Thursday, May 26, 2011

Arjun Appadurai – Disjunction and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy – short summary

In his famous article "Disjunction and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy" Arjun Appadurai defines the central problem of modern day globalization as the tension between homogenization and heterogenization. The argument regarding homogenization caused by globalization often relates to claims about commodification or Americanization, and often the two are linked together. However in  "Disjunction and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy" Arjun Appadurai claims that what such theories do not take into account is that various cultural element which under globalization reach new societies are often indigenized to the local culture. Furthermore, Appadurai argues that fear of cultural invasion is not limited only to Americanization but rather to every situation in which elements from one culture penetrate another.
Appadurai claims that the complexity of the global market is tied with the disjunction of economy, culture and politics. He offers the theorization of these with the aid of five conceptual dimensions, "scapes", of the global culture: ethnoscape, mediascape, technoscape, finanscape and ideoscape. The use of the suffix "scape" is meant to illustrate that these are cultural vistas which depend on the position of a given spectator, and that they are constantly changing.
Appadurai claims that these scapes are the building blocks of what Anderson called "imagined communities" for they are the historical manner in which people perceive their reality. Appadurai also ads that many people now live in "imagined worlds" and not only "imagined communities".
In the term "ethnoscape" Appadurai refers to the growing movement of peoples into one another due to immigration which changes the global dynamics. In "technoscape" Appadurai addresses the growing spread of technology. Mediascapes are narrative or visual representations of parts of reality which shape the perception of the other, fantasies, ambitions etc. ideoscape relates to the ideological dimension of states and other agencies. Notions like "freedom" or "democracy" need to be translated when crossing the borders of other cultures. Iedoscapes are dependant on conventions and the paradigmatic framework of cultures in order to be given their meaning in every culture. Thus democracy in interpreted differently under the ruling ideoscape.
Appadurai claims that the global movement of these various scapes is happening under a growing disjunction between them. The movement of people, technology, funds, media and ideas exists in varying and colliding forms. One of the characteristics of this phenomenon according to Appadurai is the state of deterritorialization with cultural groups living apart from their territory (such as immigrant groups), changing the scapes which adapt themselves to the new situation and creating the tension between openness to global processes and the will to retain a cultural identity.   

A very interesting and related discussion can be found in Empire by Hardt and Negri 

More global fun: