This panel examines how people in so-called developing countries are being affected by global flows of money, goods, information, people, technologies, and religion, and how critical ethnographic research can produce richer insights into these processes and their social and cultural consequences.
Global economic, technological and cultural forces are giving rise to rapid social and cultural change in so-called developing countries, much of which has not yet been studied in sufficient depth using ethnographic methods. The influx of Western goods and media, in-country and cross-border migration, new religious forms, new political alliances and the rapid adoption of mobile phones by even the poorest of the poor, are all transforming socio-cultural landscapes in low-income countries with far-reaching consequences. The new global circulation of goods and information threatens some cultural forms and expressions of identity, but at the same time creates new and hybrid ones. Global consumer culture and access to new types of media give rise to new forms of social networking and new survival and life strategies. At the same time, however, researchers' uncritical application of North American and European cultural concepts to global processes in Africa, Asia and Latin America may be obscuring our understanding of these changes. For instance, research thus far has suggested that in many African societies, money is understood in a very different way than it is in the West: as a strongly emotional means of creating social ties and identity rather than merely an impersonal medium of rational exchange. The aim of this panel is to explore the new cultural meanings and forms of social organization emerging in the context of globalizing late modernity in developing countries, with a particular focus on reciprocity and flows of money, information, people, and goods.