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Crossing the Globe: Using Vernacular and Transnational to Guide me through a Global World

By Danica Taylor

            This journey has allowed my eyes and my mind to be opened into a world that without leaving the United States I wouldn’t have known existed. Throughout my sixteen years of formal education it has never been hidden nor denied that the United States is the economic powerhouse of the world and is hands down the most desirable country for immigrants to migrate to. However, no matter what textbook I read nor what teacher taught me, could I ever have learned what these true life experiences that each country have given me? Traveling to third world, or more politically correct, developing countries, allowed me see a glimpse of what it was like before the United States was controlled by corporations, consumerism and materialism.

The terms vernacular and transnational have allowed me to understand and grasp the true nature and identity of a global city, and the effects these changes have not only on  the country’s economy but the changes the people have to gradually adapt to. Countries like Vietnam and Burma allowed me to experience vernacular architecture, which described by Henry Glassie are buildings that “embody values alien to those cherished in the academy” (pg. 20). Vernacular architecture consists of architectural elements unstudied by common architects because it is not taught as something valuable in school, or “the academy.” But what Glassie points out in his book, Vernacular Architecture, is that buildings that have been studied are therefore considered important because they hold some form of value to us as scholars, therefore unimportant or unstudied architecture is valueless. However, seeing these untouched, un-globalized nations where the vernacular beauty still lies was like a breath of fresh air from the claustrophobia experienced in countries like the US where it is impossible to escape the transnational world and vernacular architecture is nearly impossible to experience. The Burmese villagers have never eaten a Big Mac nor have they ever seen the Golden Arches for themselves. It’s not to say that they never will, but this does say that pure vernacular elements still exist in these countries, elements that identify their true culture and their heritage.

In stark contrast to these vernacular experiences, I have also traveled to Tokyo, Japan, the world’s largest city; to Beijing, China a city which set the record for the highest amount of economic growth and is a forerunner of being the next economic powerhouse; then, New Dehli, India the world’s most populous country with the fastest growing economy, another country which may one day become the world’s economic leader.  All of these cities have adapted to a transnational world both structurally and culturally. Ulf Hannerz describes a transnational city in the article, "The Cultural Role of World Cities" as “a city where the people involved are physically present in the world cities for some larger or smaller parts of their lives, but they also have strong ties to somewhere else in the world” (pg. 3).  These “involved people” are the channel in which cities or nations become connected to the rest of the developed world. Cultures, traditions, businesses, and ideas begin transmitting across invisible country lines bringing all parts of the world closer and closer, creating what we now know as a global city.

But what does all of this mean? Onookome Okome describes this phenomenon as “the age of the city. The city is everything to us – it consumes us, and for that reason we glorify it” (Verso, 1). We live in a world where everyone desires westernization, where the rising of McDonald’s golden arches symbolizes a country as one step closer to becoming developed.

Vietnam: War Tours?

Turkey: Beauty and  Benefits of a Global  City


I have been able to easily use the definitions of vernacular and transnational elements to help me in assessing what stage of development the nation is in. In Vietnam I described the thatched roof houses, and how the families inside have had to adapt to the westerners visiting, touring their homes, and trying to capture the beauty and simplicity of their homes. How simple their lives remain, although the transnational world is already penetrating their homes. But still  the houses along side of the Mekong Delta don’t have satellites hanging from them, nor do they have IKEA furniture.  On the other hand, I also saw the development efforts going into westernizing Ho Chi Minh City. While we were there a tour guide said that both McDonald’s and Wal-Mart had plans of entering Vietnam within the near future. These plans are a classic sign of a nation taking the necessary steps to moving into the global world of transnationalism. I also explored the significance and impact that transnationalism and the global world can have on a country and the benefits it can provide for its citizens.  

In Turkey I felt I experienced and saw more transnational elements of globalization than in any other European country. Turkey has yet to join the European Union, but has plans for gaining acquisition to the union in 2015. Turkey is making many structural changes in the government and policies to gain international support. Besides these structural changes Turkey has fully adapted to a transnational world. There were transnational corporations everywhere you looked, Burger King, McDonald’s, United Colors of Bennetton, Adidas, Lacoste, and many others lined the streets. The men and women showed a sincere dedication to appearance and presentation, and there were internet and wireless cafes on every street corner. Istanbul has capitalized from a transnational world, and is continuing to work towards becoming a nation that is all encompassing of transnational elements.

Through my travels I have been able to see for myself what the process of going global requires, the industrialization, westernization and adjustments not only to structures, but also to cutlures and daily lives. Every day the globe is getting smaller and smaller. Mass communications and transnational corporations investmenting in nations that would otherwise not have the capital, infrastructure, nor governmental strength to join the transnational world. The global assistance in this process is allowing the developing nations to position themselves competitively within the developing world.

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