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  • Interactive and Intersectional Analytics of Globalization
  • V. Spike Peterson (bio)

The complicity between cultural and economic value systems is acted out in almost every decision we make.1

“Globalization” is a complex and dynamic phenomenon that challenges researchers in all fields. Social scientists tend to emphasize material and structural processes. This is an effect of their substantive foci—goods, markets, states—and predominantly empirical-positivist and rationalist epistemologies. Humanities scholars are more likely to emphasize culture, subjective processes, and representational practices. This, too, is an effect of substantive foci, but also of predominantly historical and interpretive orientations. These disciplinary and epistemological divides fragment our knowledge of social relations and perpetuate problematic binaries (structure versus discourse, material versus culture) that hinder analyses of dynamic, multidimensional phenomena. Globalization studies in particular require cross-disciplinary orientations and a combination of empirical, historical, and interpretive insights.

Most of what we know about global political economy (GPE) emerges from departments of economics and international relations (IR), where resistance to critical, interpretive, and feminist interventions is well documented.2 This resistance obstructs gender-sensitive research and impedes more adequate and politically relevant studies. For example, modernist and Eurocentric commitments limit research into issues of culture, subjectivity, ethnicity/race, and racialized politics.3 Only recently—and largely due to concerns emerging in the wake of September 11—have these issues gained visibility in IR. It is a telling reflection on the field that increased attention to racialization and culture focuses on diagnosing conflict and security developments, rather than criticizing the intersecting hierarchies that structure globalization. [End Page 31] Feminists in these disciplines note that mainstream accounts continue to neglect women and, especially, to ignore gender as an analytical category. This obscures the gendered patterns and effects of social reproduction, the expansion of raced and gendered informal sector activities, the feminization of insecure employment and welfare crises, and the politics of new consumption patterns and family formations.4 Similarly, orthodox scholarship and a surprising number of critical studies overlook the practices and politics of sexuality and effectively naturalize heteronormative assumptions through unreflective references to (presumably heterosexual) individuals, families, and households.5 This is most conspicuous in references to “the family” or “family values” and produces a variety of effects: non-normative individuals, families, and households are rendered invisible, sexual practices and reproductive concerns are frequently misunderstood, and healthcare policies are subsequently inadequate.

Finally, two central features of globalization complicate our analyses.6 On the one hand, today’s globalization is distinguished by its dependence on information and communication technologies (ICTs) specific to the late twentieth century. Due to the inherently conceptual/cultural nature of information, not only empirical but analytical challenges are posed by the unprecedented fusion of culture and economy—of virtual and material dimensions—afforded by ICTs. The symbolic/virtual aspects of today’s GPE arguably expose—to a unique extent and in new ways—how conventional separations of culture from economy are deeply problematic and how interpretive lenses are essential for adequately analyzing today’s GPE. On the other hand, globalization and its effects are extremely uneven, variously manifested in hierarchies of ethnicity/race, class, gender/sexuality, and nation. Advocates of globalization avoid theorizing the nature and role of oppression in relation to neoliberal policies. Critics tend to focus on one or another of these hierarchies, or at best “add” one to another. The point here is that theoretical attention to hierarchies as a structural feature of globalization, and analysis of how these hierarchies intersect, remains underdeveloped.7

In sum, our inquiries must be informed not only by interpretive but also critical, feminist, queer, and postcolonial perspectives that reframe conventional approaches and afford critical assessments. As a contribution to that project, this essay draws on my GPE research to introduce three conceptual innovations: two interactive framing devices and an analytics of intersectionality. These innovations build on, and would not be possible without, the prior contributions of feminist scholars in a variety of disciplines, but especially critical race studies, economics, gender and development, and IR.8 [End Page 32]

RPV Framing

Briefly, I understand today’s GPE as both a continuation of “capitalist racialized patriarchy”9 that characterizes modernity and a new conjuncture constituted by neoliberal...


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