Following and all that is associated with them

Following
the path of an object commonly used and socially implanted in modern culture,
Caroline Knowles presents in her book Flip-flop: a journey through the paths of
globalization an ethnographic analysis based on the course of Flip-Flop since
their creation and until they are eliminated. In recounting the journey of
these ‘ordinary’ objects in the 21st century, Knowles demonstrated that these
shoes can also be seen as a ‘critical mass and mass appeal across social spectrums
and continents’ (Knowles 2014: 2).

Therefore,
through the biographical study of these Flip-Flop which “sales rise with
world population” (Knowles, 2015: 1), the author tends to explain that
these shoes and all that is associated with them can to be a source of
reflection on important topics such as globalization, repair or environmental
knowledge. Moreover, Knowles will challenge the definition of globalization,
which she says is not just about the link between economic and social
dimensions (Castells 1996) and the increasing complexity that characterizes all
human exchanges (economic, cultural and policies) (Urry 2010). In addition,
Knowles will show that globalization goes beyond the preconceived and static
notion of globalization by incorporating phenomena, objects, people and other
components that at the same time transcend and weaken this notion.

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This
review essay will try to illuminate the more or less implicit key points that
have been raised by Knowles such as globalization; the migration of the person;
material culture; the value of objects, or the link between the materials used
and what they reveal about the reality of globalization.

 

 

Throughout
her book, Caroline Knowles followed the path of flip-flop pairs through an
ethnographic and globalized route that is very expanded (Knowles 2014: 13).
Based on a six-year study in five different countries, she presents an original
and concise approach to the impact of sandals on different dimensions (social,
economic, political, environmental), while we tend to take these objects for
granted. Indeed, from the first pages, the author begins by introducing the
relationship between the manufacture of Flip-flop, plastic and the consequences
that this has on their price. We discover that the Flips-flops owe their
expansion in the daily life of Humans thanks to the plastic, which is a very
popular and cheap material. However, Knowles tells us two things about
flip-flops: these sandals, which are originally created through oil have no
recycling value. And on the other hand, if these shoes look simple in
appearance, the background that there is last their production, transport and
disposal is actually very complicated. These shoes made of plastic, actually
include a multitude of issues and actors that are associated with their
implementation.

In
Chapter 2, Knowles really begins the “flip-flop trail” by introducing
a geopolitical and social analysis of the provenance of plastic (Knowles 2014:
5). It is based in Kuwait, which is a major producer and exporter of Oil in the
Middle East (Knowles, 2014: 21). However, Knowles shows us the fragility of the
country by presenting us the social and security difficulties associated with
the latter. If oil shapes Kuwait and its people because it « makes its
impressive GDP (gross domestic product); accounts for 95 per cent of its export
earnings and for 95 per cent of the government revenues on which its citizens
depend » (Knowles, 2014 : 21), oil is not a renewable natural
resource.

The
social structure developed around this hydrocarbon (jobs, standard living) is
therefore not stable and eternal. Knowles continues his story by telling the
stories of Kuwaitis and migrants who live with oil and shape globalization
through their migratory flows.

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