Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Beyond the Self, Beyond the Local

Until now, our readings have predicated imagined communities and cosmologies as a sort of inevitable telos in the ideological development of the individual. There seems to be an understanding that the individual, moving from a conception of self that must be assumed to be Cartesian (an actualization through thought or Lacanian self-recognizance) that progresses into conceptions of the people immediately around him (community) and the collected individuals beyond his grasp, but whose presence is understood (the nation, or the cosmopolitan global).

Here, our readings seem to diverge, offering various states beyond the self and the local. There is the nation and its inherent nationalism (Anderson), the culture of interchange, exchange, and circulation (Lee and LiPluma) the situated, topological self, cognizant of his "place" in the world (Robbins) and the Kantian univerisalism, that presents the world beyond the self as a singular unity that is most often viewed fractured, so as to reveal only communities that are parts of the larger, united state. As Robbins puts this final idea, "According to this ideal [Kant's], there could be only one 'world-wide community of human beings" (2).

How can we reconcile all of these varied theories? Though they are academically interconnected, referring to and quoting one another, each offers a new perspective to understand the community beyond the self and the local. Which is to be preferred? Can the individual self (as represented by the single student) or the local (as represented by our discussion groups) even work to conceptualize the structures of the interlocking societies above us?

Also, it occurs to me that following Appadurai's "technoscapes" and "mediascapes" an alternate, individuated cosmopolitanism could be suggested. Technology and the media enable the individual to be both plugged into the global system and to perceive it personally. suggested readings, titles like "your" New York Times, or media slogan's like "what's happening in your world" seem to suggest a commodification of cosmology down to the individuated consumer. Is this yet another way to understand the cosmopolitan, another way to think about the space beyond the self and the local? When Time Magazine made "you" the person of the year, was it identifying the individuated cosmopolitanism that modern technological practices have enabled? Do we live in the age of customized cosmologies and Do-it-yourself globalism?

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