April 30, 2008


I've been reading an interesting book about globalization, language and the French by Denis M. Provencher and came across a section that rang true. You see, each morning on my way to work, I pass this McDonalds. At first I felt really embarassed by it. I don't really know why I internalize or think that I have anything to do with it, but sometimes I take my nationality personally. So do they (the French, I mean).

Anyway, Provencher discusses the ongoing tension between France and the United States in the context of globalization and American hegemony. I feel this tension from time to time with my students when I teach. The other day, for example, one student was discussing television programs and said, "Well, TV is getting worse and worse the more you send your programs to us." The possessive pronoun 'your' was an interesting choice and I wasn't quite sure it fit. But I'm sure she just meant American programs, so fair enough.

All this tension started after WWII when America had its hands in numerous countries, in the rebuilding effort. Provencher points out that in France, General de Gaulle set up the Ministry of Culture (in 1959) in reaction to all of this, which was created to preserve and fortify French culture - to transmit it to the masses in France. De Gaulle had a big part in preventing too much privatization in France; he nationalized gas, electric, coal, insurance companies, banks and airlines.

Back to McDonalds. Globalization is part and parcel of the 20th and 21st centuries - transnational companies are everywhere. But what is interesting, perhaps, and what is not so frequently noticed is the way particular cultures localize the process. Check out our little McDonalds above. They even serve the McCroque - the globalized version of le croque monsieur, the famous french ham and cheese sandwich. So, as Provencher insists, local Frenchness persists even through American hegemony - a process he calls "Glocalization." I love it.

1 comment:

Maria Petrova said...

ha! i love it. it must not be fun being blamed for every us-french trade agreement! but knowing you, sense must have come on gracefully. great concept — thank you for sharing.

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