Tag Archives: globalisation

Globalisation from scratch–where is south?

French curator and writer Nicolas Bourriaud presents his concept of the altermodern as the 21st century ‘frontier’.

There are many who would contest the Western-centric view of modernism, yet do not subscribe to the idea that it has an ‘other side’ in the South. Nicolas Bourriaud, author of Relational Aesthetics, presents the idea of a ‘globalisation from scratch’, which is a flat symmetrical world where all peoples have equal access to the global electronic stage. Thus one of the critiques of a ‘southern perspective’ is that it is beholden to a cold-war mentality the divides the world neatly into west and ‘the rest’. Bourriaud presents a context that is not complicated that by this past and celebrates plurality.

So from a ‘southern perspective’, there are questions of such an approach. While celebrating plurality, its product as a curated exhibition is still concentric. This plurality is still inevitably concentrated in the art galleries of metropolitan centres.

And like its precursor ‘relational aesthetics’, altermodernity depends on an immanence that is liberated in free play. Such deferral of necessity and tradition is subject to the Bourdieu’s critique of aestheticisation in Distinction. It becomes a marker of class which has garnered the necessary surplus capital to rise above political squabbling over resources.

These are familiar criticisms of Bourriaud, but there is a danger that they position ‘southern perspectives’ as a voice of resentment, rather than an active site for engagement of ideas. At the least, there should be a possibility of dialectic between north and south, whereby each exposes the other’s limits. But for this to happen requires an acknowledgement that the world is divided, albeit messily.

India has not been displaced

A recent issue of the new journal The Global South focuses on the relative absence of India-based voices in cultural theory dealing with India and postcolonialism. They ask, quite directly:

Why, for example, do India-based scholars remain so woefully underrepresented in postcolonial and globalization studies, even as India itself has become the field’s most widely referenced postcolonial location?

The editors argue that the focus on displacement that has characterised my postcolonial writing does not reflect the position of the majority:

…the almost complete identification of postcolonial studies with diaspora, exile, etc. has yielded a discourse ill-positioned to critique globalization, one arguably better suited to strategically undergird the notion of a global neoliberal subject.

While an important source of critique for postcolonial studies, it raises the question of what replaces this discourse of displacement. It is the alternative a familiar story of victimhood?


Alfred J. López and Ashok K. Mohapatra ‘India in a Global Age; or, The Neoliberal Epiphany’ The Global South (2008) 2: 1, pp. 1-5