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Modernity at Large

Cultural Dimensions of Globalization
Arjun Appadurai ,   
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Appadurai's book, Modernity at Large, offers quite a few tools to help us think about that big fuzzy thing called "globalization." He coins quite a few words to describe multiply-constituted networks of culture - ethnoscapes, mediascapes, ideoscapes, financescapes, and technoscapes. All are different ways of looking at the global cultural flows that we're trying to describe, and all are strongly influenced by perspective, overlapping, and rapidly shifting (though the term doesn't quite capture the instability and mutability of global cultural flows).
A book like this, to be useful, should help us think about important problems in manageable, intelligible, and useful ways. Appadurai's book offers more than most in this line. His terms, such as the above, are interesting, and his willingness to theorize as well as analyze is valuable. The ways that he situates himself in his analysis is also illuminating and useful. For example, Appadurai describes a trip he and his wife made to a Hindu temple in Bombay. His wife asked about a Hindu priest that she had known before, and they were told that he was in Houston. The point isn't just that they went there and he came here. He's talking about trans-locality, and the production of locality beyond mere connection to a place. Not all Hindus live in India, and not all Indians have to live in India to maintain their Indian-ness. At the same time, Houston is Houston because of both the people and the landscape located there. But part of its identity as a place derives from the trans-local identities of some of its citizens - a "cosmopolitan" city where some citizens are both Indian and American. He does a better job than I'm doing here explaining his thinking about the contemporary experience of diaspora, which is an accomplishment in itself.
There are some flashes of real insight in this text - for me, some of his coinages were brilliant, and the comment that some trans-local modern ethnicities are forced into violent anti-statism through an inability to articulate their identity except through the language of nation and state also resonates - but overall, Appadurai tried to accomplish too much in one book. He finds himself saying things like "the details of this argument are beyond the scope of this chapter," and it seems like this happens too much. It would have been better to flesh out his thinking about the production of locality in greater detail, with more case studies. And some of his terms could use additional explanation - he doesn't seem to notice his own un-critical use of the term "cosmopolitan," and he pays remarkably little attention to literature and film after professing the importance of both in the global exchange of ideas (mediascapes and ideoscapes, as he calls them).
This is a strong book, with some real value, but I wouldn't recommend reading the whole thing all the way through. The table of contents, the index, and the chapter titles are useful signposts. It's the kind of book that might be most useful in small doses.
Von Klappentext im Buch Modernity at Large (1996)

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Understanding Media

The Extensions of Man

(Marshall McLuhan) (1966)   

Free Culture

How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity

(Lawrence Lessig) (2004)    

The Wealth of Networks

How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom

(Yochai Benkler) (2006)    

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