The International Disney Channel

As an international relations major, I hear a lot about globalization. But prior to my first trip out of the US to Russia, I don’t think I realized just how personal and far-reaching global culture could truly be. My first somewhat humorous encounter with globalization in Russia (other than the obvious Western brands present throughout in the city) was in my arts and culture class. Our professor was telling us about youth culture in modern Russia and brought up the idea of so-called “hipsters.” We all started to giggle as we realized that the social group she was describing was nearly identical to the group by the same name in the United States: obsessed with having a ‘cool’ hobby, acting and dressing like those of decades past, and trying really hard to look like they do not follow mainstream culture. Hipsters in both cultures are not really taken seriously and tend to be popular among more affluent or highly educated people.

A few weeks later, in talking with a Russian university student who was the same age as me, the topic of meeting famous people came up. One of my fellow American students brought up that she had met Dylan Sprouse, who got his start on a Disney Channel show when we were kids. At first, the Russian girl who was with us didn’t hear who we were talking about, so we tried to explain that he was in a show we watched as kids, assuming that she would have no familiarity with him. But as we kept describing the show, she asked, “Are you talking about Dylan Sprouse? I loved him in [insert 5 other American shows we didn’t expect her to know].”

Immediately, all 3 of us started firing questions at each other. “What?? You watched that too? I remember staying up late to–” “Watch the Christmas special?” “YES! They showed that on regular TV here? Did you also watch–” and so the conversation continued.

Perhaps for someone who has been abroad more frequently, this realization would have seemed to be common sense: of course children in the early 2000s had the same access to shows worldwide, especially in major cities like Moscow. But for someone who had never interacted with someone my same age from another country in their country, making the connection between our childhoods was incredibly eye-opening for me. This
concept of globalization that I had always conceptualized as much more macroeconomic suddenly become very personal.

After having a few other similar experiences with individual level effects of globalization, I began thinking about what this could mean for the future of diplomacy. On the whole, it seems like the majority members of my generation have been exposed to similar ideas through global media, such as the Internet, and are pursuing global careers through nearly the same viewpoint as their counterparts across the world. In one conversation with a Russian girl, I remember her stressing the importance for her of finding a career doing what she enjoyed and what would allow her to travel and connect with more people, not necessarily make the most money like her parents wanted. The more people I talked to, the more I realized a lot of young Russians hold this same value, and likewise American millennials.

So what will happen when people my age hold the majority of diplomacy positions? Will relations between countries that have always disagreed, such as Russia and the US, have an easier time negotiating? Or will local cultural values supersede this emerging global culture as Millennials grow older? At the very least, will we be more sympathetic and
understanding of each other’s’ cultural values and be more sensitive to those in general
governance? The far-reaching significance of globalization is discussed every day; but just how far will its effect on the minds the next generation go in changing international
diplomatic relations?

By: Jennifer Watkins

Program: Politics and Public Diplomacy in Contemporary Russia

Term: Summer 2017

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