Category Archives: RU Global — Resources for World Leaders

R U Global — African Christianity

African Christianity: An African Story, edited by Ogbu U. Kalu. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2007.

Reviewed by Robert Sivigny, University Librarian

It may be said that in two thousand years of church history, no area of the world has been the recipient of Christian mission more than the continent of Africa. African Christianity: An African Story presents something of a progress report—indeed an exciting and encouraging one—documenting a vibrant history and setting the stage for Africa’s place in 21st century global Christianity.

Ogbu Kalu, both editor and contributor to this work, gathered together a group of eighteen African church historians with the intent of presenting windows into a distinctly African history of Christianity, “completely by Africans and in an African context.” Kalu, who passed away just last year, was a professor of church history at the University of Nigeria for over twenty years. Intended primarily for seminary students, this study attempts to identify major themes or story lines, demonstrating African Christian encounters, struggles, and achievements.

Most interesting is chapter five, “Islamic Challenges in African Christianity,” by Akintunde Akinade, a professor at Georgetown University. Akinade analyzes how various African countries, especially in the north, have coped with Islamic advances and cultural disparity. Several countries have a long history of Islamic and Christian culture conflict. For example, Nigeria, Akinade’s own country, struggles today with a 50%/50% Islamic/Christian population. Such countries, he says, have the potential of providing paradigms for other countries dealing with similar cultural issues. Akinade cites historian Phillip Jenkins, who claims that one of the critical challenges of Christianity in the twenty-first century is knowing how to relate to Islam. According to Akinade, “This realization is crucial to contemporary Africa. In fact, the continent provides a veritable laboratory for analyzing a host of emerging themes relevant to relations between the two faiths” (p. 103). What is the solution? Akinade writes that first of all, each side needs to realize that Islam and Christianity are both authentic African religions. Furthermore, there must be dialogue that can “mobilize Christians and Muslims to see beyond the manipulations of the nation-state and the vicious agenda of some self-proclaimed religious demagogues. Both Christianity and Islam contain value systems that can contribute to meaningful inter-religious dialogue within a pluralistic nation like Africa. One of the primary objectives of dialogue is the common search for a workable paradigm of society and cooperation in building a human community that safeguards religious freedom and respects differences and particularities” (p. 118).

In chapter eleven, Graham Duncan and Ogbu Kalu trace key African revival movements of the past hundred years and suggest that there are five types of revivals: 1.) those in which a leader from a traditional religion takes on some aspects of the Christian message; 2.) those in which a leader emerges from a Christian group that emphasizes certain ethical or Holy Spirit elements; 3.) indigenous churches that emphasize popular elements of Holy Spirit enthusiasm; 4.) those springing from fundamentalist mainline denominations that challenge some element of the ordinary way of things, embracing Holy Spirit enthusiasm in a fresh manner; and 5.) charismatic movements such as those of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. The authors conclude that these revivals contributed to establishing “a charismatic spirituality that would define African response to the gospel: at once conservative, evangelical, with emphasis on the centrality of the Bible, interpreted without Western intellectual gymnastics, but with simplicity and immediacy” (p. 268).

Several Pentecostal/Charismatic revivals that occurred between the two world wars and the 1960s and 1970s have had a significant and enduring impact on the African continent. Chapter fifteen is devoted entirely to an analysis of the spread and influence of Pentecostal and Charismatic churches in Africa. These include both Western mission-affiliated classical Pentecostal denominations and African initiated Pentecostal indigenous movements such as the Deeper Christian Life Ministry in Nigeria, the International Central Gospel Church in Ghana, and the Family of God church in Zimbabwe, all begun by local ministries. Author J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu observes in conclusion to this chapter, “The Pentecostal emphasis on direct access to God through the Holy Spirit means for many of its African adherents, the ability to live the Christian life without recourse to the traditional ritual symbols that the older AICs [African indigenous churches] incorporated into Christianity…That the presence of Pentecostalism has forced former mission churches into emulative action in order to survive is enough evidence of how seriously the phenomenon of Pentecostal growth should be taken in modern African Christianity” (p. 355).

African Christianity: An African Story is a rich and varied collection of essays, offering much original research and optimism for the future of Christianity on the African continent. Highly recommended.

R U Global — Cultural Mythology and Global Leadership

Cultural Mythology and Global Leadership, edited by Eric H. Kessler and Diana J. Wong-MingJi. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2009.

Reviewed by Georgianne Bordner, University Librarian

What do Spiderman, Robin Hood, and Zeus have in common? According to the authors of Cultural Mythology and Global Leadership, they can help the reader become a more effective global leader.

In today’s complex world, good leadership is critical, but the forces of globalization and the resulting intermingling and clashing of cultures can often lead to misunderstandings and sometimes disastrous results. Cultural Mythology and Global Leadership is intended to help business and political leaders to avoid potential problems by better understanding the ways in which a culture’s mythology influences its expectations for leadership.

In their introduction, editors Kessler and Wong-MingJi explain that myths (including sagas, legends, folktales, and fairytales) are stories that communicate a society’s core values and reinforce a particular social order and belief system. Unlike many other aspects of culture, mythology is important because it bridges generations. Since mythology is an important key to understanding culture, and leadership is intertwined with culture, the editors believe that anyone leading in a global or cross-cultural setting needs to know something about the other culture’s mythology in addition to understanding how one’s own culture’s mythology influences one’s leadership style.

The book consists of 20 chapters written by management scholars and practitioners from around the world, each representing a different country from four global regions: the Americas, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and Asia and the Pacific Rim. The mythologies discussed feature such widely differing characters as the comic book superheroes of the United States, Eva Perón from Argentina, Odysseus and Zeus from Greece, Robin Hood and King Arthur from England, the Yellow Emperor from China, and the trolls of Sweden. Each chapter follows a similar format, beginning with an overview of the country’s mythology, followed by a description of leadership in that country, then the global implications and practical applications of this information. As members of the cultures they write about, the authors provide brief but insightful analyses that will help the reader to understand better how to lead their countrymen. The unique blend of mythology, leadership theory, and practical advice for global leadership in a variety of settings makes Cultural Mythology and Global Leadership a valuable resource for anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of how to interact with the modern world.

R U Global — Resources for World Leaders: Redefining Global Strategy

Redefining Global Strategy: Crossing Borders in a World Where Differences Still Matter, by Pankaj Ghemawat. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2007.

Reviewed by Harold Henkel, Associate Librarian

Since the publication of The World is Flat in 2005, Thomas Friedman has emerged as the leading guru on what we are told is a new globalized world. In over 500 pages of unsourced anecdotes and recounted conversations, Friedman drives home his thesis that technology has created an unprecedented (flat) state of affairs, in which business and capital move around the world, unimpeded by distance and national borders. But is it all really so simple? Not according to professor of global strategy Pankaj Ghemawat, who has little time for Friedman’s book or method. In a revealing footnote, Ghemawat writes, “Friedman’s book is hard to engage with directly, since its 450-plus pages contain no tables, charts, footnotes, or list of references.”

Redefining Global Strategy is divided into two main parts. Part 1 is devoted principally to an exposition of the significance of the author’s thesis that “the current state of the world is one of semiglobalization: levels of cross-border integration are generally increasing and, in many instances, setting new records, but fall far short of complete integration and will continue to do so for decades.” The implication of a semiglobalized world is that there is no textbook for managing global operations. As it has ever been, international business entails added risk, and managers and entrepreneurs have to be able to think strategically, beginning with the question of whether they should globalize at all.

Having demonstrated how cultural, administrative, geographic, and economic differences still matter, Part 2 focuses on what Ghemawat calls the AAA strategies for global value creation:

  • Adaptation strategies that adjust to differences across countries.
  • Aggregation strategies that overcome differences across countries.
  • Arbitrage strategies that exploit differences across countries.

The final chapter of Redefining Global Strategy summarizes and recaps the main themes of the book. Ghemawat emphasizes that doing business internationally requires a strategy, and strategy involves hard analysis—not “playing pinball to the headlines” or reacting to “global bogeymen that don’t have a scientific basis.” The book concludes with a five-step process to help managers begin the process of competitive analysis and strategy formulation in global operations.

Redefining Global Strategy is not a quick read. The author’s intended audience is business leaders and entrepreneurs whose decisions have consequences and therefore are in need of a serious and authoritative consideration of the subject. To decision-makers who prefer to take Thomas Friedman and others like him as guides to the future, Ghemawat has this warning: “Buying into this version of an integrated world—or worse, using it as a basis for policymaking—is not only unproductive. It is dangerous.”1

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1Pankaj Ghemawat, “Why the World Isn’t Flat,” Foreign Policy no. 159 (March 2007): 60.

R U Global—Resources for World Leaders: International Communication: A Reader

International Communication: A Reader, by Daya Kishan Thussu.
New York: Routledge, 2010.

Reviewed by Sara Baron, Dean of the University Library

Communication is no longer bound by geography, medium, or even language. The globalization of media, the rise of information industries, and the internationalization of higher education have propelled the study of communication into a worldwide context. This reader, compiled by University of Westminster (London) professor Daya Kishan Thussu, offers a comprehensive examination of contemporary scholarship and policy related to global communication. The book is divided into six sections covering the following topics: infrastructure for international communication, theoretical terrains, global media systems, dominant and alternative discourses, communication and power, and cultures of global communication.

The first section covers the infrastructure that supports and transmits transnational communication, namely satellites, the network society, and global media policy. Sociological and communication theories discussed in the second section include modernization, post-colonialism, development theory, and digitization. Global production and distribution of media, from both macro and micro perspectives, are reviewed in the systems chapter.

Discourses related to international communication, covered in section four, include cultural imperialism, cultural proximity and media, identity representation on the Internet, and alternative media forms. Section five deals with communication and power in an international context as they relate to mass media, propaganda, and political and economic persuasion. The last section discusses the influence of culture on communication, particularly the social construction of meaning, ethnoscapes, diasporic media, global media consumption, and the “new digital media ecology.”

Policy documents affecting international communication include reports from UNESCO, the World Trade Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, Google, and the U.S. Department of State.

The editor argues that International Communication “will contribute to the understanding of the impact of the globalization of media and communication on research and teaching in the field” and will inform anyone interested in culture, communication, and media. First published in July 2009, the book has garnered glowing reviews, including the following endorsement from Cees Hamelink, Professor Emeritus of International Communication at the University of Amsterdam: “As the field of communication studies expands and internationalizes, there is a growing need of global resource material. Daya Thussu has brought such material together in a reader that will prove invaluable for teaching on the political, economic, cultural and technological dimensions of global communication. Not only a ‘must read’ but also a ‘must use’. Highly recommended!”

RU Global—Resources for World Leaders: Globalization and American Popular Culture

Globalization and American Popular Culture, by Lane Crothers.
Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010.

Reviewed by Leanne Strum, Ph.D., Head of Technical Services & Systems

Globalization and American Popular Culture was written by Lane Crothers, a professor of politics and government at Illinois State University. This concise and insightful book examines the way that American movies, music, and television (as goods marketed and consumed around the world) are key elements of contemporary globalization. Crothers offers a nuanced exploration of these influential cultural products and their contradictory impacts: in some cases promoting a desire for integration into the broader world community, in others generating disgust and outright rejection. He explores the connection between American popular culture and globalization with the help of many case studies dispersed throughout the book.

According to Brian Yost, who reviewed the first edition of the book, the majority of Crothers’s research came from websites, including Wikipedia, answers.com and celebritywonder.com.1 Despite this limitation, Yost stated that Crothers presented an interesting connection between foreign nations’ social resistance to American cultural influence and international economic policy. An examination of the second edition reveals that Crothers has updated his book with extensive new references and research. He also includes an extensive recommended reading list.

Globalization and American Popular Culture consists of six chapters. In chapter one Crothers established the link between American popular culture and globalization. He introduces the notion that American public culture contains an array of values, norms, and practices that distinguish it from other cultures. American public culture, Crothers writes, is civic. Americans believe in ideals and values that promote the dignity and rights of all individuals. Chapters two and three provide an overview of American popular culture and a history of the movie, recording, and television industries.

Crothers examines the American global cultural franchise in chapter five by focusing on the cultural impact of a number of key brands, including Coca Cola, McDonald’s, the “blue jean” and the emerging market of the NFL (National Football League). These franchises are dominating the worldwide market, and Crothers offers a thoughtful examination of both the appeal of American products worldwide and the fear and rejection they induce in many people and nations around the world.

In chapter six Crothers looks at American popular culture and the future of globalization, concluding with a projection of how American movies, music, and television programs may influence the future of globalization. Globalization and American Popular Culture makes a powerful argument for the central role of culture in shaping global politics and economic development. The book avoids technical or philosophical terminology and will likely appeal more to a more general readership than to scholarly researchers.

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1Brian Yost, “Globalization & American Popular Culture by Lane Crothers,” Journal of American Culture 31, no. 2 (June 2008): 225. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost.