1 Alex Crouch Global Connections Final Globalization Essay Don t Let s Go to the Dogs Tonight You can take

the girl out of Africa, but you can never take Africa out of the girl. Alexandra Fuller, author of Don t Let s Go to the Dogs Tonight, perfectly exemplifies the previous statement through the story of her upbringing in Rhodesia (modern day Zimbabwe). Alexandra Fuller s (Bobo) story was one of incredible exhilaration, despondent tragedy, and acute isolation. And yet the one thing that tied together all of her life experiences was that they were genuinely African, and that made her a genuine African. Her story shows us that who we are as people will forever be intimately linked with our upbringing. Because of this, Alexandra Fuller s life in Africa was more than just an extended trip to distant land; it was the catalyst in the formation of her very identity. Fuller s identity formation was dramatically impacted by cultural globalization, a term that Manfred Steger defines as the intensification and expansion of cultural flows across the globe, which is primarily concerned with the symbolic construction, articulation, and dissemination of meaning (Steger 71). Understanding this concept of cultural globalization, it is apparent that Fuller s conceptualization of meaning in the broadest sense of the word was far different from her typical American or African counterparts. The African in Fuller led her to view life through more of a survivalist lens, one that was acutely aware of the physical nature of life such as a constant need for food, shelter, and safety; while the European in Fuller caused her to view life through the uniquely different cultural

2 values of her parents and their homeland, a higher class, more civilized lens one might call it (although it should be noted that this is also where her racist tendencies originated). There are theories about identity formation that support the idea that being part of a larger social group serves to instill values into the individuals. One such theory says that, A collective s members were believed to internalized these qualities, suggesting a unified, singular social experience, a single canvas against which social actors constructed a sense of self (Cerulo 387). This theory of identity formation suggests that Fuller would internalize some of the ideals promoted by the group to which she belongs. Of course she belonged to not one, but two different groups, and as such, Fuller assimilated certain aspects of each of the respective cultures to which she was a part. In Don t Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight Alexandra Fuller outlined for us what it was like to grow up in Rhodesia, modern day Zimbabwe, as part of a white family originally from England. While Alexandra was not actually born in Rhodesia, she moved there at such a young age that all of her childhood memories were hatched in the heart of Africa. Because of her unique life circumstances, Alexandra was faced with correspondingly unique life difficulties. She found her identity by mashing together a variety of cultural norms and values. For instance, Alexandra was born to parents who were originally British, so she spoke the English language and was raised on traditional British values. Unfortunately, one of these British values was the superiority of whites. Her parents were clearly racist considering that they were

3 actively engaged in fighting to keep minority white rule alive in the predominantly black Rhodesia. However, considering that she knew little to nothing about what life was actually like in England, Alexandra also heavily identified with African life. She knew nothing of the proper British politeness and niceties; she knew only the rough, hard life that she and her family faced everyday. Living in Africa was more about survival than anything else (Pace). This fact was reflected in the harsh African landscape and the attitudes of the locals, blacks and whites alike. Interestingly enough, although we would typically expect Alexandra to harbor hatred or contempt for her harsh African life, we find that she has an incredibly difficult time letting go of it because she so deeply connects that way of life with her personal identity. Across the colonial world politically dominated peoples fought against regimes that stripped them of their land, deposed their leaders, demanded their labor, and perhaps most of all, injured their sense of personal dignity and collective honor (Shutt 323). This was the social and political backdrop to the life of Alexandra Fuller as a child growing up in Africa. The white colonization of Rhodesia had left tensions precariously high, at an unsustainable level, and Fuller s life as a child just happened to coincide with the revolution for political freedom led by the majority black population. As such, this was an extremely violent and dangerous time to live in Africa. Even driving on the roads was to put your life at risk for the fear of running over landmines. She voices this daily type of fear when she said, Everything is dormant or is holding its breath against triggering a land mine.

4 Everything is waiting and watchful and suspicious. Bushes might suddenly explode with bristling AK-47s and we ll be rattled with machine-gun fire and be lipless and earless on the road in front of the burned-out smoldering plastic and singed metal of our melting car (Fuller 99). The language Fuller uses seems to give an impression of an extremely morbid and intense fear, but through the totality of the entire book, it becomes clearer that this is just the reality of her life. Yes, she was fearful, but it was just how things happened, so she adapted and lived her life accordingly. Point out as many flaws as you like, you would be unable to convince Alexandra that Africa was not her home. In fact, we find that even after she has moved away to pursue education outside of the continent, she still longs for the unique flavor of African life. In almost a final confirmation of Fuller s identity consisting of a fusion of her British and African lives, she has since taken for herself an American husband and moved to the United States, and yet upon a return arrival to African soil she says, When I step off the plane in Lusaka and that sweet, rawonion, wood-smoke, acrid smell of Africa rushes into my face I Want to weep for joy. The airport officials wave their guns at me, casually hostile, as we climb off the stalebreath, flooding-toilet-smelling plane into Africa s hot embrace, and I grin happily. I want to kiss the gun-swinging officials. I want to open my arms into the sweet familiarity of home. The incongruous, lawless, joyful, violent, upside-down, illogical certainty of Africa comes at me like a rolling rainstorm, until I am drenched with relief (Fuller 287).

5 Works Cited Cerulo, A. Karen. Identity Construction: New Issues, New Directions. Annual Review of Sociology Vol. 23 (1997): pp. 385-409. Jstor. Web. 8 May 2011. Fuller, Alexandra. Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight. New York: Random House, 2003. Print. Pace, Eric. "Many Face Death In Africa, U.N. Says." New York Times 27 Dec. 1985: 4. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 9 May 2011. Shutt, Allison K. " I Told Him I Was Lennox Njokweni : Honor and Racial Etiquette In Southern Rhodesia." Journal of African History 51.3 (2010): 323-341. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 11 May 2011. Steger, Manfred. Globalization: A Very Short Introduction. 2nd. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.