First popularized in the English-speaking world by the British sociologist Roland Robertson in the 1990s, and later developed by Zygmunt Bauman, the term ‘glocal’ and the process noun ‘glocalization’ are formed by blending the words ‘global’ and ‘local’. Both terms became aspects of business jargon during the 1980s, originating in Japan, but its use for post-colonial studies has been principally in its foregrounding of local agency against a seemingly relentless global culture. Globalization is itself always local and while globalization operates according to ‘flows’, the agency of the local ensures that the flow is very often reciprocal. According to Robertson ‘it makes no good sense to define the global as if the global excludes the local. In somewhat technical terms defining the global in such a way suggests that the global lies beyond all localities, as having systemic properties over and beyond the attributes of units within a global system.’ (1995: 34). Bhabhapt is present in slogans such as ‘think globally, act locally’ but it has accompanied the greatly nuanced view of the relationship between the local and the global that has been introduced by post-colonial studies.
The concept is important to post-colonial studies because it can be understood in terms of the transcultural relationships pertaining between colony and imperial centre in imperialism. As with classical imperialism, the impact of colonial incursion was not simply oneway, oppressive and hierarchical but reciprocal, transcultural and eventually transformative. This is perhaps most clearly demonstrated in the capacity of post-colonial literatures to appropriate the language, forms and genres of English literature and transform the discipline. Both literay writing and its transcultural scenario emphasise the agency of the local and of individual subjects and colonial communities to interpolate the discourses of imperial power.
The relationship between the local and global has been of particular interest to post-colonial theorists such as Arif Dirlik, Appadurai, Bhabha and Spivak, This involvement of post-colonial theorists in the discourse of cultural globalization has been so pronounced that Simon Gikandi has suggested that its ‘cultural turn’ has been entirely due to the intervention of post-colonial discourse over the last two decades. Globalization and post-colonialism ‘have at least two important things in common: they are concerned with explaining forms of social and cultural organization whose ambition is to transcend the boundaries of the nation-state, and they seek to provide new vistas for understanding cultural flows that can no longer be explained by a homogenous Eurocentric narrative of development and social change’ (Gikandi 2001: 627).
The language of post-colonialism provided a way of talking about the engagement of the global by the local, particularly local cultures, and, most importantly, provided a greatly nuanced view of globalization that developed from its understanding of the complexities of imperial relationships. This language needed to be adopted because by the 1990s globalization could no longer be explained in terms of traditional social science models. Globalization constitutes what Appadurai calls ‘a complex overlapping, disjunctive order that cannot any longer be understood in terms of existing centre-periphery models’ (Appadurai 1996: 32).
Source: Post-colonial Studies The Key Concepts Second edition Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, Routledge 2007.
Further reading: Appadurai 1996; Bauman 1998; Gikandi 2002; Robertson 1995.