Published: Nov. 8, 2016

How small cultures and small communities survive in an increasingly globalized world is the focus of the next Social Sciences Today Forum at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The event, titled “Small Culture, Small Community: Survival in the Global Economy,” features three experts and is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 6:30 p.m. in Hellems room 199 on the CU Boulder campus.


From left to right, Rachel Boll, Carew Boulding and Zygmunt Frajzyngier

Three members of the CU Boulder social sciences faculty will speak about the intersection of globalism and small cultures from three different perspectives.

Each faculty member will speak for about 15 minutes each and then answer questions. The panelists are:

Panelists will discuss how globalization affects small communities around the world. Topics include how Bolivia responds to the impact of globalization on its culture and environment; how the languages of several small communities in Cameroon have been affected by political, religious and military pressure; and how the deaf community has been challenged by modern technology.

With respect to the deaf community, Boll noted that with the advent of video technologies, deaf people can communicate easily with each other, including at a national level; news travels fast through national video networks.

But in the past, there were strong local deaf clubs where deaf people could meet face to face. Many deaf clubs have closed, and deaf people congregate more informally, reducing the sense of a larger community, Boll said. 

In the example of Cameroon, Frajzyngier said it is unusual for small communities to have preserved their languages while under linguistic pressure. Usually, small linguistic minorities in Europe and the United States abandon their languages and adopt the dominant language of the country, he said.

The cases when there is no language replacement are sometimes associated, “and rightly so, with nationalistic movements, as was the case in 18th and 19th century Europe,” Frajzyngier said.

Cameroon has about 250 languages belonging to different linguistic families. But languages die infrequently.

“The four groups I will discuss each had a different reaction to foreign invasions,” Frajzyngier said. “Some changed religion, and others didn’t, and yet each preserved its language.” Frajzyngier will discuss underlying reasons.

The Social Sciences Today Forum, a series during the school year, is designed to help the public gain broader perspectives and deeper understanding of human society and how individuals relate to the community and one another.

The Social Sciences Today series has focused on Ferguson, Mo., domestic violence, Ebola, aging, “language wars,” inequality, immigration, natural disasters and “outsourcing.”

This forum brings the knowledge and expertise of social science faculty to the greater community and allows the community to ask questions of leading scholars. The event is free and open to the public.