- Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger
Why has the age of globalization also been an era of ethnocide? Arjun Appadurai's answer begins from the thought that modern national sovereignty always presupposes the idea of "some sort of ethnic genius." Globalization threatens this idea by blurring the lines between Us and Them, increasing uncertainty about the meaning of national belonging. Appadurai suggests that ethnocide is especially likely when a small ethnic minority is seen by a large majority as an obstacle to "a pure and untainted national ethnos." If the minority were gone, the nation would be complete. Hence the "fear of small numbers." Uncertainty and the fear of small numbers are merely necessary conditions, he argues, so in each particular case there has to be some further trigger for mass murder. Whatever you think of his general theory, Appadurai's book is full of powerful insights both about globalization and about modern communal violence, especially in South Asia.
Kwame Anthony Appiah is Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy at Princeton and has also taught at Harvard, Yale, Cornell, and Duke Universities. Among his books are Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers, The Ethics of Identity, In My Father's House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture, and, with Amy Gutmann, Color Conscious: The Political Morality of Race.