Magazine 2017
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Jayashree Palit  
The paper is primarily focused on exploring the literary response to the contentious and rather ambiguous  
relationship between multiculturalism and globalization. The works of major writers, Orhan Pamuk (Snow),  
Kiran Desai (The Inheritance of Loss) and Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner) have been taken up to  
investigate how writers have engaged with the debate relating to the impact that globalization has had  
on cultural diversity with special emphasis on identity.  
The paper brings into focus the two apparently contradictory impulses of universalism and particularism.  
The intensification and expansion of cultural flows across the globe have raised an important question.  
Are people becoming more alike or different under the impact of globalization?  
The approach taken to the discussion of these issues is interdisciplinary. The writings of eminent socio-  
political-economic writers have been used as a theoretical framework to study the literary response. The  
attempt is to, wherever feasible, connect and synthesize the ideas posited by theoreticians with those of  
the writers of fiction.  
Keywords : Culture, multiculturalism, globalization, universalism, particularisms.  
Is multiculturalism under threat? Is the juggernaut of globalization erasing distinctive cultural traditions? Or Is it  
true that at a time when the world appears to be shrinking and becoming homogenous, distinctive cultural  
traditions appear none the less to be growing in strength.  
There is no doubt that something is happening to culture in an era of globalization and it is necessary to explore  
the debates using literary texts and an interdisciplinary approach. Many questions are also being raised about  
whether cultures are really disappearing. Are we wrongly ascribing passivity rather than agency to peoples and  
communities who are actively engaged in determining their response to changing social and economic  
The central debate is whether globalization results in a worldwide, homogenized, consumer culture-often referred  
to as ‘Mcdonaldization’ or whether it accelerates differences and in fact creates new forms of cultural creativity  
and hybrid cultures.  
The terms ‘globalization’, ‘culture’ and ‘multiculturalism’ need to be understood before we examine their  
interconnections. Globalization with emphasis on cultural globalization refers to ways in which the interactions  
between groups of people who previously may have had little or no contact with each other, has increased. The  
increased connectivity has been in the area of interdependence of regional cultures because of the ways in  
which forces like travel, migration, religious conversion, trade, war, colonization and the general circulation of  
ideas have brought disparate cultures closer.  
When it comes to the term ‘Multiculturalism’ C.W. Watson (Watson 2002) cautions us about the reality that the  
term ‘multiculturalism’ means differed things to different people. By the term ‘culture’ is meant “a common  
language, a shared history, a shared set of religious beliefs and moral values, and a shared geographical origin,  
all of which taken together define a sense of belonging to a specific group”. (Watson 1) and multiculturalism is  
usually used to denote a society where there exist several cultures. The point to be noted is that there is a  
strong notion in our minds of the distinctiveness of each culture, each separate from others. This is a contested  
notion as boundaries between cultures are considered to be porous. It is wrong to essentialize culture. It is not  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
compartmentalized, separate but constantly in a state of flux. In conclusion, one can state that for most a  
multicultural society is ‘a state, a nation, a country, a region on even a bounded geographical location such as  
a town or a school-composed of people who belong to different cultures’ (Watson 2).  
The juggernaut of globalization it is believed inevitably drives individuals to join in common membership of  
their cultural groups to protect their sense of identity. It is also worthwhile noting that there is a difference in the  
thought process of how to deal with the existence of several cultures within the nation. One is the analogy of the  
melting-pot which refers to the process of assimilation and the other is that of the salad-bowl where each culture  
can keep its distinctive character. Today there is a celebration rather than suppression of diversity.  
It is easy to see how globalization which many scholars believe is working towards creating a monocultural  
society clashes with the concept of multiculturalism. Steger (Steger 2003 Preface) observes that the world is  
becoming a more interdependent place that has enhanced contact between various cultures. This process of  
mixing of different cultures that has been facilitated by global economic and cultural exchanges is referred to as  
hybridization”. Globalization scholars take special note of the fact that conflicts between the forces of  
particularism and that of universalism have reached unprecedented levels mainly because the interdependencies  
that connect the local to the global have been growing faster than at any time in history. One must also take  
into consideration that globalization is an uneven process meaning that the gigantic transformation of social  
structures and cultural zones has had varying degree of impact on people across the globe.  
This phenomenon has been analyzed by many socio-political economic thinkers. Benjamin Barber (Barber  
995) has coined the term ‘Mc donaladization’ to explain the Americanization of large parts of the world. He  
warns against a cultural imperialism that is based on a soulless consumer capitalism. He is of the view that in the  
long run it amounts to the imposition of uniform standards that eclipse human creativity and dehumanize social  
relations. To counter the colonizing tendencies of ‘Mcworld’ Barber says we have what is called a ‘Jihad’  
impulse to reject and repel the homogenizing forces of the West.  
In the process of acquiring power and wealth, hegemony continues into the twenty first century under the guise  
of globalization. While globalization contributes to homogenization among people, economies technologies  
and culture, also have contributed to the concentration of power in one country (the United States), or at least  
in a single ideological culture, the culture of liberalization, privatization and marketization.  
In short, the process of homogenization is leading to the emergences and consolidation of a single hegemonic  
power. Like Barber, more scholars believe that the United States has found itself as the sole global hegemonic  
power. The leaders of the homogenizing forces are predominantly western.  
The backlash to homogenization is the development of new tools of resistance. Many cultures reject western,  
American and consumerist domination. The question that many ask is to what extent, people and cultures  
around the world relate to one another in their differences and to what extent is their perception of a global  
world society relevant to how they behave. Globalization has shaken to its foundations the self-image of a  
homogenous, self-contained national space. The architecture of thinking, acting and living within state-cum-  
social spaces and identities collapses in the course of economic, political, ecological changes.  
What is really our focus is that multiplicity, plurality and cosmopolitanism seem to be under threat as local  
cultures and identities are uprooted and replaced with symbols from the publicity and image departments of  
multinational corporations. The issue of universalism and particularism needs to be analyzed in this context.  
There is a growing worldwide uniformity of institutions, symbols and behavior (Mc Donald’s, blue, jeans,  
democracy, information technology etc.) and the new discovery and defense of local cultures and identities.  
It is inevitable that these two impulses or forces at work in the world should clash. The literary texts help us to  
perceive how precisely the discussion on multiculturalism has sharpened in the last two decades. It helps to  
bring the discussion from abstractions to the experience of different countries and examine how political, social  
and economic contexts operate. It is evident that those issues are globally widespread.  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
The phenomenon of redefinition or reassertion of a specific cultural identity in order to become eligible for new  
economic privileges is evident in all the texts covering disparate geographical areas like Turkey, India, USA and  
Afghanistan. The clash of cultures is one of the central themes all the selected novels as the forces of westernization  
grapple with the demand of local regional interest.  
Snow (Turkish Kar), a novel written by the Turkish author Orhan Pamuk and translated by Maureen Freely, was  
published in 2004. The story encapsulates many of the political and cultural tensions of modern Turkey namely  
the clash between secularists and Islamists. The novel vividly portrays cruelty and intolerance of both the  
Islamic fundamentalists and the representatives of the secularist Turkish state. The latter represents the westernizing  
ideology reinforced brutally by the military.  
The fundamentalists appeal to the sense of tribal identity. The ancient epic Shehname is a source of inspiration  
for Blue. “Once upon a time millions of people knew it by heart…. But now, because we’ve fallen under the spell  
of west, we’ve forgotten our own stories” (Pamuk.2004,81). The reader is left to conclude the implications of his  
question to Ka “Is this story so beautiful that a man could kill for it” (Pamuk.2004,81).  
The issue of the headscarves becomes a symbol of asserting one’s tribal identity. The epigraph from Dostovesky  
“Well then, eliminate the people, curtail them, force them to be silent (Pamuk 81). Because the European  
enlightenment is more important than people - sums up the west’s arrogant approach to fundamentalist  
movements. Despite Kemal Ataturk’s westernizing ideology, Kars is sunk in poverty and hopelessness, its  
bourgeoisie had fled.  
The novel reveals the difficulties faced by a nation torn between tradition, religion and modernization. Set in the  
farthest east of Turkey, the locals are certain that in western eyes they all considered ignorant yokels. Western  
hubris, as Huntington’s theory (The Clash of Civilization, 1996) implies is a catalyst for an insurgence of tribal  
identity. Religion is the easiest crutch to rely on. As one character says “To play the rebel heroine in Turkey you  
don’t pull off your scarf, you put it on” (Pamuk 319).  
The Inheritance of Loss, a novel written by Kiran Desai, was published in 2006.. The novel zips back and forth  
between Kalimpong and the streets of New York City. The action mainly takes place in the Kalimpong of the mid  
980s when the Gorkhaland agitation was at its peak..  
Melissa Dennihy, in her essay ‘Globalization’s Discontents: Reading “Modernity” from the Shadows”, is of the  
view that ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ is ultimately less concerned with globalization and multiculturalism than it is  
with the underlying process that both contribute to and complicate these ideas”. According to Dennihy, Kiran  
Desai’s critical contribution is that she refuses to view globalization and multiculturalism in a “celebratory” light  
often attributed to them by mainstream western thought. Also she does not develop this criticism within the  
Western” frame of analysis but writes her novel from the perspective of the ‘shadow class”. Her novel sheds  
light on how the very “benefits” of modernity are for some the cause of shame, self-loathing and solitude. Her  
insight, that modernity and globalization both rely upon and, in many ways, replicate the same imperial and  
colonial process that so many “positive minded” modern western thinkers would like to consider world systems  
of the past, is very valuable and helps to question line of the underlying assumptions of the celebratory group.  
Dennihy 1 – 2)  
First, many western thinkers herald globalization as the rise of a more positive, inclusive and connected world  
order which allows for a preciously unimaginable “leveling of the playing field” between western and non-  
western nations. If one examines the writings of various theorists it is apparent that globalization has been  
described as eroding the constraints of distance and time, accelerating interdependence, shrinking the world,  
global integration, enriching. the lives of people everywhere, expanding their choices Fredic Jameson  
refers to this a “postmodern celebration of difference and differentiation. Suddenly all the cultures around the  
world are placed in tolerant contact with each other in a kind of immense cultural pluralism which it would be  
very difficult not to welcome”(Jameson 1991). This is because a whole immense range of groups, races, genders,  
ethnicities who were condemned to silence and to subalternity now find entry into the public space. No doubt  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
this a cause for celebration. But Desai’s novel demonstrates that the “solidarity”, “interconnectedness” and  
democratization” are often surface level assumptions of processes that are more problematic than initially  
meets the eyes.  
Secondly, another view is that globalization causes “action at a distance” that is the “actions of social agents in  
one locale can come to have significant consequences for distant others”. The question that arises is to what  
extent those “distant others” have an impact upon the nations that so noticeably impact them. The novel has  
many examples of how the “first world” has infiltrated into the “third world” space of Kalimpong. Sai reads the  
National Geographic, Lola, and Noni watch BBC news, read “British” books. In sharp contrast Biju and other  
immigrants have negligible impact on America. The restaurant in which they work are full of “first world” people  
in the fashionable dining rooms and “third world people inhabit the sweltering kitchens below. These two  
worlds aree kept apart by the economic and cultural divide.  
Desai’s novel clearly demonstrates the ways in which the west insists upon forcing its commercial presence  
upon non-western countries. This is the third point that Desai points to when she questions the view that  
globalization has brought about revolutionary changes in the form of new opportunities and access to economic  
prosperity.. The question that Desai raises is at what cost are such experienced? The Cook and Gyan are two  
characters whose lives are marked by the struggle for modernity on the other hand, middle class characters like  
Lola and Noni proudly invest in British jam and Marks and Spencer underpants. They imagine themselves as  
part of a western community and look down on those who have not succeeded in emitting western commodities  
and culture to the same extent that they have.  
The result of enhancing western culture, however, results in the “fractures of cultures”. The characters are torn  
between East and West, tradition and modernity, “Indianness” and “Britishness”. Jemu has internalized a colonized  
mentality. Even the Cook is not free of this internalization of a colonized mentality.  
Dennihy points out that the internalization of a colonized mentality is not lessened through the coming of  
modernity” and “globalization” (Dennihy 19). There is pressure on non-western countries who are inundated  
with “westerness” to “prefer” western culture to their own. Jemu is an example of a man who has denied his own  
Indian identity. He is envious of the English. Ultimately, he is despised by absolutely everyone, English and  
Indians both.  
The feeling of shared historical legacy permeates the entire novel “Certain moves made long ago had produced  
all of them” She is referring to continuation of subjugation by the economic and cultural power of the west. The  
so-called leveled field actually does more harm than good. Almost all the characters are stunted by their  
encounters with the west. Multiculturalism, confined to the Western metropolitan and academic, doesn’t address  
the causes of extremism and violence in the modern world. Nor can economic globalization become a route to  
prosperity for the downtrodden. Desai is of the view that profit is the driving motive of globalisation. It pits  
nation against nation .It promises much but delivers very little to most people in the postcolonial world .The  
novel thus leaves us with the questions regarding the dividends from globalisation ,the celebration of hybridity  
and the global citizen.  
In The Kite Runner, Khalid Hosseini subtly describes Afghan culture along with giving us an insight into the  
personal gains and losses of individual characters. He writes about large scale global sufferings and assaults on  
the human rights, intricately weaving it with small painful moments in the life of the rich. The pathetic picture of  
Afghanistan during peaceful times depicts Afghans as a peace loving race with a rich cultural heritage. Amir is  
the protagonist of the novel.His boyhood days are spent in pursuing his passion of flying kites. “Winter was  
every kid’s favourite season”(p,49). He writes in detail about the traditions of Afghanistan, like the Khastegiri  
tradition, the marriage of Amir and Soraya in a traditional Afghan manner, the relationship of Amir with his strong  
father Baba, his sufferings and expectations from his father and loss of identity at the death of Baba who is a  
proud and powerful man and the ceremonies at the death of Baba. All the details are so vividly portrayed that  
the readers are absorbed in the realistic imagery.  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
The Kite Runner also effectively demonstrates that the difficulties of immigrant experiences just begin when one  
attempts to leave his homeland. Baba abd Amir has escaped from Afghanistan unsure of what lay of ahead of  
them. The adjustment to the new country is not just about learning a new language; it is about maintaining  
traditions and some semblance of your own culture. Baba loses his own status but still has his old world  
prejudices, thus demonstrating the precarious balance between old and new. Soraya and her mother also  
demonstrate the difficult role women have balancing the expectations of an old world culture with the new  
world in which they are living. For Amir it is an eye-opener that racism and ethnic prejudice are not limited to  
his native land but integral to America culture. In California, Baba was near the bottom of the California social  
ladder- an immigrant who worked at a gas station with minimum wage, and he finds America is not all that he  
had expected. It is the tight-knit Afghan community around Santa Clara that gives Baba his sense of home and  
identity. It is here that Baba can maintain his highly prized reputation. It is inevitable that Amir should look for  
a bride in his own community. Amir is better able to deal with his new life in California, learning the language  
and getting an education before settling down and achieving his goal of becoming a writer. For Amir, the  
American Dream is a reality, yet he maintains ties to his homeland through the Afghans living in California. The  
racial prejudice found against the Hazaras in Afghanistan and that against the African Americans in America are  
parallel. The importance of heritage is reflected in Amir’s connection to the immigrant community in San  
Francisco. Amir and Baba represent different experiences of assimilation. While Baba struggles to adjust to his  
lowly social status in the US, Amir sees his new country as a source of potential. Amir undergoes aphysical  
quest of finding a new life in California.  
Amir might have emigrated to America, but there is nothing absolute in his decision. He finds himself a product  
of the globalized world, where one foot is in reality and the other foot is in another. This delicate construction  
of identity is what drives him to return to Afghanistan, The globalized world that Hossein renders is one where  
modern individuals are forced to embrace complexity and ambiguity as a part of their being in the world. It is  
in this regard that a statement that the globalized world is far from simple and “easy”, seems most apt. Rather,  
it is a series of complex and bifurcating narrative that force individuals to widen their scope of understanding  
and compassion as they strive to better understand one another and themselves. This is the lesson that Amir  
experiences in his own development.  
The paper is an attempt to understand investigate and critically evaluate complexities of and interconnections  
between phenomenon of multiculturalism and aspects of globalization. The paper probes in to the concepts of  
multicultural society and also analyses how the process of globalization has opened up to scrutiny previously  
established ideas on culture and society.  
References :  
Barber, Benjamin R. Jihad v/s McWorld, New York: Ballanline Books. 1996 Print.  
Dennihy, Melissa, ‘Globalisation’s Discontents: Reading “Modernity” from the Shadows” in Critical  
Responses to Kiran Desai edited by Sunita Sinha and Bryan Reynolds, New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers  
distributors (p) Ltd. 2009 1- 19 Print.  
Desai, Kiran. The Inheritance of Loss, New York: Penguin 2006.  
Hosseini, Khalid The Kite Runner. U.S, Riverhead Books, 2003, Print.  
Huntington, Samuel P. The Clash of Civilization and The Remaking of World Order. New York: Penguin  
Books 1996 Print.  
Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke  
University Press. 1991 Print.  
Pamuk, Orhan, Snow, New York: Faber and Father. 2004 Print.  
Steger, Manfred B. Globalisation a Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press. 2003, 1 – 16 Print.  
Watson, C.W. Multiculturalism, New Delhi: Viva Books Private Limited, 2002 Print.  
Associate Professor, Department of English, Maniben Nanavati Women’s College, Mumbai – 400056.  
Email: jayashreepal[email protected]