Globalization: National Identity and Cultural Hybridization in Late 20th Century and 21st Century Novels by Dr. Afaf (Effat) Jamil Khogeer
Globalization has been defined as the process whereby events that happen in one part of the world impact other places. The inborn trait of a national identity has shifted considerably during the latter decades of the twentieth century, now irrevocably transformed in the new millennium. An individual’s national identity has become less relevant than his/her cultural or ethnic identity. In my manuscript, selected works from the global literary canon are presented, which highlight the cultural, national, and technological aspects of globalization: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros and Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee, Graceland by Chris Abani, and Neuromancer by William Gibson. These novels consist of stories about people who are part of the global society in which national identities have been affected and cultural hybridization has emerged.
Globalization has been defined as the process whereby “events happening in one place importantly impact upon many other places, often remote in time and space” (Urry 39). In this paper, selected works from the global literary canon are presented, which highlight the cultural, national, and technological aspects of globalization: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee, Graceland by Chris Abani, and Neuromancer by William Gibson. These novels consist of stories about people who are part of the global society in which national identities have been affected and cultural hybridization has emerged. As cultural theorist and sociologist, Stuart Hall, explains, we “all write and speak from a particular place and time, from a history and a culture which is specific. What we say is always in context, positioned” (Hall 234).
The predominant theme in the novels presented in this paper is cultural hybridization, a consequence of globalization. Cultural hybridization is a product of globalization created,
From the paradigm of polarization and the paradigm of homogenization, and derives meaning only in relation to them….It resolves the tension between purity and emanation, between the local and the global, in the dialectic according to which the local is in the global and the global is in the local” (Pieterse 57).
The traditional definition of culture is no longer applicable in the twenty-first century global community. Professor of Anthropology, Gordon Mathews, posits that the new millennium’s definition of culture is the “information and identities available from the global supermarket” (1). In this era of globalization, many countries resemble each other, they are becoming similar and “Americanizing,” evidenced by having the same McDonalds, KFC’s, the same malls and department stores, the same entertainment industry with MTV and Disney, and the same movies and music. As Pulitzer Prize winning author, Thomas Friedman, says, “Touring the world will become like going to the zoo and seeing the same animal in every cage – a stuffed animal” (229).
Cultural hybridization is the intertwining of Asian, African, American, and European cultures. The increased global flow of people (migration), commodities, information (increased by technology), and capital has resulted in a form of creolization, the crossing-over in a chaotic pattern of hybrid formations. For example, in the streets of Japan, one can visit a traditional tea house alongside a McDonald’s restaurant. Logos of multinational corporations flood the billboards on the streets and allies of South America. Non-western teenagers are rushing to the malls and stores to buy American designer brand clothing, such as Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. An Indian girl wearing a sari and carrying a Louis Vuitton purse can be seen walking down the street, talking on her cell phone to her friend who lives in Australia. The hybridization of music is also a part of the globalization phenomenon. For example, Latin based singers such as Ricky Martin and Shakira are now crossing over to English speaking markets and are mixing English and Latin lyrics.
Immigration and Assimilation-- The House on Mango Street and Jasmine
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros and Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee chronicle the lives of two immigrant women, who strive to engage in the global community. As depicted in these novels, both legal and illegal immigrants generally hail from socioeconomically challenged, underdeveloped nations in which violence, poverty, and political instability are commonplace. The division between legal and illegal immigrants encourages racism and xenophobia. This discrimination makes it difficult for immigrates to interact normally with the host society. They have problems finding a social space for themselves, and finding support to aid them with obtaining social equality.
The House on Mango Street
The House on Mango Street by Mexican-American writer, Sandra Cisneros, is the story of Esperanza a young girl growing up in the Latino section of Chicago. As Professor of Hispanic Studies, Julian Olivares, notes, it is, “(1)...an ideological perspective of the downtrodden but, primarily, the condition of the Hispanic women; (2) the process of a girl's growing up; and (3) the formation of the writer who contrives to have a special house of her own” (Olivares 1606).
Esperanza, is still a big part of the “we” that is her family and their fate is intertwined with hers. She slowly begins to understand that to have her own identity, she must become the “I” that will bring her out of poverty. So many hopes and dreams were invested in her idealization of the ideal American home, the home she saw in the sitcoms on television. Esperanza’s house “serves a twofold symbolic function: it is a symbol of the socio-economic condition in which Esperanza finds herself and its alienating effect on her, and …as a symbol of human consciousness” (Eysturoy 93). Her dream is symbolized by her dream of a new house, "They always told us one day we would move into a house, a real house that would be ours for always so we wouldn't have to move each year" (Cisneros 337). It gradually becomes evident that this new house is very much symbolic for a social liberation as well.
Esperanza is aware that Mango Street is a place the “other” people fear because it is dangerous, “Those who don't know any better come into our neighborhood scared. They think we're dangerous. They think we will attack them with shiny knives. They are stupid people who are lost and got here by mistake” (Cisneros 29). Although she lives in a tight-knit community of Latinos, Esperanza identifies herself as an outsider like the trees that do not belong among all the bricks and buildings in the barrio. She asserts that, “When I am a tiny thing against so many bricks, then it is I look at trees. When there is nothing left to look at on this street. Four who grew despite concrete. Four who reach and do not forget to reach” (Cisneros 71). Esperanza is separate from her crumbling world; but she must seek the strength to grow, as the trees do.
While Esperanza dreams of leaving her neighborhood, she also aspires to be a writer. It is this dream that actually becomes the symbol of her actual exodus from Mango Street, for she will ultimately leave only on in her artistic imagination. She writes about leaving,
One day I will say goodbye to Mango. I am too strong for her to keep me here forever. One day I will go away....They will not know I have gone away to come back. For the ones I left behind. For the ones who cannot out. (Cisneros 342)
Esperanza tells many stories that reveal her views on life, how she sees herself, and how poverty affects her life. She must reach outside of her surroundings, let go of the ground and fulfill the dreams that are a part of the stories she tells:
I like to tell stories. I tell them inside my head. . . . I make a story for my life, for each step my brown shoe takes. I say, "And so she trudged up the wooden stairs, her sad brown shoes taking her to the house she never liked." I like to tell stories. I am going to tell you a story about a girl who didn't want to belong. (Cisneros 101)
Through her creative stories, superimposed over the harsh realities of her situation, she journeys to a place where her thoughts matters. Among the characters she writes about are women who have been forced to make choices that caused them to have stifled, restricted lives. She chooses not to be one of these women, who are at first wild and resistant and later sad and helpless:
My great-grandmother. I would've liked to have known her, a wild horse of a woman, so wild she wouldn't marry until my great-grandfather threw a sack over her head and carried her off. Just like that, as if she were a fancy chandelier. That's the way he did it. And the story goes she never forgave him. She looked out the window all her life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow. (Cisneros 12)
While Esperanzo begins to free herself through her writing, she maintains a commitment to her roots on Mango Street. In other words, she wants to escape poverty but wants to keep her roots. Thus, she escapes poverty through her artistic talent, but remains fixed geographically. She knows very well, that, "You can't forget who you are." (Cisneros, p.105) As Julian Oliveras notes, “on the higher plane of art, then, Esperanza transcends her condition, finding another house which is the space of literature” (Oliveras 1607).
Esperanza is eventually forced to accept her fate. She will not be leaving the Latino neighborhood and moving to the house of her family’s dreams. Ultimately, this is what The House on Mango Street is about: achieving liberation through art, rather than through geographical excursion. Esperanza overcomes her condition by creating literature, rather than moving to a new house. In this way, she is able to distance herself from her family and community. And yet, she holds on to her heritage. By affirming her own artistic expression, she is able to blend both of her dreams.
Jasmine by Indian-born American writer, Bharati Mukherjee, is the story of a present-day, seventeen-year-old Indian woman whose life begins in the Punjab. The main character, Jasmine, traverses to from her India to four different locations: Florida, New York, Iowa, and California. Like Esperanza, Jasmine is a victim of poverty and wants to escape for a better life in America. After the death of her husband, Prakash, she begins her journey in Tampa, Florida where her deceased husband Prakash planned on attending college, “I had not given even a day’s survival in America a single thought. This was the place I had chosen to die, on the first day if possible. I would land, find Tampa, walking there if necessary, find the college grounds and check it against the brochure photo” (Mukherjee 120).
When Jasmine arrives in the United States, she is determined to make herself fit in as an American. While in Florida, she meets Lillian Gordon. Lillian tells Jasmine that she can live with her sister, Wylie, and Wylie’s husband, Taylor, in New York. Jasmine eventually moves in with Taylor and Wylie and right away Jasmine has feelings toward Taylor, “I fell in love with his world, its ease, its careless confidence and graceful self-absorption. I wanted to become the person they thought they saw: humorous, intelligent, refined, affectionate. Not illegal, not murderer, not widowed…destitute, fearful” (Mukherjee 171). Jasmine’s job with the family is to be the caregiver for the young daughter, Duff. She has trouble adjusting to this American family and leaving her Indian customs at bay. For example, it is hard for Jasmine to accept the fact that she is to sleep in a different room, which is simply not how it is done in India, according to her. It is with this family that Jasmine is most American, but at the same time, still part of her own culture.
Jasmine wants to be accepted as normal in America, however, being an illegal immigrant forces her into very difficult situations. One day Jasmine and Taylor are sitting at a park in New York. Jasmine is startled when she sees, or thinks she sees, the man who killed her former husband, Prakash. She screams and Taylor offers to call the police. Jasmine is forced to keep the police out of the situation because she is an illegal alien. “Don’t you see that’s impossible? I’m illegal here, he knows that. I can’t come out and challenge him. I’m very exposed, I’m alone all day, I’m out in the park” (Mukherjee 189). She is now forced to make another desperate decision. She decides that it is time to move on to Iowa, where there are less people.
In Iowa, Jasmine meets a banker named Bud, “People assume we’re married. He’s a small town banker, he’s not allowed to do impulsive things. I’m less than half his age, and very foreign. We’re the kind who marry” (Mukherjee 7). Jasmine does not give any reasonable explanation for why they should be married. She gives reasons out of desperation more than out of love. Jasmine will do anything it takes to start a family in the United States. She is determined to assimilate.
Jasmine initially believes that she and her mother-in-law, Mother Ripplemeyer, would have much in common, as a result of the latter having lived through the depression. But Mother Ripplemeyer was uncomfortable hearing about the poverty in India, after all, she was now a part of the American culture, and has gotten over the strife she experienced during the depression. She felt that Jasmine should forget about her life in India and make an effort to assimilate into American culture. Jasmine is disheartened to know that a bond has not been forged as a result of their shared experiences of going through hard times:
Mother Ripplemeyer tells me her Depression stories. In the beginning, I thought we could trade some world-class poverty stories, but mine make her uncomfortable. Not that she’s hostile. It’s like looking at the name in my passport and seeing “Jyo---“ at the beginning and deciding that her mouth is not destined to make those sounds. (Mukherjee 16)
Jasmine is content to pretend to be someone else who does not identify with the water famines in Hasnapur where the women fought savagely over the last muddy bucketful of water in a dried up well. Instead, she is content to listen to her mother-in-law rattle on about the rather whitewashed experiences of the depression. Like Esperanza, Jasmine is an outsider, her only cohorts are those people who love her because she is easy to be around, as long as she does not discuss those issues about herself that make her different (Mukherjee 16-17).
The most poignant character in the novel is the refugee named Du who Jasmine and her husband, Bud, adopt from Korea. Du is also an outsider and has a story of displacement and poverty that can rival Jasmine’s, but he chooses to create a new life centered around the advances of the modern world, embracing American TV as if it is a lifeline. He wants to overcome the emotional and physical upheavals that characterized his experiences in the Saigon refugee camps. He wants to assimilate into American culture, and, thus avoids any conversations with Jasmine on the subject of war or strife. His refusal to engage in this type of conversation leaves Jasmine perplexed, “I’ve told him my stories of India, the years between India and Iowa, hoping he’d share something with me. When they’re over he usually says, “That’s wild. Can I go now?” (Mukherjee 18).
Jasmine knows that in order to assimilate, she must adopt a new identity, which is prompted by the death of her husband, Bud. He was killed in a terrorist attack that she believes was meant for her. She now has make a new life for herself without relying on others. The validity of her past is not lost, just subverted, just as in the life of Esperanza, who recognizes the vagaries of her past life and yearns to recreate it.
Unlike the families in The House on Mango Street and Jasmine, most members of the global population will never cross their own national borders, living and dying in close proximity to their place of birth. Mechanisms of government control, most prominently migration policies, are among the greatest forces affecting migration. Nation-states generally organize their immigration system around the distinguishing between citizens and foreigners, with an underlying and institutionalized resistance to foreigners who want to settle and socially integrate.
The Influence of Western Popular Culture-Graceland
Graceland by Nigerian author, Chris Abani, portrays the ubiquitous influence of the United States’ popular culture on members of the international community. Abani switches between flashbacks and the present in his compelling narrative about sixteen-year-old Elvis impersonator, Elvis Oke, who lives in Maroko, a ghetto section of Lagos, Nigeria. Elvis’ story is like that of others whose search for identity entails a struggle between their traditional cultures and the burgeoning popular culture of the global society.
Elvis lives in a culture that abounds with cultural hybridization, for example, he listens to highlife and reggae music, and watches American movies. Throughout the novel, Abani makes references to Elvis’ choices in literature, music and movies that illustrate cultural hybridization. Elvis’ immersion in popular culture contrasts with the backdrop of a dismal urban existence. Though he is immersed in his own Igbo culture, Elvis hopes to one day live a better life in America – the place where dreams come true. After all, America is the place where Graceland is located, which is the “King of Rock and Roll” Elvis Presley’s mansion.
At the beginning of Graceland, Abani reveals that Elvis had fallen asleep reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Like many of the works later referenced, Invisible Man deals with social alienation, which Elvis struggles with throughout the story. Elvis navigates through adolescence in a ghetto without parental support. However, he does have aspirations; his main goal is to become a famous dancer. Elvis stands out in Lagos because of his job as an Elvis impersonator. Although he is an entertainer, his strong, personal sense of morality and justice is his greatest attribute. He is not willing to accept the horror of poverty and desperation that is the fabric of his urban existence. Clearly, “Elvis and the other characters in Abani’s novel constitute the violently evacuated waste products of today’s world economy” (Dawson 20–21). Despite his slum dwelling” environment, Elvis is determined to not be an outcast. He criticizes other fellow Nigerians because they have submitted to their deplorable living conditions: “That is the trouble with this country. Everything is accepted. No dial tones or telephones. No stamps in post offices. No electricity. No water. We just accept” (Abani 58).
Another notable work mentioned in Graceland is Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, which is referred to as Elvis’ “current inspirational tome” (Abani 7). It is easy to see why Elvis would find the letters inspirational, as they encourage the poet to whom Rilke wrote to stop looking for approval in others and focus his energy on understanding himself. As Elvis tries to make a living from an unconventional job, he must face ridicule and rejection from tourists, fellow Nigerians, and his own father. Yet this isolation and discouragement are not enough for Elvis to abandon his dreams. In a sense, Elvis may have been reading the letters for the guidance and support that was so absent in his life.
Elvis smiles when he reads the first line of the novel, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” Elvis believed these words expressed his condition. Obviously, the worst of times reflects his present condition, but the reader may wonder what could possibly be good about Lagos. The contrast between beauty and horror is a constant in the book, and Elvis’ feelings are split in relation to the atrocities he witnesses. His disgust mirrors that of the western reader, while some of his other feelings are more similar to the general sense of apathy and acceptance that exists among his peers, his family and his neighbors.
The best of times that Elvis has is when he is reading books by American authors and going to American movies. Elvis likes movies that have conflict as the predominant theme--the antagonist is trying to defeat the protagonist, who struggles to defeat the antagonist. When Elvis goes to the cinema with his acquaintances, they watch American movies about “the eternal struggle between the good of John Wayne and the evil of the villain” (Abani 149). As the novel progresses, the connection between these movies and Elvis’ own life becomes clearer, as he attempts to be the hero in his own story; but the “bad guys” in Graceland are not as easy to defeat. Though Elvis does nothing when he witnesses a grave injustice taking place, it is hard to blame him when doing anything would almost guarantee his death. He frequently voices his disapproval and refuses to accept the horrible scenes that he witnesses, which are brave acts themselves, as standing apart from the crowd is always a brave act.
The most obvious western influence in the book is that of Elvis Presley, whom Elvis Oke is named after, and who he aspires to be. Dancing and singing as an Elvis impersonator and listening to his Elvis records take up the bulk of Elvis Oke’s time. However, Elvis struggles with living up to the very idea of Elvis Presley, not only when he is dancing and singing, but also when he tries to live up to the image associated with Presley. Elvis believes he can never be as good as Elvis Presley and fights this despair by clinging onto the belief that he will eventually escape to America and become famous. However, the reality of his life in Lagos is a constant reminder of how difficult, if not impossible, that future will be.
Fortunately for Elvis, his opportunity to escape Lagos finally comes when his mentor, Redemption, gives him a forged passport. The passport has Redemption’s name, so Elvis must assume a new identify as he transitions from his life of unfulfilled dreams to what he hopes will be the land of opportunity. While waiting in the airport for his flight to American, Elvis reads James Baldwin’s Going to Meet the Man, which deals with racism in America. He can relate to the black man in the book who was lynched by a group of racist white men:
He knew that scar, that pain, that shame, that degradation that no metaphor could contain, inscribing it on his body. And yet beyond that, he was that scar, carved by hate and smallness and fear onto the world’s face. He and everyone like him, until the earth was aflame with scarred black men dying in trees of fire. (Abani 320)
One would think that Elvis would be feeling something closer to excitement and anticipation about his escape to America, and perhaps this passage indicates the conflict that still exists within him, relating to the reality of what exists in Lagos and how it relates to America, the West, and colonialism. It is significant that the first few works Elvis is shown reading in Graceland reflect his innocence and loneliness, as well as his desire to be free, while the book he reads when the novel ends is much more grim. Elvis has lost his innocence and now the adult Elvis must learn how to come to terms with his own pain and suffering. This final scene illuminates Elvis’ realization that escaping to America will not solve all of his problems, and that his pain will not be left behind. The book ends with his response to the airline clerk who calls his name, signifying his new identity, “Yes, this is Redemption” (Abani 321). In the global community, many people, like Elvis, are becoming migrants, moving rapidly through various cultural and national spaces.
Internet communication directly impacts those living in a world whose traditional boundaries and patterns have been altogether changed. People worldwide are now riding in fast cars on the information highway that Jessica E. Baum calls the “Mad, Mad Internet,”
Scholars have posited that international trade has a spillover effect on international relations, transforming relationships among nations by promoting interdependence and consequently producing economic stability and peace in a globalizing world. (Baum 702)
The community arising from the worldwide web is a mental or intellectual one that has its power in the nature of the medium which unites people. For instance, the ordinary human struggles of people attempting to live in community is being overtaken, perhaps, by a human inclination towards ‘picking and choosing’ and finding agreeable new communities by way of cyber communities. No human being is an island, yet islands will be united invisibly, verbally and conceptually by way of machines.
In most contemporary literature, the Internet is mentioned as a vital part of the plot. Some of the “real life” issues that are addressed in stories about the Internet include the ways in which people’s privacy can be impinged upon by outside, hostile attacks. In addition, the novels reveal the grandiose notion that people can control the world through technology. The viral infection that obliterates computer memory acts as a powerful challenge to this assumption.
American-Canadian author, William Gibson, is one of the most prolific science fiction authors and major contributor to what is referred to as the cyberpunk genre. Gibson, who has been called the "noir prophet," created the term “cyberspace,” which refers to the realm that encompasses the Internet. Of course, discussing William Gibson means discussing, however briefly, the concept of “cyberpunk.” Although he did not create the term, Gibson became the most recognized writer of cyberpunk. The term was first used by Bruce Bethke in 1983 as a title for his short story. It describes “punk attitudes and high technology,” usually criminal driven teenagers, who use high technology to commit crimes on the Internet. The word “cyber” comes from cybernetics, the study of control processes and communication in biological, electronic, mechanical and artificial systems. The word “punk” describes an entire generation that found its roots in the Sex Pistol music and the general anarchistic attitude that many youths had embraced at the end of the seventies. The punk teenager is individualistic, anarchic, anti-social and rebellious. Cyberpunk basically describes an ultra-technological rebel movement, a revolt, but a revolt orchestrated by using high technology (Baum 698-730).
The 20th anniversary edition of Gibson’s novel, Neuromancer, was released in 2004. Neuromancer won him international fame and recognition, as well as the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award and the Philipp K. Dick Award. The action of the novel is set in 21st century Japan. (It was during the decade of the 1980s that Japan became the United States’ pivotal source for cutting edge technology). Amidst the backdrop of technology in Japanese society, Gibson writes about a decaying future society, where moral norms and rules seem to have been forgotten or neglected. Corruption abounds and technology is used for evil purposes. In fact, this is one of the novel’s declarations: technology is negative and only negative. Not only is it used for evil purposes, but it has dominated, not so much in a “Terminator” way, but by controlling the humans that have created and are using it.
The novel’s main character is Case, a former hacker specializing in breaking security systems, who is caught stealing from his own employees and banned from using the Internet. The plot consists of his meeting with Armitage, a powerful and mysterious figure who helps him regain access to the Internet and society and places him under the protection of Molly, a professional killer. Armitage is a kind of savior; the negative aura around Armitage, as well as its association (even patronage) with professional killers such as Molly, makes this a rather negative savior. As his work for Armitage progresses, Case successfully completes clandestine assignments and has the final revelation that he has been working for Neuromancer, an artificial form of intelligence. The necromancer is an evil wizard, that deals with dark forces and death. Very much like a necromancer, Case, through his hacker vocation, has evil intentions and is associated with chaos.
Neuromancer contains several recurring themes which pertain to much that tends to be discussed about the networked imagination. The novel is futuristic, but it also offers its commentary on a world and human consciousness that are now being transformed quickly, due to the advent of cyberspace’s promise of rapid communication and in a amplified flow of information across diverse populations. Throughout the novel is the unitary theme of cyber communication and cyber culture producing a different kind of human being, along with different kinds of human potential. In essence, cyber reality is divorced from physical or material reality. It is not so much that the geographical world has have altered, but that our conceptions of it, and our places within it, has undergone a revolution that is registered most powerfully in the human imagination.
Gibson’s opening chapters introduce expressions that are a part of cyber communication, such as “navigational burn,” “high-resolution Cray monitor,” “matrix,” and “slow virus.” What Gibson illustrates by using these expressions is that those who are not familiar with the Internet and its intricacies will be excluded from the cyber community. For those who are already attached to the information highway or the marvels of the networked imagination, Gibson’s fairly Orwellian approach will be clear and familiar. As cultural critic, Howard Rheingold, has explained, a few hours per day of computerized communication, as was his experience, can quickly begin to transform one’s outlook. Rheingold states that people have an “emotional attachment to an apparently bloodless technological ritual.” This phenomenon is shared by millions of people who also belong to, “computer mediated social groups known as virtual communities” (Rheingold 64).
Gibson describes ordinary human events within the framework of this cyber society. At the opening of the third chapter, for example, “Home” is introduced as ‘the sprawl,’ in reference to what has become the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan axis, a swath of territory that was long ago enjoined by way of cyber communication. Its physical features or diversity need not exist, for its ‘essence’ has become the conceptual idea of Boston-Atlanta or BAMA. The region’s different histories, the experiences of its millions of inhabitants through time, and all that might have been local to one component of BAMA or another have become meaningless. On the cyber map, the area is identified by many hundreds of millions of megabytes each second, until blocks of Manhattan begin to come into view. The character, Case has awakened from a “dream of airports,” somewhere in Europe. By the chapter’s conclusion, the existence of the Matrix has been referred to, an unknown computer revolution that began in arcade games and in, “graphics programs and military experimentation with cranial jacks” (Gibson 51). The tone is set for a novel that will continue to remind the reader of George Orwell’s 1984 in its effective suggestion of not just a culture, but a consciousness, that is shaped by unknown past progressions to form a seamless way of “seeing” shared by millions. Whenever people engage in the realm of cyberspace, they form communities that supersede the influence of public spaces or ordinary group communication.
Gibson writes about professions and occupations that are transformed by the cyber age. He uses quirky descriptions to illustrate how humans become machines and machines become humans. For instance, when one of the characters, Molly, visits a physician, she turns to a “medical team” in an old condominium building in Baltimore; her leg is treated in an office that bears the name of a dentist (Gibson 69). Sherry Turkle, Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has explored the changes of identity that Gibson alludes to, which tend to result from cyber communication. What has gone before, in terms of convention or attachment to who one is and what one does is effectively disrupted by a new identity and consciousness that is united by cyberspace, more than everyday reality, ordinary social interaction, or what might be assumed about a group or kind of person, a profession, or other designation that defined people and their lives, in the past. Turkle comments that, “without any principle of coherence, the self spins off in all directions” (81). Not only has cyberspace encouraged diverse emotional, communal, geographical and conceptual views of life and the world but also it has promoted adoption of a replacement consciousness that rests and relies upon what is presented in cyber communication. When people are united by the medium of cyberspace, far more in many cases than by their everyday interaction with people, or their relationship to place and tradition, the result is apt to be a weakening of those descriptors and identifications of a person which do not connect to what is shared on the computer screen. Needless to say, the traditional roles, functions, jobs and professions of participants become as irrelevant as the geographical locations that once confined them.
The concluding chapters of Neuromancer depict the futuristic aspects of globalization in which cultural boundaries have disappear. Characters identify their national origins in a wide array of first names that have been collected at random. A character is named Lupus and, why not, given that no dictates of old apply, and cyber-related imagination has become the norm. In these last chapters, Gibson writes write sparsely, for the major work has been done. He has already told the story of the cyber revolution. In the final chapter, Gibson pulls together all that has been presented. When Case meets the waiter, Ratz, that he had known in the past, Ratz acknowledges him as “the artiste” and adds quickly that, “Night City is not a place one returns to” (Gibson 258). Wintermute is explained, at last, as the “hive mind” or decision-maker, the force that creates change in the outside world. Neuromancer, on the other hand, is the human personality, a technologically produced phenomenon that represents the people of the future.
Gibson reminds the reader of timeless human attributes and how they are either incorporated into cyberculture or discarded. Machinery is no longer serving humanity so much as it is shaping the nature of human organization and interaction. People are freed by cyber technology but at the price of their individuality. The prophecy seems to be that the future belongs to computers and high technology, and they will be controlling the global society.
The novels, The House on Mango Street, Jasmine, Graceland, and Neuromancer, provide depictions of how the homogenous society has been rendered largely nonexistent by globalization, with common values, national identity, citizenship, social integration, and technology in a constant state of flux during the latter part of the twentieth century and the twenty-first century. As the novels confirm, due to global hybridization and the telecommunications revolution, the world is shrinking. As the global economy grew, countries became more dependent upon each other. This interdependence has broken down borders and combined cultures, traditions, values, and norms, as portrayed in the novels. Edensor (2002) affirms that “the circulation of ideas and images in the media provides a vast storehouse of interlinked cultural forms, places, objects, people and practices which are associated across time and space” (187). Increasingly complex but with core components relatively unchanging, the national identity is made stronger through cultural elements. The sense of national belonging, in short, is no longer linked to official, political definitions of the nation-state. Efforts to maintain cultural purity are futile, as global conditions have generated cultural hybridization. Although fictional, the novels mirror the state of the global community in which there is no longer a clearly cut cultural framework for any nation.
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Dr. Afaf (Effat) Jamil Khogeer, is an Associate Professor of English Literature, Department of English, Umm Al-Qura University. She has B. A. and M.A. in English from Oregon State University, U.S.A. and the PhD. English Literature, Women’s Faculty of Arts, Major: Fiction; Women’s literature in 20th. Century Britain.
Her previous experiences include Chair, Department of English, Deputy Dean, Institute of Scientific Research, Member in Umm Al-Qura University Advisory Council, and a ‘Visiting Scholar' to some universities in Canada, U.S.A., and the U.K. She has published quite a number of articles in the fields of literary criticism, Translation, Women's Literature, the short story, the novel, Comparative studies on English, American, Saudi Arabian and Canadian literature. Her published works include: Integration of the Self: Women in the Fiction of Iris Murdoch and Margaret Drabble, "Translating Poetry: Is it a Creative Translation or a Translation of Creativity?", “A Deconstructive Reading of Muriel Spark’s novel, The Public Image”, “A Bildungsroman Interpretation of M. A. Yamani’s novel, A Boy From Makkah,”, "Saudi Literature and Electronic Creativity", and "Translating Children's Literature and Its Impact on the Child's Intellectual and Educational Growth".
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