HAEMMERLE: Quechua vs. Kentucky Fried Dajaajh



Matt Haemmerle

When globalization becomes an irreversible trend toward homogenization (or Americanization), the world’s cultural diversity will be erased – permanently. This is not to say that globalization is a bad thing.

Indeed, globalization has leveled the playing field and empowered the common man. It has given him higher living standards, provided him with goods and services he wants and offered him the opportunity for improvement and modernization.

But the ability of different countries to globalize without allowing their cultures to be steamrolled varies. Perhaps no contrast better illustrates this than that between Quechua and Kentucky Fried Dajaajh.

Take a trip to Dubai or another Middle Eastern city, and one of the first people you will meet is Colonel Sanders. The horizon of the Arab world has been punctuated by big red and white signs reading in Arabic script: “Kentucky Fried Dajaajh.”

Dajaajh is the Arabic word for “chicken.” Dubai’s Kentucky Fried Dajaajh represents globalization that both homogenizes and destroys cultures.

These days, there isn’t much traditional cuisine left in Dubai. This city, lauded for its full-hearted embrace of capitalism and its average growth rate of 16 percent (double that of China), chose economic success at the expense of culture.

There, if you’re not in the mood for KFC, you can eat at an Italian restaurant. You can visit a shopping mall and stroll down the aisles listening to American pop and Celine Dion. You can hit up clubs frequented by Europeans, Asians and Americans and watch English expatriates stumble home from a pub to the echo of the Muslim call to prayer.

Demographically, Dubai isn’t even an Arab emirate anymore: 60 percent of the population consists of South Asian guest workers. Unrestrained development has run roughshod over the local culture.

But why is culture so important? Besides making the world a richer place to live, culture is essential in anchoring us to an identity. Without culture we lose our sense of home and belonging. Life becomes barren and rootless. Culture is also an integral part of communal life because it gives life structure and meaning. When the colorful distinctiveness of peoples’ homes is whitewashed and homogenization undermines culture, it damages social cohesion.

However, a nation that wishes to preserve its culture cannot shun globalization. A country that shirks both the benefits and potential pitfalls of globalization in order to maintain its original character and identity will never thrive economically.

The key for any globalizing country is to find a healthy balance between cultural preservation and global integration. But how?

There is an alternative to Dubai’s KFD globalization.

The inhabitants of Ecuador’s tropical rainforests are unique examples of globalization done right. Globalization could have resulted in the loss of the indigenous peoples’ rituals, lifestyle and native language, Quechua, as the natives destroyed their rainforest to sell it away (along with their culture) for lumber.

Instead, the Yachana Lodge has harnessed globalization, becoming a tourist destination and investing in microenterprises like the production of Amazon cacao which is sold in international markets.

The indigenous people are less inclined to destroy their rainforest because they can earn sufficient income for their families through sustainable agriculture, tourism and microenterprise industries.

The Yachana Lodge, understanding that cultures are nurtured and sustained within their native environment, has used globalization to create a market where there is an incentive to maintain the environment and culture.

Quechua globalization is healthy globalization. It is the Amazonians’ preservation of their culture and continued usage of their native language, balanced with their development into a sustainable globalized society.

It is measured by the ability of a culture to absorb influences that naturally fit and enrich that culture, resist those cultures that are truly alien and separate those things that, while different, can still be celebrated as different.

Keeping the balance is a constant struggle, but can only be accomplished following the model of Quechua globalization, not Kentucky Fried Dajaajh globalization.


Matt Haemmerle is a sophomore political science and economics major from Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. He can be reached at [email protected].