Globalisation, Colonialism, Orientalism and Visual Culture

Globalisation – is a trend. It is not to be assumed we have arrived yet. With international trade, our concept of “local” has been skewed. Everything is much closer, easier, and more accessible to get to. This is due to advances in technology. We have become global consumers.

  • Markets have converged throughout the world
  • Production “poles” have shifted geographically to suit global consumers.
  • We have disjunctive flows; not controlled by centralised economic or political control

There is a debate over free trade vs fair trade

  • It is highly politicised and there is great influence in contemporary society for the way we structure markets and this impacts the way buyers and sellers act in those markets.
  • Free trade is a system for trading without recourse to tariffs, quotas and export subsidies
  • However, a system called mercantilism has been put in place to protect certain goods from the free trade.

International trade has been happening since the discovery of the new world. The trade routes were established before the nation states were. The silk road is an early example of supply routes transporting goods from China to European markets.

For Producers:

  • Impact on domestic market – decline in jobs as production moves offshore
  • Investment in domestic producers / industry declines as its too high risk

For Retailers:

  • Future requirement to grow is a problem – being big when markets are saturated in domestic economies means retailers also have to develop beyond their geographical boundaries.
  • The fattening of taste occurs – less diversification across the world as “style” becomes denominated and dictated by global brands.


Is an extension of a nations rule over territory beyond its borders. A population that is subjected to the political domination of another population. There is also the militaristic side; the physical conquest and occupation of territories.

  • settlement of territory
  • exploitation / development of resources and labour
  • the attempt to govern indigenous people

NOTE: Colonialism is not the same as imperialism. Imperialism is an ideological concept which upholds legitimacy of economic and military control of one nation by another. Colonialism specifically concerns the settlement of one group of people in a new location. Virtually over today but imperialism continues.

Why were people colonised? Social Darwinism refers to various ideologies based on a concept of competition among all individuals, groups, nations or ideas. This drives social evolution in human societies.

Fashion during colonialism was a “civilising force” or a “westernising force”. This was often equated with modernism. Colonial rulers imposed uniforms on its officials, they had social control over the natives.

Art and Colonialism:

  • Olympia’s Maid: black female subjectivity. She was conveniently made to disappear into the background of the painting. There is a conflict because the back woman is being subservient to a prostitute.
  • Sarah Baartman: black bodies were not represented as physical people but rather as a specimen to be gawked at. Black people were reduced to signifiers of their physical appearance – thick lips, fuzzy hair, nose etc… which nowadays would be unacceptable.


Colonising the mind – colonised people are made subservient –  ways of regarding the world which reflect and support colonist values. Phrases such as “us and them” (George Orwell)

Internalisation of colonial values was an effective way of dis-empowering people. They were taught to see themselves and their culture negatively.

Decolonisation; it wasn’t just a political and economical change but a psychological one too. Colonialism is destroyed only when the mind-set of those who were colonised has changed. 18th C – America, 19-20th C Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa. India and Pakistan – 1947.


Edward Said: ” Orientalism is a Western fantasy; not based on what is observed to exist. It is a fabricated construct; a series of images. The orient doesn’t exist outside representations made by Westerners.”

Stereotypes of the Orient:

  • the orient is strange
  • not just different but unusual
  • makes assumptions about race e.g. murderous Arab, lazy Indian, inscrutable Chinese – Disney portrays these characters in their films


Assumptions are made about cultures and nations. These nations have to constantly re imagine themselves and recreate what a “nation is”. With globalisation and migration of people; cultures are mixing and merging thus constantly changing. We can see that nations are created – just like fashions.

Globalization can effect people and their thought process all over the world e.g. body image and beauty standards. Barbie – unachievable goals, yet she is the toy that little girls all over the world grow up playing with. She is what they see as their role model, this can create issues as the girls mature into women as our bodies will never, naturally, look like a doll.

The next stage of the globalisation lecture was the blog task. The task involved choosing an iconic / historic and examining the production, dissemination and consumption of the garment.

The item I chose was the 1960’s miniskirt. Although this garment has been noted since around 1370-1390 BCE and in the early 20th century by dancer Josephine Baker I think it became most popular, and part of our modern culture in the sixties. The miniskirt has been claimed by Mary Quant (I took inspiration from the Mary Quant collection, currently being displayed in the V&A) –  as the main designer for this garment and responsible for its popularity. The sixties were a time that designers took lots of influences from all over the world; colour, pattern and textures were taken from other cultures and used in Western designs. 1960’s fashion was bold to say the least. Dissemination – designers and celebrities not only wore the items but they encouraged people to wear what they wanted and to have fun with their own personal style. The miniskirt was seen by the public in the media and during fashion shows which again, influenced them to wear this item. Mary Quant was the original designer of the skirt but it was quickly adapted by other, cheaper manufacturers, to be sold to the mass market. Available to all. Consumption –  The miniskirt was known as the most eye-catching garment of the decade. It was designed for the skinny, female form. Women loved this item. They wanted to have fun and feel free – the miniskirt allowed them to do so. This was quite a contrast from the 1950’s long, full skirts. This style of skirt was enjoyed throughout the 60’s and 70’s but ditched in the 80’s, however there is always the recycling of trends in fashion. As the typical A-line shape of the 60’s skirt has made a comeback, almost 50 years later.

The next part of the task was to look at production, dissemination and consumption of contemporary item of clothing.

The item of clothing I chose to look at was a pair of velvet trousers by designer Rick Owen, found in Liberty’s in London. The trousers were a muted brown colour – perfect for the autumn / winter season. They were made of a soft velvet fabric – this fabric has recently come back into fashion. An example; 5-10 years ago this fabric would have been reserved only for tracksuits, not used in a designer collection being sold in Liberty. Dissemination – Rick Owen’s items are available in Liberty or from the designer directly. Items are not mass produced; they are not bought in mass volumes because of the price. Consumption – only certain clientele would be able to afford this item. Owning this item would show status and wealth. Effortless and Casual. Not made for mass consumption – designer clothing is allowed to be bit more quirky as they don’t have to please everyone. There clothes will be sold regardless, due to the name and the prestige that comes along with owning designer clothing.

Velvet Trousers


How is colonisation and globalisation linked? Colonisation is one country domiating another; taking over their cultures, ideologies and values. Post-colonisation; we have nation-states with individual cultures. As the production (manufatring) of productes and clothing are outsuourced to other conrties such as Idai and China; designs are easily appoproayed from other cultures. thus we get a mish mash of cultures and nations within the fashion indusrty. The lines are blurred. What was ne “Asain” is now mixed with American  cultures and styles to form a new aspect of design. As a resut of this we see a “flattening of tasste” There is less diversificatio in desins nd eveverything is reated. They can al be connected.

We can now see an amalgamation of culture and design that has been infuned by colonaiom and imperslaims. A ne age in deisgn. Consumpton of products  –  we are spoit for choice. Fast fashion has taken over and we can now see runway styles in high street stores withing weeks. “Made in China” is very commin, as most of the cheaper texties sold in the UK are made outide of the UK. We take this for garnted; it is how we are abe to afford such things. They are cheap becaus ethey are mad ein countres where abour is cheap. We, as the consumer, dont conside the ehtica impliatons of this cheap labour (poor working conditions, unfair wages, child labour etc…) Now, when we see a “made in Engand” label we think it is somehtig special – this is due to golasiation.

The West is highy infuential in globaslaition; we impose our rules and regulatiosn on ther , ess deveoped countires. It is the West imposing on “the rest”. However, i do think that in recent years there has beena shift were Eastern counrties stand up for their culture and resist Western tradtions. More of this is needed if we want to keep our cultures specific to nation states. Globalsiation has offered many good things; connecting the world and improving some apsects of trade and communication however if we want to avoid the “flattening of taste” and keep our cultures strong we cannot let the West impose their influnes and culute over the rest of the world.
























n/a, (1810), The Significance of Sarah Baartman [ONLINE]. Available at:[Accessed 16 December 2016].
n/a, (1863), Olympia [ONLINE]. Available at:
Anon, (1960). [image] Available at:’s+skirt&biw=1093&bih=514&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi2p96_44DRAhXCDcAKHdDfBTAQ_AUIBigB#tbm=isch&q=1960%27s++mini+skirt&imgrc=VvCUj05hX27ScM%3A [Accessed 19 Dec. 2016].PnQAhWrJcAKHe8KDWgQ_AUIBygC#imgrc=PqoKv9bA6L0LaM%3A [Accessed 16 December 2016].
Anon, (1960). [image] Available at:’s+skirt&biw=1093&bih=514&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi2p96_44DRAhXCDcAKHdDfBTAQ_AUIBigB#tbm=isch&q=1960%27s++mini+skirt&imgrc=A3d3Csrh6qxVMM%3A [Accessed 19 Dec. 2016].




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