Searching for anchors that hold
Department of Communication Science
University of South Africa
This article explores the intricate interrelationships between discourses on and struggles of identity and the multiple processes associated with increasing globalisation in the modern age. Globalisation is often exclusively associated with worldwide economic integration and the emergence of a borderless global market. However, globalisation also involves sweeping changes on the social, cultural and political terrains. Globalisation furthermore entails apparently contradictory processes of, among others, homogenisation and universilisation on the one hand and localisation and differensiation on the other. Various analysts point out that the often contradictory processes of globalisation has led to wideranging changes in the processes of identity formation that have, in turn, resulted not only in a flourishing of discourses on identity, but also in struggles of identity involving various minority and marginalised groups. Apart from exploring various definitions of identity, discourses of and struggles of identity are discussed on five levels, namely the individual, subnational, national, supranational and global levels. Attention is furthermore given to the role of the media and information and communication technologies in these struggles and the implications for policy-making within the media and communications sector. The farreaching implications for Africa, and South Africa in particular, are furthermore considered.
(The idea for this article originated at a multidiscplinary workshop attended by various South African scholars involved in the study of globalisation, identity and democratisation. This workshop formed part of a project funded by the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation in the USA.)1INTRODUCTION
The opening of a new century has always served as a symbolic turning point in human history. The 21st century is no exception. A significant feature of the present juncture is the sweeping economic, social, cultural and political changes often referred to as globalisation (Tehranian 1999).
In general, the term "globalisation" refers to the transformation of temporal and spatial limitations, that is the shrinking of distance due to the dramatic reduction in the time needed to bridge spatial differences that has, in turn, resulted in the gradual integration of political, economic and social space across national borders. Although globalisation is often exclusively associated with the economic sphere, that is with processes of production, distribution and consumption as well as with ever-increasing global trade and financial services (Le Pere & Lambrechts 1999), economic globalisation is intrically interwoven with changes within the social, cultural and political spheres (Featherstone 1990; Waters 1995).
Globalisation is furthermore an extremely complex and multifaceted phenomenon. On the one hand there is the tendency towards homogeneity, synchronisation, integration, unity and universalism. On the other hand, there is the propensity for localisation, heterogeneity, differentiation, diversity and particularism. These processes are intricately interwoven and represent - in reality - two faces of the same coin. Thus the term “globalisations” is sometimes used to indicate that globalisation is not an ubiquitous or uniform process, but involves various terrains, manifests differently in various contexts and has different effects for people in different contexts (Braman & van Staden 2000; Kloskowska 1998; Tehranian, M & Tehranian, KK 1997; Servaes, Lie & Terzis 2000).
Within this fast globalising world with all its contradictions, struggles for identity have emerged as one of the most striking characteristics of the social, cultural and political scene. One of the most important features of the...