Appadurai’s edited book is an impressive, multidisciplinary, cutting-edge collection of rather lengthy articles dealing with the complexities of globalization processes—economic, cultural, and political. New thinking, new vocabularies, and new questions pepper the book in a well organized and lively treatment of many contemporary topics: time and space (Mbembe, Huyssen, Zhen, Shami, Garcia-Canclini, Sassen, Bayart); nationalism, regionalism, and transnationalism (Ching); memory and identity (Huyssen); culture and economy (Appadurai, Sassen, Tsing); media, art, and music (Feld). This is a good book to think with and to use to contextualize ethnographic work. It will also be useful to students who wish to understand the key issues in discussions of globalization. With the exception of two pieces, this book originally was published as vol. 12, no.1 of Public Culture.
The “anxieties of the global,” that is, globalization as a source of anxiety in the U.S. academic world, is the first topic treated by Appadurai in his introductory essay, “Grassroots Globalization and the Research Imagination.” Here he talks about relationships between local and global, especially social and epistemological exclusions that “even in the progressive parts of the international system, have left ordinary people outside and behind” (2). “Grassroots globalization” is globalization on behalf of the poor, or “globalization from below.” His argument in the essay is that “The idea of an international civil society will have no future outside of the success of these efforts to globalize from below” (3). Area studies, conventional ways of doing research and of thinking about capitalism are only some of Appadurai’s targets. This “world in motion” produces “fundamental problems of livelihood, equity, suffering, justice, and governance” (6). What are the relationships between “the knowledge of globalization and the globalization of knowledge?” (14). Here Appadurai calls for “a deparochialization of the research ethic,” a closing of “the gap between many U.S. scholars, who are suspicious of any form of applied or policy-driven research, and the scholars from many other parts of the world who see themselves as profoundly involved in the social transformations sweeping their own societies” (15).
Achille Mbembe’s wide-ranging essay, “At the Edge of the World: Boundaries, Territoriality, and Sovereignty in Africa,” treats questions of space and the nature of boundaries—“new forms of territoriality and unexpected forms of locality have appeared” (24). He writes of “the emergence of alternative spaces that structure the informal economy, contraband, and migratory movements, and the lack of congruence between the territory of a state and areas of exchange” (25). Mbembe calls for relativizing the differences between spatiality and temporality, a theme picked up by several other writers in this volume, including Saskia Sassen in her powerful essay, “Spatialities and Temporalities of the Global: Elements for a Theorization.” Sassen begins by questioning the assumption of much social science research, that the nation-state is a container representing a unified spatiotemporality (260). In this essay Sassen examines the interaction and overlap between the global and the national. Her main examples are economic: international business and financial centers “constitute a new economic geography of centrality, one that cuts across national borders” (271). The division of labor among cities and their interrelationships also “underline the need to rethink the distinction between the global and the local” (272). The economies of cities and nations extend beyond their boundaries and these boundaries are not only geographic, but institutional and cultural as well.
Andreas Huyssen picks up some of the cultural themes and writes of “border-crossing memory discourses” and “discrepant temporalities and differently paced modernities” (58). He posits that the international success of the film Titanic is, perhaps, “a metaphor for memories of modernity gone awry or whether it articulates the metropolis’s own anxieties about the future displaced to the past” (61). Changing time conceptions and orientations also figure in Zhang Zhen’s piece focusing on “The Rice Bowl of Youth” in which urbanization and commercialization changes gender expectations and practices. Western market pressures that transform femininity and youth into commodities require that the pace of life be quickened to synchronize with global time(138). One thinks of...