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Globalization is nothing new. Global trade has been going on for millennia—though what constitutes the "globe" has expanded dramatically in that time. And trade is nothing if not cultural exchange, the narrow distinctions between the economic and the cultural having long been rendered obsolete. Moreover, our forbears, like us, were great "miscegenators." If here I gloss the racialized and gendered violence often associated with miscegenation, I do so strategically to note that all recourse to purity, indigeneity, or aboriginality—however useful strategically—should be subject to at least as much scrutiny as the easy romance with hybridity (see Mitchell 1997). Globalization has been the signature dish of capitalism—a system of social relations of production and reproduction nourished by uneven development across a range of spatial scales, from the local or regional to the national or supranational, the ambitions of which have always been global—since its birth in Europe more than five centuries ago. European-born mercantile capitalism early on was driven by a real expansion for markets and the goods to trade across them. This was nothing new, particularly, until the agents of capital began to assemble an empire and deployed the physical and symbolic violence intended to redirect toward European interests the globe Europeans were "discovering." With colonization and other imperial acts, Europeans of the ascendant capitalist class began to disrupt and rework ongoing material social practices and relations of production and exchange in other parts of the world in order to direct capital accumulation their way. Globalization, of course, is just another way of saying (and doing) imperialism, and since, worldwide, we are living in the shards of a Eurocentric but global capitalism, it behooves us to understand its work in the world, including the searing unevenness of capital's investments and disinvestments, the social costs of the privatization of public life, and the excruciating predations of all manner of state violence.


This article was originally published in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Volume 26, Number 4 (Summer 2001). Published by University of Chicago Press. DOI: 10.1086/495653



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