restricted access Introduction
Abstract

This introductory essay charts the analytic potential of a concept of commensuration that goes beyond issues of metrics per se, but without diffusing itself into a general metaphor for cultural difference. Commensuration, we argue, is not just a basic psychosocial process, but has also emerged, in the context of “globalization” with its multifarious and wide-ranging flows, as an ideological value in its own right. Explicit negotiations of commensuration, then, have become increasingly fraught, increasingly pivotal practices as group boundaries of all sorts—separating ethnic groups, socioeconomic classes, nations, or “civilizations”—are relentlessly re-erected and re-arranged on the miniscule ethnographic scale of everyday engagements with semiotic forms marked as coming from beyond those boundaries. After laying out the nuts and bolts of our approach, we explore commensuration (and introduce the subsequent collection of essays) via three topical foci: commensuration’s role in securing movement as a semiotic effect; how sovereign power authorizes commensuration and thus comes to be at stake in it; and, finally, the destabilizing and yet productive ways in which failure haunts commensurative projects.


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