Academic journal article New Formations

Decoding Diaspora and Disjuncture

Academic journal article New Formations

Decoding Diaspora and Disjuncture

Article excerpt

Abstract The dialogue begins with a discussion of the development of processes of globalisation in recent years, offering a critique of some of the more hyperbolic claims about the death of geography. The discussion then moves to the question of the new conditions for the production of localities, and the role of new technologies in these developments. Further issues considered concern the politics of mobility, the question of differential modes of circulation and of continuing patterns of sedentarism and in some sectors of society. The relation between migrancy as a differentiated material process, and as a metaphor is ducussed and these issues are then refated to contemporary political debates in the USA, in the UK, India and South Africa. As the dialogue develops, attention turns to the question of how best to theorise the activity of audiences in different cultural locations in relation to particular structures of cultural power. The discussion abo covers the particular status of readers and audiences within the context of postcolonial theory and concludes with a debate about questions of race, class, empire, consumption and resistance.

Keywords Globalisation, technologies, audiences, mobilities, circulation, migrancy

This dialogue between Arjun Appadurai (AA, then of the New School, New York and now of the Department of Culture and Communications, New York University) and David Morley (DM, Department of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths College, London University) was conducted at the 'Reading After Empire' conference at Stirling University on 4 September 2008, with Arjun Appadurai participating via a video link from New York.


DM Arjun, as our dialogue today is itself being 'globalised' by the technology of videoconferencing, I thought we might as well begin with questions of mediation and technology. I'd like to invite you to comment on how you see things as having changed in these respects, in the ten years between the publication of Modernity at Large1 and Fear of Small Numbers.2 The first book predates the high moments of both globalisation theory and of born-again McLuhanite technologically determinist cyber-discourse. Since then, of course, we have had the emergence of a kind of revisionism, in which people have begun to recognise not only that globalisation has a reverse gear, but also that even the Internet has got a geography, and it still matters where you are and how you can access cyberspace: so, while people like Joshua Meyrowitz argue that we now have 'no sense of place' maybe, in fact, there is a limit to the usefulness of those kinds of claims.

In that context, I've personally found it interesting to think about cyberspace in relation to the anthropological work of people like Danny Miller and Don Slater, when they talk about the need to understand cyberspace in the various different cultural contexts in which it is instituted. That means that we have to consider the integration of the virtual and actual realms. This aspect of things, I'd say, is now also showing up with the success of phenomena like Facebook and \UpMyStreet, as it's when the virtual is more closely articulated with the actual, that things really get interesting . . .

AA I think your question points to the need to find a place from which to speak in regard to mediation and technologies (old and new), which doesn't have us oscillating between the two (opposite) poles that are always available in these discussions. One polarity is the Utopian (or 'Brave New World') perspective that says 'Everything is now transformed and everything that has gone before is as nothing'. The other one, which is what we might call the 'hyper-realist' or cynical position, says that 'we've seen all these things before' but that nothing has really changed so 'it's still just a matter of exactly the same old questions about power and inequality'. I think the question is how to find an intelligent and flexible middle position, which is not static (nor simply in search of some Golden Mean) but which leaves one open to processes which are actually still in their infancy, by anybody's definition. …

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