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Global Reading , Reading the Global

 Q:   Ask a Question about Global Reading , Reading the Global       
Global Reading , Reading the Global So inquisitive in many respects, global studies have left the question of reading largely unasked. Some have contended that our “ visual “ or “ postliterate “ age makes the issue quite irrelevant.

Others, with Jean Baudrillard, Paul Virilio, and Ben Agger among them, have offered that reading if successful, always a slow - motion, repetitive ceremony — cannot be possibly accommodated by our speed culture, whose vitality rests on its virality, on its fast - circulating data.

I am not persuaded by either argument. In textual and non - textual contexts alike, reading remains a fundamental intellection rite, the modality of taking in the world, hence part and parcel of self - fi nding and selfbecoming. If anything, reading calls for urgent re - reading, for redefi nition alongside the other private and public routines deeply impacted by the expanding “ network society. “

So I raise its question, or questions, here : What are we to make of reading now? How dowe read reading itself in the wake of globalization, when reading, far from falling into disuse, is adopting new technologies and broadening its scope, gradually enveloping thewhole world and thus becoming more and more reading of others?

Or, if globalization, the very logic of the global, must affect reading too in the global age, how does this logic or process help us in turn come to grips with the global itself, with this worldwide expansion and upgrading of the dynamic of self and other?

How can global reading read the global? How can the reading of global formations break out of the subordinating status of the genitive and get the upper hand, take up a position from which it may define— talk about, interpret, reframe — its own framework ? What bears acknowledging fi rst is the Janus - faced global’s double - bind.

For the global is driven by a contradictory move. On the one hand, we must reckon with the prescription of globalization, with the global as prescribed to us, imposed on us increasingly and characteristically in real or virtually real time.

The price we pay at the gas pump, our retirement plans, our pocketbooks are affected quasi - instantaneously by labor confl icts in Nigeria and military developments on the Pakistani - Afghan border.

On the other hand, I propose, we need to think about ways to maneuver writing and reading, discourse and its consumption broadly, bring them to bear on the global itself, deploy them as sites where experiences of globality can obtain instead of just being forced on us, and where, as a result, a novel correlation of self - other, here - there can be actively fostered and, based on it, new, supralocal communities can be imagined.

These experiences are as many gateways to meaning, to a text’s meaning and by the same token to the very meaning of the global, to what the global means to me, you, and others.

These are indeed, as suggested above, opportunities of reading twice : occasions to come to grips with reading in the global aftermath as much as to read the global, to comprehend what it does to me and the world, current “ prescriptions “ of globality notwithstanding.

These meanings, these understandings are hardly stable, a semantic donnée. A “madness “ of sorts, Jacques Derrida1 would say, possesses the global concept, which opens up remarkable possibilities.

These meanings may be presented to me, but it is up to me to question such top - down “ presentations “ no matter who makes or endorses them.

One more time, the global is not simply pre - scribed, a given confi guration of material and symbolic goods, of capital and cultural texts into which our lives are automatically and passively inscribed, written, and out of which some kind of “ objective “ meaning oozes, sets itself forth, or presents itself.

This meaning and the ethical injunction derived form it-what I think the global signifi es and, resulting from this understanding, how I engage with it—are reading effects instead. So the global is not merely a precondition.

Nor is it a prerequisite of being in this increasingly integrated world of ours, a priori of being - with - others in the space - time “compression “ era.

To a notable extent, the global is a project, in turn stemming from certain projections built into my response to the other’s distant call, to the stories that, I discover as I read them, are stories about me, concern me on some level.

This is how I represent the global, I come to see what it stands for as I read, watch, or listen to others and their own stories and representations, and so I perform it, enact it, perhaps set it up differently, in a different kind of performance. This is as much as recognizing that representation as reading effect is at issue here. As I read and write about what others have written, a negotiation takes place, a representational bartering.

One of the upshots of this “ transaction “ between writers and readers across temporal, spatial, and cultural boundaries, between “ my “values and “ your “ values, my “ horizon of expectations “and yours is a particular represented community. As I write, I imagine, I set up an imaginary, potential community where writer and reader can both acquire membership over and in spite of all sorts of divides.

As I read, I do the same as a reader. Yet the imaginary community assembled through reading is no longer solely a hypothetical possibility. While the writer’s call may receive no response, the reader has already responded and a discursive partnership is afoot.

This partnership or community may arise in reply to a work of fi ction but is nonetheless real because it impacts myworld as a reader going through a text within an actual context and so makes me part of something bigger than those environs, of a togetherness in which I can chime.

This participation can color my life in unexpected and often empowering ways, can help me cope, survive, and resist, rediscover or simply preserve my humanity.

Nor should we turn a blind eye to “ globalization from above. “ This occurs at the expense of individuals and localities, testing our humanity. John Updike has this test in mind when he deplores the growing “ deep - fried homogeneity “ of the world.

Now, the model Updike envisages is rather reactive. According to it, globalization is a blueprint for this inevitable, pre - scribed megacommunity that just comes upon us.

Bill Gates, Ted Turner, Montgomery Burns, and their minions are behind it, and we are their guinea pigs, undergoing passively the global experiment instead of experimenting with it, hence we cannot but suck it in, suffer its “ human consequences “ 3 ever on the receiving end.

Far more appealing to me, though, is an active model, switching out of the testing mode into a counter - testing, or, con - testing one, from the mechanically (pre - )scripted to the post - scripted global, to the global as a post - scriptum to the text of the contemporary, currently circulated, processed, read, reread, and rewritten worldwide.

I call this switch a cosmopolitan move, and I see in it a cosmopolitan alternative to top - down globalization, a non - prescriptive alternative that retrieves the time - honored notion of cosmopolitanism, reclaims and retrofi ts it for this contesting purpose.

By FW Editor

Tags: education, bill gates, humanity

Category: Lesson Plans  - ( Lesson Plans Archive)

Date Added: 13 April '10

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