This major collection of essays, a sequel to Modernity at Large and Fear of Small Numbers, is the product of ten years’ research and writing, constituting an important contribution to globalization studies. Appadurai takes a broad analytical look at the genealogies of the present era of globalization through essays on violence, commodification, nationalism, terror and materiality.
Alongside a discussion of these wider debates, Appadurai situates India at the heart of his work, offering writing based on firsthand research among urban slum dwellers in Mumbai, in which he examines their struggle to achieve equity, recognition and self-governance in conditions of extreme inequality.
Finally, in his work on design, planning, finance and poverty, Appadurai embraces the “politics of hope” and lays the foundations for a revitalized, and urgent, anthropology of the future.
Leading socio-cultural anthropologist Arjun Appadurai, author of The Future as Cultural Fact, talks to Times of India’s Madhavi Rajadhyaksha about an anthropology and urbanism of the future—and why, despite the many challenges, there are still reasons to be optimistic.
TOI: What is your latest book The Future as Cultural Fact about?
Arjun Appadurai: It indicates something I've realised recently—my own discipline, anthropology and other social sciences like sociology, largely see culture as a vehicle of the past, of heritage, memory, tradition, customs. Culture is occasionally seen as important for the present but almost never as far as the future is concerned—the result is, the future has been handed over to economics and other quantitative and predictive sciences.
I wanted to signal that the future is also highly variable. People have different visions, images and narratives of the future. Today, in cities like Mumbai, there's a lot of debate about heritage—but you won't see the language of conservation applied to what people want ahead. That's a huge oversight.