Nationalism, Globalization, and Modernity. Sage, London.

Hafner, W.R. (1998). Multiple Modernities: Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism in a Globalizing Age. In JSTOR accessed online at on 22nd October 2010.

Held, D. (edi) (2000). a globalizing world? Culture, economics, politics. The Open University, UK.

Robertson, R. (2001). 'The Globalisation Paradigm: thinking globally', in Peter Beyer (ed) Religion in the Process of Globalisation. Wurzburg, Ergon Verlag.

Romero, C. (2001). Civil Society and Religion from a Latin American Standpoint. In JSTOR accessed online at on 22nd October 2010.

Wise, M. J. (2008). Cultural Globalization: A user's Guide. Oxford, UK.