Appadurai, Arjun


… pasts in … constructed lives are as important as futures, and [sometimes] the more we unravel these pasts the closer we approach worlds that are less and less cosmopolitan, more and more local. Yet even the most localized of these worlds … has become inflected — even afflicted — by cosmopolitan scripts that drive the politics of families, the frustrations of laborers, the dreams of local headmen. Once again, we need to be careful not to suppose that as we work backward in these imagined lives we will hit some local, cultural bedrock, made up of a closed set of reproductive practices and untouched by rumors of the world at large.

Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: 1996), p. 63.

Culture does imply difference, but the differences now are no longer taxonomic; they are interactive and refractive…. Culture thus shifts from being some sort of inert, local substance to being a rather more volatile form of difference.

Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: 1996), p. 60.

Fiction, like myth, is part of the conceptual repertoire of contemporary societies. Readers of novels and poems can be moved to intense action (as with The Satanic Verses of Salman Rushdie), and their authors often contribute to the construction of social and moral maps for their readers. Even more relevant to my purposes, prose fiction is the exemplary province of the post-Renaissance imagination, and in this regard it is central to a more general ethnography of the imagination. Even small fragments of fantasy … show the contemporary imagination at work…. Like the myths of small-scale society as rendered in the anthropological classics of the past, contemporary literary fantasies tell us something about displacement, disorientation, and agency in the contemporary world.

Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: 1996), p. 58.

… there is a peculiar new force to the imagination in social life today. More persons in more parts of the world consider a wider set of possible lives than they ever did before. One important source of this change is the mass media, which present a rich, ever-changing store of possible lives, some of which enter the lived imaginations of ordinary people more successfully than others. Important also are contacts with, news of, and rumors about others in one’s social neighborhood who have become inhabitants of these faraway worlds. The importance of the media is not so much as direct sources of new images and scenarios for life possibilities but as semiotic diacritics of great power, which also inflect social contact with the metropolitan world facilitated by other channels.

Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: 1996), p. 53.