Synopses & Reviews
The period since 1989 has been marked by the global endorsement of open markets, the free flow of finance capital and liberal ideas of constitutional rule, and the active expansion of human rights. Why, then, in this era of intense globalization, has there been a proliferation of violence, of ethnic cleansing on the one hand and extreme forms of political violence against civilian populations on the other?
Fear of Small Numbers is Arjun Appadurai’s answer to that question. A leading theorist of globalization, Appadurai turns his attention to the complex dynamics fueling large-scale, culturally motivated violence, from the genocides that racked Eastern Europe, Rwanda, and India in the early 1990s to the contemporary “war on terror.” Providing a conceptually innovative framework for understanding sources of global violence, he describes how the nation-state has grown ambivalent about minorities at the same time that minorities, because of global communication technologies and migration flows, increasingly see themselves as parts of powerful global majorities. By exacerbating the inequalities produced by globalization, the volatile, slippery relationship between majorities and minorities foments the desire to eradicate cultural difference.
Appadurai analyzes the darker side of globalization: suicide bombings; anti-Americanism; the surplus of rage manifest in televised beheadings; the clash of global ideologies; and the difficulties that flexible, cellular organizations such as Al-Qaeda present to centralized, “vertebrate” structures such as national governments. Powerful, provocative, and timely, Fear of Small Numbers is a thoughtful invitation to rethink what violence is in an age of globalization.
“Arjun Appadurai is already known as the author of striking new formulations which have greatly illuminated contemporary global developments, notably in Modernity at Large. In this new book, he tackles the most burning and perplexing problems of collective violence which beset us today. The book is alive with new and original ideas, essential food for thought not just for scholars, but for all concerned with these issues.”—Charles Taylor, author of Modern Social Imaginaries
“In this book, Appadurai follows up Modernity at Large with a look into the seamy side of globalization. Analyzing the growing inequalities and endemic violence of the past decade, he still sees signs of hope in less noticed trends of ‘globalization from below.’ These are important new thoughts from an influential thinker of our times.”—Partha Chatterjee, Director, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, and Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University, New York
“Fear of Small Numbers makes engaging reading. . . . The book provides a fine introduction to the conjunction of globalization, violence, and identity politics. Not overburdened with jargon or scholarly references, the book is accessible to readers both within and outside of academia and to an undergraduate audience. It will interest anthropologists, political scientists, policymakers, and students of conflict resolution and globalization.”
“Appadurai’s Fear of Small Numbers is an important contribution to the study of one of the most harmful aspects of modernity, violence against minorities. . . . “[It is] groundbreaking both for social theory and for political action. Even its questionable assertions inspire reflection on important issues. I highly recommend this book to all people interested in the fate of the contemporary world.”
Providing a conceptually innovative framework for understanding sources of global violence, this work describes how the nation-state has grown ambivalent about minorities at the same time that minorities, because of global communication technologies and migration flows, increasingly see themselves as parts of powerful global majorities.
A leading theorist of globalization provides a conceptually innovative framework for understanding sources of global violence
Argues that the many forms of ethnic violence around the world, both internal and transnational, need to be seen in the context of globalization.
About the Author
Arjun Appadurai is the John Dewey Professor in the Social Sciences at The New School, where he is also Senior Advisor for Global Initiatives. His books include Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization and the collection Globalization, also published by Duke University Press. He is a cofounder of the journal Public Culture, founder of the nonprofit PUKAR (Partners for Urban Knowledge, Action, and Research) in Mumbai, cofounder and codirector of ING (Interdisciplinary Network on Globalization), and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has served as a consultant or advisor to a wide range of public and private organizations, including the Ford, Rockefeller, and MacArthur foundations; UNESCO; the World Bank; and the National Science Foundation.
Table of Contents
1. From Ethnocide to Ideocide 1
2. The Civilization of Clashes 15
3. Globalization and Violence 35
4. Fear of Small Numbers 49
5. Our Terrorists, Ourselves 87
6. Grassroots Globalization in the Era of Ideocide 115