Monday, September 24, 2012

The Challenge of New Locational Knowledge for the Individual

In reading  “Movement-space” and  “Disjuncture and Difference in Global Cultural Economy,” both Thrift and Appadurai examine the problem of locating oneself in a changing cultural and global economy. As I read each article, I was struck by the question of how the individual is able—or unable—to maintain a sense of place and community. Indeed, both Appadurai and Thrift examine a feeling of anxiety and rupture resulting from being without “beginnings and endings” (Thrift) and lacking “points of departure and points of arrival” (Appadurai).

Thrift writes that it is a “challenge to think about new kinds of locational knowledge and how they sink into and condition social interchange” (596). Indeed, Thrift points to the way location has become more complicated. He writes, “there are no longer calculations with definite beginnings and ends. Rather, there is a place of endless calculation and recalculation, across which intensities continually build and fade” (591). Thrift’s discussion of being without these “time markers,” leads nicely into Appadurai’s argument. If we are without clear borders and markers, it is necessary that we can call on “the imagination as a social practice” (5, Appadurai).  Being able to imagine communities and networks of people is especially important when there is no other way to mark oneself in space and time.

Like Thrift, Appadurai examines a dynamic of disjuncture and rupture in which people struggle to understand their own sense of place. 
Appadurai writes, “what is new is that this is a world in which both points of departure and points of arrival are in cultural flux, and thus the search for steady points of reference, as critical life-choices are made, can be very difficult.”
 In this passage, we learn that “the tension between cultural homogenization and cultural heterogenization” (5) exists for individuals.  When culture is no longer fixed, identity development is a more complicated task. Appadurai points to the danger of being without a point of departure or arrival while showing the possibilities of being influx. In reading, it seems as though the disruption of the “master narrative of the Enlightenment,” (10) complicates peoples’ abilities to locate themselves in a cohesive narrative however this rupture is necessary in order to rewrite and dismantle Eurocentric historical traditions. Thus both Thrift and Appadurai examine the way this sense of anxiety and rupture may be important and even necessary to building a different sense of place and community.

Lastly, I am interested in Appadurai's call for us not to "throw out the process." I believe that he articulates the danger of experiencing the "in-flux" in isolation. As the global culture/economy changes, how can we develop identities without being in isolation? When is it productive to be without points of departure and points of arrival and when does this lead to greater alienation and rootlessness?

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