[-empyre-] A strange bit of luck

davin heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Wed Apr 22 06:32:24 EST 2009

I agree, it does tend to be a bit vaguely optimistic, but I don't know
that there is necessarily anything wrong with broad metanarratives,
particularly at a time when people on the bottom of the pile tend be
isolated, and often opposed to each other.  A broad narrative about
"justice" or "working class solidarity" provides a pretext for talking
about groups of people who share common interests.  At some level, the
idea that I could not coordinate a narrative with disparate
populations, itself, becomes a metanarrative.  And, a debilitating

I do think that the capacity for people to bridge these pockets of
humanity is powerful and explosive.  NGOs are perfectly positioned to
provide accounts provided academics, legislators, artists, and
"everyday people" are willing to listen and help.  (I know a lot of
farmers and union workers who are very careful about buying fair trade
goods.  On the other hand, I know a lot of farmers and union workers
who think fair trade is a bunch of liberal, socialist nonsense.  So I
think we really need narratives that can compete with the paranoid,
even jingoistic, attitudes towards trade).

A perfect example of success can be found in the recent successes that
student activists have had in working with NGOs in Honduras against
the anti-union practices of Russell Athletics.

It can't solve everything.  But on a practical level, I believe that
this type of solidarity is possible, and becomes more and more
effective the more it is engaged in.  If I can get together with
somebody in Detroit and agree to use a particular currency in a
particular business network, it is possible for me to work with
someone in another country to have a positive impact on a particular
transnational network...  the only real difference is how the network
is organized geographically.


On Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 3:11 PM, Nicholas Ruiz III
<editor at intertheory.org> wrote:
> Can't say I'm particularly moved by this.....'yes, we can'...was ascliché then as it is now, no?  The real question no one cares to answer in this regard is: yes, we can do what exactly?! For example, the local currency movement offers a specific answer to a particular problem...but the broad sweeping metanarratives of global emancipation read more like political speeches than anything else, it seems to me...
> nick
>  Nicholas Ruiz III, Ph.D
> Editor, Kritikos
> http://intertheory.org
> ----- Original Message ----
> From: davin heckman <davinheckman at gmail.com>
> To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Sent: Monday, April 6, 2009 6:33:50 PM
> Subject: [-empyre-] A strange bit of luck
> I was reading a book today and stumbled across a reference to Arjun
> Appadurai's "Grassroots Globalization and the Research Imagination."
> I found a copy from Appadurai's Globalization (Duke UP, 2001) and
> started reading.
> First, I was kind of bummed and embarrassed that I hadn't read it
> before.  But after getting over that, I was taken aback by the
> relevance of this article to the discussions we are having here.
> Everything from our crises of meaning, to the use of academic
> language, challenges to neoliberalism, the academic research
> marketplace, the problems with runaway financial institutions....  but
> most importantly, Appadurai offers some constructive suggestions to
> academics on how to facilitate "globalization from below."
> I won't break down Appadurai's argument here.  It is widely available
> (I found a copy of the article online).  I expect that most here have
> already read it.  It's much more readable than anything I could write.
> It is worth the time if this is something you are interested in.  But
> I will plunk down a giant quote, just to give you a sense of the scope
> of his article:
> "Such an account [of globalization from above and below] would belong
> to a broader effort to understand the variety of projects that fall
> under the rubric of globalization, and it would also recognize that
> the word globalization, and words like freedom, choice, and justice,
> are not inevitably the property of the state-capital nexus. To take up
> this sort of study involves, for the social sciences, a serious
> commitment to the study of globalization from below, its institutions,
> its horizons, and its vocabularies. For those more concerned with the
> work of culture, it means stepping back from those obsessions and
> abstractions that constitute our own professional practice to
> seriously consider the problems of the global everyday. In this
> exercise, the many existing forms of Marxist critique are a valuable
> starting point, but they too must be willing to suspend their inner
> certainty about understanding world histories in advance. In all these
> instances, academics from the privileged institutions of the West (and
> the North) must be prepared to reconsider, in the manner I have
> pointed to, their conventions about world knowledge and about the
> protocols of inquiry ("research") that they too often take for
> granted."  (Appadurai 19)\
> Peace!
> Davin
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