Academic journal article Material Culture

Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers and Warriors Shaped Globalization

Academic journal article Material Culture

Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers and Warriors Shaped Globalization

Article excerpt

Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers and Warriors Shaped Globalization By Nayan Chanda New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. xvi + 391pp.10 Black and white drawings, maps, chronology, acknowledgements, notes, and index. $27.50 (cloth), ISBN: 9780300112016; $18.00 (paper), ISBN-10: 0300112017.

It is always difficult to review a book that critics have greeted with near universal praise, particularly when the author is as esteemed as Nayan Chanda, justly famous for his exceptional Brother Enemy: the War after the War, the definitive account of civil conflict and reconciliation within Cambodia. Yet I struggled with Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers and Warriors Shaped Globalization, an unabashedly uncritical account of the long wave of globalization, written between 9/11 and the current global financial crisis. Although packed with anecdotes, interesting facts, and unusual connections through time, the book fails to account for the often hidden face of globalization or uncover the practical details now driving the transformation of our world.

Chanda begins with an introduction that clearly explains the author's Ímpetus, reveals its Thomas Friedman-esque tone, and outlines the overall structure and broad interpretive framework, to place contemporary globalization within the long-term history of the world (2005). He attempts to accomplish this by offering a cascade of historical similes, allegories, parables, and metaphors that pull the reader from one epoch to the next, from place to place and back again, often within the same paragraph. As a result, the narrative can be a dizzying and often confounding journey through awkward analogies and between the ancient and the modern.

Chanda's argument first examines the earliest human migrations and civilizations as the beginnings of a movement toward globalization, grounding his narrative in the notion that the world in which we live has evolved from millennia of human interaction, an obvious truth. He then explores the way in which commerce and trade have accelerated what some have called space-time compression, a hallmark of the globalized world, drawing distant places together and causing cultures to blend selectively.

From there, the narrative turns to the first of the four thematic chapters as Chanda deconstructs a few notable commodities (cotton, coffee, and computers), noting their geographic and cultural mobility and increasing the interconnection between places. …

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