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Illusion of Permanence Interview With Arjun Appadurai by Perspecta 34

Illusion of Permanence Interview With Arjun Appadurai by Perspecta 34

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Illusion of Permanence: Interview with Arjun Appadurai by Perspecta 34Author(s): Arjun AppaduraiSource:
Perspecta,
Vol. 34 (2003), pp. 44-52Published by: The MIT Press on behalf of Perspecta.Stable URL:
http://www.jstor.org/stable/1567314
Accessed: 17/04/2010 13:16
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=mitpress.Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.
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ILLUSiON
PER
OF
ANENCE
INTERVIEW
WITH
ARJUN
APPADURAI
BY
PERSPECTA
34
ISSUESOF GLOBALIZATIONARE CENTRALINTHEDISCUSSION OF THE TEMPORARYAND OFTENUNSTABLEPROCESSES OFCITIES ANDCONTEMPORARYLIFE.THEANTHROPOLOGISTARJUNAPPADURAIHAS DEVELOPEDCONCRETECONCEPTSANDTERMSFOR UNDERSTANDINGMANYASPECTS OFGLOBALIZATION,PARTICULARLYINCITIES LIKEBOMBAY/MUMBAI.THEFOLLOWINGISATELEPHONE CONVERSATIONBETWEENTHEEDITORSOFPERSPECTA34 AND ARJUNAPPADURAITHATTOOKPLACEON14JULY2002.Inpreparationforthisdiscussion,thefollowingtexts wereconsulted:ArjunAppadurai,ModernityatLarge:CulturalDimensionsof Globalization
(Minneapolis:Universityof MinnesotaPress,1996); ArjunAppadurai,"DeepDemocracy:UrbanGovernmentalityand the Horizon ofPolitics,"
PublicCulture14,1(2002),41-47;ArjunAppadurai,"SpectralHousingand UrbanCleansing:Notes onMillennialMumbai,"PublicCulture12,3(2000),627-51;ArjunAppadurai,"GrassrootsGlobalizationand theResearchImagination,"PublicCulture12,1(2000),1-19;ArjunAppadurai,
"DeadCertainty:Ethnic Violencein theEra ofGlobalization,"Public Culture10,2(1998),225-47.
P34Fromthe social location in whichyou speak,anthropology,how doyouunderstandthequestionswe raise inthisjournal?How doyouthink aboutarchitectureorbuilding?Arjun AppaduraiAnthropologyisnotoriouslycapricious,evenpromiscuousinitsinterests,butIthinkit'sfairto saythat there isarevivedinterest-apartfrom issuesoftransnationalityandflows andglobalization-inthecity.Urbananthropologyhad becomefora whileasomewhatsmall andspecializedfield,andalthoughIhave to correctformyownbiasandinterestandsenseof myowndrift,Ithinkthat'schanging,thatthereis a moregeneralresuscitationof interestinthingsurban.There areanumberof reasons forthat,not the leastbeingthesensethat inthecityavarietyofimportanttrans-sectionalandtransnationalthingsarebeingplayedout.Therehasalso beenastandinginterest,whichcontinuesto beveryactive,intheproblematicsofspace.Here,someonelikede Certeauremainsanimportantreferencepoint.Asforarchitecturespecifically,myinterestin itis notaproductofgeneraltheorizingorbroadconceptualinterests,butcomes fromasensethatit'scatchinga lot ofvitaldebates andenergies.The most salientfactisthatinmyrecentwork inIndia,andparticularlyinBombay,Ihave beendeeplyimpressedwiththeenergy,fervor,andengagementthat surroundarchitecturalcircles bothinterms ofpractitionersand intermsofteachers, students,and institutions.There is a reflectiongoingonamongarchitectsinIndia-whichmaywell bepartofsomethingmorewidespread-about what we call a"crisisofthediscipline":whatdoesitdo,whatoughtitto bedoing,etc. Thatgeneralproblemhasalwaysinterestedme.WhileIrecognizethattherearedebatesgoingoninEurope,theUnitedStates,and elsewhereintheworld,Isensethat inplaceslike Indiathedisciplinarycrisis,whichmaybeongoinginarchitectureandmanyotherfields,includinganthropology,isin aspecialanddeepdialoguewiththe crisesinsocial lifeand thedevelopmentofthingslikeurbanplanningandhousing.Thisis not aninward-lookingcrisis but a crisis thatisin a fruitfuldialoguewithavarietyof othersocial crisesandcontradictions.Architectureis anespecially
44Perspecta34
 
Appaduraiinterestingsitetoday,bothinplaceslikeIndiaandmore broadly,becauseofthe kindsofglobalizingquestionsinwhichwe areinterested.
THEMODERNAND THECONTEMPORARY:FLOWSANDRELATIONSOFDISJUNCTURE
P34 Indevelopinga frameworkforPerspecta34focusingontemporaryarchitecture,we were interestedin theecologyof mobileformsandprocessesthat influencethecontemporarybuiltlandscape-tourism,displacementsandmigrations,housingmarkets,protests,and disasters naturaland man-made.Youseem to claimthat theseprocesses,when understoodin"relationsofdisjuncture,"aresignificantinshapingtheglobalizingworld.Howare these relationsofdisjunctureparticularlyneworcontemporary?Inthisregard,what is the differencebetween the modernand thecontemporary?AA Howthe ideaof "relationsofdisjuncture"definessomethingneworcontemporaryis atrickyquestion.Clearly,elementsof thekindsof thingsIrefertobyusingthetropeof"disjuncture"can be seeninearliertimesandinothercontexts,butIthinktherearetwo or threethingsthatmightdefinethe newnessquestion.Oneis arelationalanswer,whichisthatwhilewe havehadthingslikemigrationandvariousformsof mass mediationforaverylongtime,andeach has akindofdeephistory,theirspecialrelationship-asIargueinmybookModernityatLarge-seemsstrikinglydifferentnowthanintimespast.Whenyouadd morespecificelementstothat,forexampletheIT[informationtechnology]revolution,whichaffectsdirectlyorindirectlymany,manyotherthingsinitsfieldofforce,it'sverydifficulttoseeitashavingasmoothor continuoushistory.Ifyoufurtherthrowinthespecialforceof theideologyofthemarketasa regulativeideologysince1989,youcannoteasilysee theglobalhegemonyof thatideologyinearlierperiods.Allthisis to extendtherelationalanswerandsaythat,yes,theelementswe lookat allhavetheirdeephistoriesbuttheirrelationsare strikinglydifferent,andsome ofthem,liketheITrevolution,areplainlynew.Thechallengeis thatwe cannotdevelopastrongtheoryoftheirnewnesspreciselybecausetheowlof Minervahas not yetflown.AsmycolleagueandfriendKeithHartsaysinMoneyinanUnequalWorld,weareinthefirstfewyearsofarevolutionthatcouldbe aslongorlongerthantheagriculturalrevolution.Peoplewholivedinthe firstdecadesoftheagriculturalrevolutioncouldhardlyhavebeenexpectedtospinoutallitsimplicationsforthe nextseveralcenturiesandeven millennia.In thatsense,we arestillgropingandscrambling,butIthinkthat doesn'tmakeitimpossibleto sensethat,say,theITrevolutionislaunchingus intoadifferentkindof technicaland technologicalorder.So therearea number ofsubstantivewaystoengagewiththequestionofnewness-Imainlydothatbylookingatrelationsbetweenelementsratherthanfocusingonsingleelements,likemigrationor mass media.Anotherwayone can makeaconvincingargumentaboutnewnessisbylookingat thelogicof thedispersalofelementslikemass media,marketideology,andelectronictechnologythathaveaplanetarydistributionthatisstrikinginitsreach,initscoverage,comparedwithearlierlargerevolutions,eitherideologicalortechnological.Ifyouexaminethisdispersal,itproducesunexpectedrelationsbetweenvariousordersofthings.Inallof thisis adialoguewithMarxistideasaboutthe relations amongmateriallife,technology,socialrelations,ideology,andso on.Theseideas,directingus to lookatthepointsofarticulationbetweenlayersofsocialexistence,havebeenourstrongestassetsforlookingattheserelationsina kindofgeneral,andstillinspiring,way.Ifyoulookatthe relationsofemploymentthatarenowpartoftheresultofglobalcorporatestrategies,theyclearlyinvolvemovementsofpeople,skilledandsemiskilled,intoeconomicnichesat veryshortnotice.Thiscompletelyconfoundsanycrudeideathata particulareconomyseeninaspatiallyboundedwaycan haveasimplerelationshipbetweenbaseelementsandsuperstructureelements,forexample,becauseeach oftheselayerscanbeseenasapartofglobalcirculatorysystems.Soindeedthereareverticalrelations inthisMarxistview,and Marxwasbyno meanswrong,butthelayersseemnowto beinescapablypartsofcirculatorysystemsintheirownright,andalsoatagloballevel.Therefore,the kindsofcausalitiesthatunderlieMarxist thinkingaboutthe relationsamong,forexample,technology,production,andideologynotonlyhaveto be reconsideredbuthaveto be reconsideredinan ad hoc mannerdependingon the situation.Inotherwords,onecannotcometo agivensituationwithastrongpriorsenseabouthowthe causalflowswork.Thatformeiswhatthe word"disjuncture"captures.Iuse "relations"toreferto thestrengthof the Marxistapproach,tosaythatthesethingsarenotsimplyrandomlyhappening,thattherearestructuredinteractionsbetweenthem.However,the formsofdispersalofthese45

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