Globalization Theory


Toward a Hermeneutic Model of Cultural Globalization: Four Lessons from Translation Studies.

Sociological Theory (2019) 37.2: 142-161.


Many scholars study how actors adapt global culture in the local context, how they make globally-circulating objects, narratives, and norms intelligible for local audiences. However, most of this research focuses on the actors’ “cultural matching” or “congruence building” strategies, it doesn’t consider actors’ interpretive work. In this paper, I argue that globalization research needs to take culture and interpretation more seriously and, to do so, would benefit from a conversation with translation theory. Specifically, translation theory shows us how actors’ interpretive work is shaped by (1) how they imagine their dual roles; (2) how they imagine different parts of the world; (3) how they imagine a text’s intertextuality; and (4) how their audience imagines the foreign Other. I conclude by bringing these lessons together and laying the groundwork for a hermeneutic approach to cultural globalization.

How the Complexity of Innovations Affects Transnational Diffusion.

Working paper, with Tamara Kay.

Most research on global diffusion looks at how innovations spread one at a time. While this can tell us how actors, networks, and environmental contexts shape the diffusion process, it cannot tell us how different types of innovations spread in different ways. Specifically, it cannot tell us how an innovation’s complexity affects its movement. In this paper, we compare three innovations – media (Sesame Street), knowledge and technology (Project ECHO), and human rights norms (child labor standards) – and propose a typology of innovation complexity. Our argument is that an innovation’s complexity – codified or tacit – shapes the way global and local partners work together to bring about diffusion. Different types of complexity require different types of cooperative work. But when global and local actors disagree on an innovation’s complexity the negotiation can break down and diffusion fails.



Globalization and Memory

The Universal King? Memory, Globalization, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sociological Inquiry (2018) 88.1: 79-105. 


This article examines how Martin Luther King, Jr. is remembered and represented by journalists in Ghana, South Africa, and Mexico, looking at coverage of “critical discourse moments” from King's life and legacy (1963–2016). I argue that representations of King vary in terms of local resonance—how well foreign figures or events align with local myths, values, and expectations—and global salience—the perceived world historical importance of a past figure or event. I then propose a new typology of global memory reception.



Globalization and Sport


The Moral Glocalization of Sport: Local Meanings of Football in Chota Valley, Ecuador.

International Review for the Sociology of Sport (2015) 52.1: 82-96. 


Studies of the glocalization of sport usually focus on ‘aesthetic glocalization’(how local actors adopt a global sport and create a new hybrid aesthetic). This has led some critics to dismiss glocalization as a superficial ‘façade’of diversity hiding global homogeneity. This paper challenges this view by looking at the ‘moral glocalization’of sport and at the ways local actors give global sports local moral meanings. Drawing on interviews with Afro-descendants from Chota valley, Ecuador, it shows that in this peripheral community football is seen as:(1) a morally safe emotional outlet;(2) a moral education;(3) a source of national ‘communitas’;(4) racial pride;(5) a space for local moral heroes; and (6) a gateway to communal progress. In conclusion, local actors give global football deep moral meaning when they can associate it to local conceptions of the sacred.


The Glocalization of Time and Space: Soccer and Meaning in Chota Valley, Ecuador.

International Sociology (2013) 28.4: 373-390.


Globalization is commonly defined as time–space compression, a view that relies on an idea of ‘empty’time and space where these dimensions have been stripped of local meanings by abstraction and standardization. This notion is incompatible with the globalization of culture literature that suggests that these processes do not erase local meanings but rather mix local and global culture in a process Roland Robertson calls ‘glocalization.’However, glocalization research tends to look at culture within the bounds of time and space, without problematizing changes to these dimensions themselves. By examining the local appropriation of global soccer (football) in a rural Ecuadorian community called Chota, this article bridges these perspectives and shows that globalization actively reconfigures the meanings associated to time and space.


Morality and Markets

The Priceless Child Talks Back: How Working Children Respond to Global Norms Against Child Labor.

Childhood. (2020) 27.1:63-77.


For international organizations, child labor is immoral because children’s value is emotional, not economic. For the “working children’s movements” in the global South, in contrast, certain forms of child labor can be moral. In this view, children’s value is political and work is a type of political participation. This paper examines how working children navigate these conflicting narratives. Drawing on interviews in Bolivia and Ecuador, I find that working children see their value as emotional, not political, but they believe this value comes from their work. For them, a good child loves her family and work is an act of love.

Debt Collection and Relational Damages: The Case of Student Loans. 

Working paper, with Frederick Wherry, Parijat Chakrabarti, and Katie Donnelly.  

Debates over what is fair animate the social science literature, as tensions over what is morally right or wrong lead individuals and institutions to modify or block legally permissible transactions. This study, drawing on 7,147 complaint narratives submitted to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, reveals how consumers write about what is unfair and how the government bureau, charged with “making sure banks, lenders, and other financial companies treat [consumers] fairly,” responds to their charges of unfair treatment. The data come from student loan complaints, but the findings resonate with complaints about credit cards, debt collection, and consumer financial services more generally. We identify the multiple meanings of fairness, those ascribed to an individual’s circumstances versus those that reside in the individual’s relationships (relational claims). By contrasting how those complaints are resolved, we identify a “fair gap,” a difference in whether individual or relational damages are recognized and affirmed through sanctions.

Latin America


Book chapter: Is Civil Society Dangerous for Democracy? New Directions for Civil Sphere Theory in Latin America.  

The Civil Sphere in Latin America. (2018) Jeffrey C. Alexander and Carlo Tognato (eds). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 231-239.


This chapter is a commentary on the book The Civil Sphere in Latin America. I argue that the book proves how useful Civil Sphere Theory is for Latin American studies, as it provides a more sophisticated definition of the civil sphere and a new set of theoretical tools.

'El eclipse’ de Augusto Monterroso y las implicaciones éticas de la brevedad.

Latin American Literary Review (2011) 39.78: 61-72.

Writers have always played with the limits of brevity, but no one more so than Honduran author Augusto Monterroso. Monterroso's micro-literature has been understood as a formal experiment pushing the boundaries of the short story. This article examines instead how Monterroso uses brevity to explore the morality of reading. Focusing on the short story "El eclipse," I argue that Monterroso is attacking the myth of the all-powerful writer, redefining the author and the reader's ethical responsibilities.