True, globalization has opened up many opportunities for millions of people around the world. Increased trade, new technologies, foreign investments, expanding media and internet connections are fuelling economic growth and human advance.
It is also true that global markets, global technology, global ideas and global solidarity is likely to enrich the lives of people everywhere. But, in this wider process, the tribals face the threat of the extinction of their age-old culture.
Malinowski’s Trobrianders are fast taking to modernization. Likewise, the tribal groups, such as the Tiv and the Nuer of South Africa, are increasingly becoming modern.
In India, the Gond, Santhal and Bhil tribes are adopting to globalization at the local level. Tribal culture today has become a great casualty of such a global process. Looking at the decay of indigenous culture, Thomas Hylland Eriksen very rightly observes:
What has become of the peoples first explored by anthropologists during colonialism? Nearly all of them are, to a varying degree, integrated into larger-in the final instance global-economic, cultural and political systems.
As a consequence of global change, the tribal communities, which were isolates and noble savages, have taken to capitalist economy and subordination.
Surveying the rural labour distribution and capitalist production in western India, Jan Breman informs that the tribals of south Gujarat have received serious culture erosion and are fast moving towards progressive economy. The setback received by indigenous culture of primitives at local level is also reported by the Human Development Report (1999). It observes:
Globalization opens people’s lives to culture and all its creativity- and to the flow of ideas and knowledge. But, the new culture carried by expanding global markets is disquieting.
As Mahatma Gandhi expressed so eloquently earlier in the century, “I do not want my house to be walled in all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible.
But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.” Today’s flow of culture is unbalanced, heavily weighted in one direction from rich countries to poor.
Amazingly enough, the Government of India has no culture policy of its own and the global culture is encroaching upon the local people. The consequences of the cultural onslaught are serious indeed.
It is argued that at this juncture we should very seriously study the status of culture among the tribals, villagers, and other subaltern people. It is because of globalization that the indigeneous people have not only lost their cultural nerve, but their insecurity has also increased.
They are suffering the loss of their environment. It has been degraded. Deforestation has increased; there has been land erosion, water scarcity and fuel inadequacy. What is worse is that the biodiversity has been reduced to the lowest level.
The tribals have lost their folklore; their melodies are no more in existence, and their folkways and foods are increasingly pushed to the margin in this era of ‘global village’. Commenting on such a situation of local culture or the culture of the indigeneous people, The Human Development Report (1999) says:
Such onslaughts of foreign culture can put cultural diversity at risk, and make people fear, losing their cultural identity.
A broader analysis of the theme of culture very vividly indicates that we shall have to take an urgent and immediate view of our culture which is characteristic of our civilization.
The traditional textbooks that we find in social anthropology admittedly dwell upon the theme of culture. But, the treatment is old fashioned. No effort is made to look at culture from the new perspective of global culture.
What we find today in these Hindi and English textbooks is a junk like stock of irrelevances. No student or teacher can enrich his understanding of culture in this new perspective. Obviously, the global challenges have obliged us to take a departure from the traditional treatment of culture as given in our textbooks.