- Grounded Globalism: How the U.S. South Embraces the World
Reading this book makes me wish I were (back) in the land of cotton and feng shui, namely Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Part-ethnography, part-philosophical treatise, part-memoir, Grounded Globalism reflects the sunny disposition as well as the [End Page 84] accumulated wisdom of the distinguished anthropologist James L. Peacock, long a champion of multicultural and international studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A scholar who has ranged widely across the culture and religion of both Southeast Asia and the U.S. South, Peacock here brings his far-flung interests together in a personal, creative assessment of the impact of "globalization" on the region. Though collecting information from many places, he relies mostly on stories from his beloved university town as well as his native South Georgia. Indeed, if forced to put my reaction to the book on a bumper sticker, I would be tempted to revise the classic Chapel Hill slogan, "the Southern Part of Heaven" to "the Heavenly Part of the Global South."
Peacock suggests that global-derived changes, or what he prefers to call "global force fields," hold out the hope of making a good region better. In particular, he argues, globalization offers the chance to "fundamentally transform" southern identity, moving it away from an "oppositional" relation to the nation, borne of Lost Cause resentment, and inserting it into a global as well as regional framework. "To ground globalism," as the author defines his central concept, "is to fuse a transformative global identity to a sustaining regional identity." Though the author's emphasis pertains "to region more than race," he implicitly welcomes international influences as a solvent to the region's longstanding black-white divisions. In surveying multiple examples of changing social relations, Peacock notes, "many scenarios are apparent, running the gamut from the old dualism, to overcoming dualism, to emergent pluralism, to pluralism as part of global identity." Imposed upon the old cultural, political, and demographic dualism the "effect [of the new global framework]," Peacock asserts, "is powerful, deep, and profound."
Of new links between the local and the global, Peacock finds abundant, entrancing examples in his immediate vicinity. A Ugandan boy is lovingly adopted by a Peace Corps volunteer. An Indian wedding at the Carolina Inn features a groom entering on a white horse (substituting for an elephant) while a priest chants in Sanskrit. A new college graduate of Lebanese background exchanges an old fraternity handshake with the author. The Hare Krishnas arrive on campus from their retreat in nearby Hillsborough. The area boasts several feng shui experts, a flourishing Sufi order, a Javanese gamelan, a physical therapist inspired by an Indian guru, as well as the Ecozoic Society, which has already succeeded in "instituting a celebratory season in a particular Baptist church, developing a sustainable residential community, and applying law to ecological issues." And one is delighted to learn that Chapel Hill's favorite son also fits the new paradigm. In 1984, Michael Jordan, before serving as the global representative of the Nike logo, doubled as Peacock's research assistant to examine the Olympics as a global "Camelot," while winning his first gold medal for the U.S. Basketball Dream Team.
Such examples, one hardly need point out, are socially as well as geographically [End Page 85] restricted. Confined to the experience of the professional class, they also derive from a place whose leaders did not need to wait for globalization to go global. The university's own patron saint, Frank Porter Graham, anticipated Peacock's South Asian interests with his own stints on behalf of the United Nations in Indonesia, India, and Pakistan. But one wonders how the globalism of a Chapel Hill squares with the region's larger experience in recent decades? Perhaps the most surprising omission in Peacock's account is the absence of any assessment of the South's huge new Latino presence: a reckoning with native southerners' interaction with Mexican or Guatemalan drywallers, chicken processors, and...