Uncertainty and Identity

It’s nice to be back to writing my journal of useful ideas, as part of Dr. Frank Moretti’s “Theories of Communication” course at Columbia University, Spring 2010.  We jumped deep into dense reading, including “The Bottom Billion” by Paul Collier (2007), “Fear of Small Numbers” by Arjun Appadurai (2006), Pauchari’s lecture about climate change and Bilger’s article entitled “Heart Surgery: The quest for a stove that can save the world” (New Yorker magazine, 2009).

One concept that I found interesting for our discourse relates to ways authors interpret the current state of “Uncertainty” among people and ethnic groups, and its relationship to globalization.  In “Fear of Small Numbers” Arjun Appadurai claims that not only are we living a reality of social uncertainty in social life which makes us suspicious and doubtful toward the State, but this feeling intensifies in light of the affordances of globalization, i.e. the speed and outreach capacity of the circulation of ideological elements (p. 5).  This creates a new volatile relationship between certainty and uncertainty in the era of globalization. The feeling of social uncertainty, along with the anxiety of “incomleteness” could escalate violence under the conditions of globalization.

Furthermore, when Appadurai characterizes the new term globalization through three factors he uses words that enhance the feeling of uncertainty related to the globalization era.  For example, on page 36-37 Appadurai explains that the term “globalization” is difficult to understand because of its speculative and abstract forms of finance capital, peculiar power of the information revolution and the mysterious and almost magical forms of wealth generated by electronic finance markets (which enlarge the gap between rich and poor).  His choice of words add to the anxiety around the feeling of our inconsistent and vague identity.  This reminds me of one of the conclusions deriving from the first classroom discussion – words matter!

Finally, Appadurai’s “full attachment” (1998) concept, along with Sach’s lecture about sustainable development demonstrate possible connection between homicide and inequality to environmental, political and economical instability. When forces of social uncertainty are allied to other threats to security and well being, violence could be a perceived solution and even a community-building motif.  Sachs asks how can we keep the peace while helping the most vulnerable populations – the extreme poor, while protecting the environment?  This, he claims is the challenge of the new generation.  The knowledge is handy, the technological developments are readily available… however, how do people with the access use this wealth of communication and potential influence to improve social justice and pull up the mass who is trapped in extreme poverty, diseases and political violence (which goes hand in hand according to Sachs)?  The answer is that being among the privileged with the power and the wealth bares within a responsibility for proactive action!


January 26, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Columbia University Doctorate. 2 comments.