Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I certainly agree with Lee and LiPuma's assertion that the realm of the 'international' is currently undergoing a metamorphosis as a result of the dissolution of traditional boundaries and identities (particulate nationalism, ethnocentrism, etc), with various notions of collective social imaginaries transformed through performative circulation... but I think the conclusion that the resulting effect of such a transformed economy of circulation is “to subordinate and eventually efface historically discrete cultures and capitalisms and to create a unified cosmopolitan culture of unimpeded circulation” seems to disregard the unpredictability and complexity of those very systems of exchange and circulation which are fueling this transformation.

Perhaps the new reality of a worldview structured by these systems of circulation does efface traditional identifications of nationality – the MTV generation isn't strictly an American phenomenon – but aren't the resulting transnational communities which replace those older structures still distinct amongst themselves (despite the degree to which their memberships may overlap)? In other words, don't the complexities of these systems of circulation, and the new overlapping forms of simultaneous membership and identity they allow, continue to render difficult (if not impossible) the conception of a global totality or “unified” culture of any sort? Do these new social imaginaries really privilege a unified culture, or do they too (like the identifications before them) fragment any sense of global totality by creating new networks of particulate identity that have replaced traditional identification narratives like ethnicity and nationality?

It seems to me that Robbins' conception of a plurality of cosmopolitanisms (a conception in which “[l]ike nations, cosmopolitanisms are now plural and particular”) more accurately describes the result of the economic transformation detailed by Lee and LiPuma. Although I agree that “unimpeded circulation” (as Lee and Lipuma put it) may come close to describing (some parts of) the reality we face today, I still think that we now find ourselves not within a “unified cosmopolitan culture,” but rather a fragmented and nebulous network of cultures. And these overlapping communities, if they are to be structurally understood at all, amount to a complex multiplicity of cosmopolitanisms in which, as Robbins writes, “more than one 'world' may be realized, where 'worlds' may be contested.”

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