Course Time: Mondays & Wednesdays 3:00-4:15pm
Course Location: Hanover L002

Instructor Email: cwest9@gmu.edu

Office Hours: Wednesdays 4:30-5:30pm, or by appt.
Office Location: Robinson Hall A, Room 253B


It is has become a cliché to claim that today we live in a globalized world. But what exactly does that mean? In this course we will explore globalization as a set of connected social, economic, political, and technological processes. While these processes can be linked in a variety of ways, here we will link them through “culture” – shared (or not) ways of being, feeling, knowing, and communicating. From how we work, play, travel, consume, and communicate, globalizing structures and processes are part of the everyday lived experience of all people … albeit with differences and inequalities that vary greatly according to region, economic class, race/ethnicity, gender and many other factors. Instead of using reductive moral judgments to evaluate globalization as either “good” or “bad,” in this course we will consider globalization in terms of the rise and spread of capitalist modes of production, with particular attention to how power, inequalities and unevenness are constructed, experienced, and resisted through culture.

Although most of this course is focused on the period since the 1970s, we will approach that period with an awareness of its historical context by first considering a brief history of globalization since early modern times. We will then explore the nature of contemporary global capitalism, and spend the rest of the course examining a selection of contemporary issues at the intersection of globalization and culture. Topics include: global cities and urban spaces, globalization and militarization, global mega-events, cultures of labor, global mobility of people, consumption and identity, and the visual. In doing so, we will not only critically interrogate the connections and contestations of globalization and culture, but also reflect on ethical considerations and how our actions in the present affect our collective future.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a nuanced understanding of globalization and the ability to critically engage with interdisciplinary scholarship about globalization. Successful students will understand that there is nothing natural or inevitable about globalization by connecting it to the institutions and ideologies that enable it. This course requires critical thinking and independent research. Successful students will be able to apply what they learn to their own scholarship, producing well-researched and well- thought out final paper proposals.

Students should be able to:

  • critically approach the discourses on the processes of globalization and its cultural manifestations;
  • apply critiques and theories to contemporary case studies;
  • examine both the global and local: the way general models interact with culture on the ground;
  • develop a thorough understanding of global power structures, global processes and global inequalities;
  • consider how the key challenges posed by globalization could be addressed by real world policies and actions;
  • read critically, formulate research questions, engage in research and present findings in both group/public format and in clear prose