Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Appadurai and Granovetter

Both Granovetter and Appadurai seem to be trying to diagram a kind a bird’s eye view sketch of events that happen on individual and interpersonal levels, essentially they are trying to zoom out a define terms and systems to talk about this “new” mobility (imagined and physical). From my reading space in its physical sense in both works becomes increasingly irrelevant when think about networks and is exchanged for imagined space, or the movement between two spaces.

What I think is interesting in reading the two together is when Appadurai discusses deterritorialization, especially when he references the Gulf States. In the Gulf, especially in places like the UAE, the “expat” or “migrant laborer” communities exceed that of the Emirati population. What makes immigrating to the Gulf for work different from the US is that there is no social mobility, no possibility of citizenship, and so definitely no possibility of political participation. However, I wonder what would happen if political participation (I mean those states would have to extend political participation to its citizens first, minus Kuwait to some degree) was a possibility for immigrants to the UAE.

This is where I think it is interesting to bring Granovetter into the discussion. In his piece “The Strength of Weak Ties” he discusses community organization and asks the reader to imagine a community “completely partitioned into cliques”. This reminded me of the Gulf and countries in the Middle East where tribal relations are still upheld( but also I thought about my family friends who moved to DC and they fell very quickly into a “clique” that revolved around the Coptic Church) and thus the subsequent social obligations that come with that are different, but conceptually, the idea of a clique is the same.

The reason I thought to the Bedouin tradition of having a tribe was because democracy’s “compatibility” with the Middle East is often cited as incompatible because of religion. I wonder if the concept of “weak tie” as essential to networking; or the creation, proliferation, and maintenance of networks, and thus connecting with others on a level of knowing they exist is integral to the notion of democracy. I wonder if, religion aside, is there more to democracy than just secularism, is there a network or some kind of imagined infrastructure/superstructure that must be created before hand or simultaneously for it to make sense?

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