Globalization, technology and intimacy

By Pieter du Plessis

We are jumping.

We have been jumping

we have been jumping boundaries.


We have been jumping them all the time.

There is horror and beauty

There is touch and divide.

The strange is familiar

and the familiar is strange

when we jump into one another’s arms.



With complicated and messy global flows of people, different forms of human connections are made possible today. We interact in the most intimate of ways with one another, more than we have ever before. Imagine a 24-year-old Afrikaner man and an Ethiopian-born Dutchman of the same age sharing intimacy that transcends historical boundaries – boundaries that were still in place 50 or even 24 years ago. Jordi Caljé and my connection was made possible through a gay dating app called Grindr. Following two weeks of exchanging text messages, we met in person and from there a connection formed. It brought two people together whose lives are so different from one another and with a closer look, it becomes more complicated and fascinating when our histories collide in the intimacy that we share. With frictions across the lines of race, nationality, biological kinship and culture – the two of us are an example of how these frictions become filled with the emerging globalization and technological flows we experience in everyday life and the possibilities they bring.


There are elements of race, geography, gender and sexual orientation attached to the intimacy we share and those elements all speak to how the collision of our two identities has been forbidden historically, and, even still today. Historically, interracial intimacy was forbidden in many parts of the world and today it is still a taboo in many contexts. Alongside this, intimacy between two men is still stigmatized today depending on which social contexts you navigate and when looking at the historical dynamics of same sex relations, one can trace a history filled with violence – both in the Netherlands and South Africa. Both of us are twenty-four years old and should we have been this age twenty-four years ago, I would argue that this intimacy would not have been permitted or even possible.


“Globalization has shrunk the distance between elites, shifted key relations between producers and consumers, broken many links between labor and family life, obscured the lines between temporary locales and imaginary national attachments.” (Appadurai, 1996:10). Globalization has shifted and changed the possibilities of human connection and has merged and continues to merge socio-historical trajectories, creating new and unfolding relations and intimacies between people. Our intimacy is, I would argue, a product of globalization. “Globalization becomes real only by passing through the body. Otherwise, it will not acquire any local or personal reality, which is the only cultural reality it has.” (Larsen, 2013).


Often when we talk about globalization we focus on macro level experiences of economics, politics and cultural homogenization or fluidity, and in some ways the concept becomes so abstract and complicated when in fact we are living within the processes and practices of globalization and the meaning and effects are rooted in our embodiment of the world around us. 


Grindr, which was created in the United States of America and is used worldwide, linked the two of us in Cape Town, South Africa. The online platform creates an alternative space for gay men to meet one another and in doing so breaks down social boundaries that prohibit these interactions. It is this alternative space that enables intimacies such as ours. The possibility that this brings is something that enables a social change in many ways, connecting people from different locations and backgrounds and feeding into the notion of globalization.


I like to think about intimacy in the way that Lynn Jamieson partially defines it as “the quality of close connection between people and the process of building this quality.”


We live in a very powerful era of interconnectedness through various processes – both tangible and unseen, and in order to understand the effects of the age in which we live, we need to understand the complexity and simplicity of our everyday lives and the intimacies that surround us all. 

All photographs taken by Pieter du Plessis and Jordi Caljé 

Bio of author:

“I am Pieter du Plessis, a 24-year-old human and student at the University of Cape Town studying toward my honors degree in Social Anthropology. I am interested in the experiences of the human body through health, illness and culture. In my spare time you will find me thinking about how I can have more spare time and occasionally  baking pancakes at odd hours.”
Visit Pieter’s blog at and follow him on social media: @pietercpt and /pieter.duplessis.58511 

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