It's hard to escape the fact that modern wars accelerate the process of globalization, moving large numbers of soldiers and others to different parts of the world, often provoking complex new social and economic realities in the process.
At the same time, one must accept that modern, global wars do not truly encourage unrestricted cross-cultural encounters. If anything, they can lead societies that may seem relatively open at one point to reinforce their political borders. 9/11 is a case in point here, not so much as a moment when "everything changed" (that kind of rhetoric comes to seem ever more misplaced as the years go by), but rather as a moment at which the euphoria of globalization in the 1990s suddenly changed course. If the 1990s was the decade during which we saw many more people celebrating -- and sometimes resisting -- the idea of globalization, the 2000s seemed to be a decade during which a new anti-globalization ethos came into being, not just in the United States, but in Europe as well.
A question one has to consider in thinking about globalization is: how much of this really new? To what extent is the contemporary experience of globalization different from or similar to the wave of that began during the peak years of European Imperialism (1870-1945), itself an era of innumerable wars? One could also focus more narrowly on just World War II, an event led to widespread displacement, migration, and political realignment. How did globalization during and immediately after World War II differ from the era that began in the early 1990s?
Another key question is the role of war: how do large wars, involving the migration of thousands or millions of individuals, impact the movement of people, ideas, cultures, and technology? Is it possible that with continued globalization leading to ever larger populations of displaced and immigrant groups, we might see a decline in the conventional idea of 'national' identity, and the emergence of a new concept of global belonging?
If you were teaching this course, what books might you assign? (The only strict parameters I have are: 1) 1870-present moment; 2) something to do with war and globalization.)
After the jump, a preliminary syllabus.
Here is my preliminary list of texts.
Rudyard Kipling, Kim
Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim [or maybe just The Secret Agent, which would be easier]
Amitav Ghosh, Sea of Poppies
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
World War II and after:
Thomas Pynchon, V
W.G. Sebald, The Emigrants
Shauna Singh Baldwin, The Tiger Claw
Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Books suggested to me by Twitter friends:
Kamila Shamsie, Burnt Shadows (I must admit I generally do not love Shamsie's prose -- it often seems clunky to me -- though I will take a closer look at this novel, especially since it fits my theme so well.)