Arjun Appadurai

Appadurai is normally referred to as adhering to the heterogenization school in globalization thought. Appadurai has contributed to the theory of indigenization. He believes claims of creeping global homogenization invariably subspeciate into either an argument about Americanization, or an argument about commoditization, and very often these two arguments are very closely linked.

What these arguments fail to consider is that at least as rapidly as forces from the various metropolises are brought into new societies, they tend to become indigenized in one way or another: this is true of music and housing styles as much as it is true of science and terrorism, spectacles and constitutions. He points out that indigenization could involve countries outside the scope of American influence and may present issues of dominance (i.e. Japanization in Korea). For Appadurai, the crux of the argument for polities of a smaller scale, there is always a fear of absorption by polities of a larger scale: “One man’s imagined community is another man’s political prison.” Appadurai also points out that fears of homogenization can be used by nation-states in relation to their own minorities, by posing cultural homogenization as more ‘real’ than the threat of their own hegemonic strategies.

According to Appadurai, polarization models (producers/consumers; center/periphery) can no longer be used to explain the global cultural economy. Global cultural flows occur ina nd through the growing disjunctures between these various areas:

  • Ethnoscapes – “Ethnoscapes,” according to Appadurai, are “landscape[s] of persons who constitute the shifting world in which we live; tourists, immigrants, refugees, exiles, guestworkers and other moving groups and persons constitute an essential feature of the world and appear to affect the politics of (and between) nations to a hitherto unprecedented degree.”
  • Mediascapes – Appadurai notes two main characteristics of mediascapes. The first characteristic involves “the distribution of the electronic capabilities to produce and disseminate information,” and the second involves “the images of the world created by these media.”
  • Technoscapes – Technoscapes refer to the “global configuration…of technology, and of the fact that technology, both high and low, both mechanical and informational, now moves at high speeds across various kinds of previously impervious boundaries. Appadurai adds that there is a relationship between technoscapes and ethnoscapes because the movement of technology and the movement of the actors capable of manipulating this technology are closely linked.
  • Finanscapes – Finanscapes refer to the flows in “currency markets, national stock exchanges, and commodity speculations.”
  • Ideoscapes – Ideascapes “are often directly political and frequently have to do with the ideologies of states and the counter-ideologies of movements explicitly oriented to capturing state power or a piece of it.”

According to Appadurai deterritorialization, is one of the central forces of the modern world, since it bring laboring populations into the lower class sectors and spaces of wealthier societies. Appadurai offers the following examples of how flows can be used to interpret deterritorialization:

  • Deterritorialization contributes to the creation of overseas markets (often in diasporic communities) for domestic film companies. These invented homelands can often become sufficiently one-sided that they can lead to ethnic conflicts.
  • Money managers begin seeking the best investments regardless of location. These flows of money can consequently lead to fears of “foreign domination,” in examples such as Los Angelenos worried about Japenese purchasing of property.


Appadurai, Arjun (1990) Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy’ in M. Featherstone (ed) Global Culture. London: Sage, pp. 295-310.