Fear of Small Numbers - An Essay on the Geography of Anger
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 fuelling 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.
"This sorrowful, insightful book comes from a sobered visionary of cultural globalisation. Following his groundbreaking masterpiece Modernity at Large, in which he espied new cultural creativities generated by footloose media and mass migrations, Arjun Appadurai now poses the following paradox: why, at a time when cultural innovations proliferate, do outbreaks of ethnic slaughter demonstrate the continued resonance of state-sponsored nationalism?" (Red Pepper, Feb 2007)
"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)