Conference will examine local effects of globalization

By Carl Pickerill

The University plays host this weekend to the fifth annual globalization conference, the open session of which will be held today at 2 p.m. at the International House.

Discussion sessions at Judd Hall Saturday morning and afternoon will follow, during which University students will present the results of original research before a panel of distinguished faculty from universities throughout the country. Their research analyzes recent trends in globalization by attempting to look at decentralized themes of a global society.

“This conference will attempt to develop positions about how to study globalization in ways that does not just document the self-evident results of globalization such as WTO, IMF, etc.,” said Saskia Sassen in an interview. Sassen, the Ralph Lewis Professor of Sociology at the University, is the doctoral advisor to the nine students presenting this weekend. Her own work on globalization has culminated in various publications including “The Global City,” published in 1991.

“Our work on globalization tries to look at globalization in a decentralized way,” she said. “We are attempting to discover evidence of globalization on the local level. This means actually going into the urban fabric to dig, mine, fish, and hunt for instances of globalization. How ironic the parallels are between this and the earlier Chicago school of urban sociology, where researchers went into the city to create early social theory.”

Sassen described localized study of globalization as a “new frontier” of sociology. She said the efforts to move inside globalization to look at national and local trends represent a new way to discern the actual effects of a globalizing world.

The students’ research that will be presented this weekend will eventually become part of a publication that will appear either in the fall or winter of next year.

Kathleen Fornicola, the graduate student organizer of the conference and a Research Associate of the Transnationalism Project, said that conference is “another layer to the editing process, where outside reviewers will come in to give their critique.”

“The students will try to find out if their arguments are clicking and if their analytical framework makes sense,” Fornicola said. “The innovative part to this conference is that we don’t have an administrator who goes out and does all of the organizing for us. This was generated through the interests of me, the graduate students, and various others.”

Fornicola agreed with Sassen that there is a distinct “Chicago approach” to the study of globalization. She also mentioned the need to bring the various disciplines that look at globalization into a tightly knit unit of interdisciplinary studies.

“In one sense, there is an attempt on a horizontal level to construct what could be called a Chicago School of globalization studies,” she said. “This is an attempt to come together and build an analytical architecture that tries to build associations between disciplines.”

Fornicola also underscored the importance of not viewing globalization as a completely centralized process. She said that current trends to view it in this way are largely the result of analysis by those who “have access to global processes through membership, income, and other characteristics.”

Sassen attributed many of the more deleterious effects of globalization to a need for urban space.

“In New York in Times Square, we have witnessed the expansion of an urban glamour zone,” she said. “Global corporations need urban space. They need state of the art housing, state of the art boutiques; the important thing to notice are the dynamics by which urban change occurs through global processes.”

The plenary session for the conference will be held in the ballroom of the International House at 2 p.m. on Friday afternoon. Discussions sessions will commence Saturday morning on the first floor of Judd Hall at10 a.m. and will run throughout the day until 4 p.m.