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Class Book Author Visits Campus

October 7, 2002

"The tragedy that Adam Hochschild describes in his book has never stopped," said Congolese Jesuit Deacon Jacques Mutikwele at a panel discussion on globalization organized as part of the Class Book Project earlier this month.

Mutikwele went on to thank Hochschild, author of class book "King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa," for bringing to light what Mutikwele described as "the dark side of Belgian colonialism." Mutikwele and Hochschild were joined by playwright Tom Sleigh and knowledge management expert Debra Amidon for a discussion on "Globalization and the Threat to Local Cultures," held on October 2 in Wilder Pavilion.

 

Mutikwele spoke passionately of growing up in the Congo and being taught the benefits of Belgian colonialism with no mention of the suffering his ancestors endured. Mutikwele continued his education in Belgium and described finding himself surrounded by the natural resources pillaged from his country- copper, coal, rubber. Mutikwele went on to describe how the exploitation of the Congo, and other African countries, continues today.

 

"Globalization is driven by the demands of the western markets," Mutikwele said. "Who defines the terms of the markets? Who has benefited most from that interaction? Globalization leaves the majority of the world population on the margins of survival."

 

Adam Hochschild, who currently teaches writing at University of California at Berkeley, addressed the cultural aspects of globalization during his portion of the discussion. Hochschild told the story of a visit to Siberia in 1991 when he was researching a book on Russian labor camps. One of his stops was a small town where he happened to be the first American visitor. Despite this town's near complete isolation from the west, when Hochschild turned on the TV in his hotel room he was greeted with a news feed from an American television station.

 

Hochschild said that this moment has stuck with him for more than a decade because it illustrated what is most often exported from the west- entertainment. And, according to Hochschild, that entertainment usually consists of thinly veiled sales pitches for American consumer goods.

 

"What can be done to prevent the tide of American consumer products from overwhelming the rest of the world?" he asked the audience. "How do we globalize good ideas, rather than just products?"

 

Knowledge management expert Debra Amidon proposed a solution to that problem during her presentation. People, she insisted, are the prime resource in today's world.

 

Amidon is CEO of ENTOVATION International, Ltd., a Wilmington-based global innovation research and consulting network. In her consulting, Amidon seeks to build collaborations between people from disparate geographic and cultural environments in order to solve problems. In her presentation, Amidon argued that the upside of globalization is this collaboration- which has only become possible because of modern technology.

 

"The information superhighway is a structure to move knowledge around the world," Amidon said. "Knowledge, not technology, is the engine of innovation."

 

Following the presentation a handful of students and faculty asked questions about how developing countries can benefit from globalization. Mutikwele suggested a change in the way western countries look at the world: "We must learn to promote common good. We must learn that we are responsible for each other."

 

Hochschild also spoke to classes, gave a reading and signed copies of his book during his visit to campus.

For more information on the Class Book Project, visit http://ecampus.bentley.edu/dept/class_book/.

 

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