miércoles, enero 14, 2009

Gupta and Ferguson (1992)

Gupta, Akhil and James Ferguson 1992 Behind “Culture”: Space, Identity, and the Politics of Difference. Cultural Anthropology 7(1):6-23.

The world has always already been spatially connected. What characterize the anthropological endeavor are certain forms of representation of culture, but when dealing with representing space it seems that within social sciences we need to use images of split, break, and displace. And this need comes from the unproblematic assumptions that cultural artifacts such as nations or countries and space are transparent and interchangeable monolithic entities that are “naturally” fitting. Of course, there is always a tension and something exceed the effort to map the territory, all type of mental and material mapping techniques have themselves a limitation to their ability to represent space. But the problem according to G&F (1992: 7) is that “space itself becomes a kind of neutral grid on which cultural difference, historical memory, and societal organization are inscribed.” And this non-neutral neutrality produces a generative principle in the social sciences while invisbilize space from social analysis. Space is everywhere in society but nowhere in the social analysis. But I think this idea of discrete cultures-spaces-places was highly influenced by the nation-states rhetoric of the last 200 years of one nation = one state = one culure, and this is not enough considered by G&F. Question: what we could not see in social sciences, the generative force of space within and beyond “culture”, only became visible after the fall of the bi-polar world and the meta-narratives from which they were sustaining their dominance? Why only after the 1990s social scientists began to consider space in itself as a problem and object of thinking? Or was it that according to G&F the new forms of flexible accumulation have de- and re-territorialized space breaking older notions of community, identity and difference? How are the processes that are territorializing in very different ways our identities?
But the problem is that spaces are experienced and constructed in very different ways and this make impossible the supposedly transparence of place=space=culture, spaces, places and cultures are not given. More over, places are made under a diverse range of ideologies (nation-state being only one among others) that politically imagine them as spaces. The problem is to recognize the hierarchical power relations and interconnection of spaces-places and criticize the natural disconnection. Difference come through interconnection, interconnected space always already existed. Localities or communities are not natural they come to be from the interconnected space, but “notions of locality or community refer both to a demarcated physical space and to clusters of interaction, we can see that the identity of a place emerges by the intersection of its specific involvement in a system of hierarchically organized spaces with its cultural construction as a community or locality” (1992: 8).
So another question is how to represent the social spaces and the cultural-political differences of the “other” and the “us” in the anthropological encounter without conceiving both as “pre-existing ontological entity”, more importantly how is constructed this difference when the world is becoming more and more culturally, economically, socially, and politically interconnected? The process of the production of cultural difference occurs in unbroken, linked space, traversed by economic and political relations of inequality. The problem is not how anthropology represent the others but the extra-textual roots of the problem of the politics of otherness/sameness. Because processes of de/re-territorialization have undermined the fixity of "ourselves" and "others" so we also have to reconsider what we mean by our and other cultures.

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