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Modernity at Large

Cultural Dimensions of Globalization

1996
Author:

Arjun Appadurai

Modernity at Large

Examines the role of imagination in the cultural development of our shrinking world.

In this bold look at the cultural effects of a shrinking world, leading cultural theorist Arjun Appadurai provides fresh ways of looking at popular consumption patterns, debates about multiculturalism, and ethnic violence in a broad global perspective.

A major work. . . . While many people are currently writing about global culture in the transnational world, virtually none of them have Appadurai’s grounding in the anthropological literature and world-view, or his global perspective. The result is a work of sometimes dizzying brilliance, a satisfying and serious assault on questions of modernity and postmodernity.

Sherry Ortner, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley

The world is growing smaller. Every day we hear this idea expressed and witness its reality in our lives-through the people we meet, the products we buy, the foods we eat, and the movies we watch. In this bold look at the cultural effects of a shrinking world, leading cultural theorist Arjun Appadurai places these challenges and pleasures of contemporary life in a broad global perspective.

Offering a new framework for the cultural study of globalization, Modernity at Large shows how the imagination works as a social force in today's world, providing new resources for identity and energies for creating alternatives to the nation-state, whose era some see as coming to an end. Appadurai examines the current epoch of globalization, which is characterized by the twin forces of mass migration and electronic mediation, and provides fresh ways of looking at popular consumption patterns, debates about multiculturalism, and ethnic violence. He considers the way images-of lifestyles, popular culture, and self-representation-circulate internationally through the media and are often borrowed in surprising (to their originators) and inventive fashions.

Appadurai simultaneously explores and explodes boundaries-between how we imagine the world and how that imagination influences our self-understanding, between social institutions and their effects on the people who participate in them, between nations and peoples that seem to be ever more homogeneous and yet ever more filled with differences. Modernity at Large offers a path to move beyond traditional oppositions between culture and power, tradition and modernity, global and local, pointing out the vital role imagination plays in our construction of the world of today-and tomorrow.

Modernity at Large

Arjun Appadurai is director of the Chicago Humanities Institute and Barbara E. and Richard J. Franke Professor of Anthropology, both at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Worship and Conflict under Colonial Rule (1981) and editor of The Social Life of Things (1986).

Modernity at Large

A major work. . . . While many people are currently writing about global culture in the transnational world, virtually none of them have Appadurai’s grounding in the anthropological literature and world-view, or his global perspective. The result is a work of sometimes dizzying brilliance, a satisfying and serious assault on questions of modernity and postmodernity.

Sherry Ortner, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley

Arjun Appadurai is the pioneering social theorist of the new institutional arena called the transnational public sphere. His observations are acute and original, his language dazzling and provocative. His examples flow effortlessly from many diverse sources-from the autobiographical to the high-theoretical, from cricket to statistical theory, from the Tamil Nadu village to Silicon Valley. Appadurai has too fine an intellect to merely celebrate all that is new; at the same time, he is not afraid to throw away what has become obsolete. This book will provide clues for a great deal of cultural studies in the next few years.

Partha Chatterjee, Center for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta

Modernity at Large is a masterpiece in interdisciplinary thinking, as Appadurai draws on a range of theorists from disciplines as far-flung as anthropology, history, literary studies, economics, and philosophy with remarkable aptitude and ease. Modernity at Large remains testimony to the theoretical and methodological contributions that transnational anthropology and historiography have to offer in an era of globalization and ethnic violence.

International Migration Review

‘Masterful’ might be a correct description of Arjun Appadurai’s book, not simply because it is a masterful anthropological work based on social science, but also because it strives to be a master narrative of modernity.

XCP: Cross Cultural Poetics

This is a collection of sole-authored essays revolving around questions concerning the end of the nation-state, diaspora, new modernity, deterritorialization, the concept of culture, postcolonialism, the production of locality, flows, and ‘scapes’ and the work of the imagination. The author is a prominent advocate both for a new postnational discourse and an anthropology that captures the qualities of translocal culture.

American Journal of Sociology

Nowadays it is perfectly acceptable to state that 'we all live in a global village,' 'the world is shrinking,' and 'the world is growing smaller.' Economists, sociologists, and anthropologists all realize that globalization has dramatically changed the world. In Modernity at Large, the cultural theorists Arjun Appadurai has taken up the challenge and has attempted to show what is new about 'globalizaton' in the last two decades or so. Modernity at Large exceeds the boundaries and determinations of the nation.

Journal of World History