Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection
Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
A wheel turns because of its encounter with the surface of the road; spinning in the air it goes nowhere. Rubbing two sticks together produces heat and light; one stick alone is just a stick. In both cases, it is friction that produces movement, action, effect. Challenging the widespread view that globalization invariably signifies a "clash" of cultures, anthropologist Anna Tsing here develops friction in its place as a metaphor for the diverse and conflicting social interactions that make up our contemporary world.
She focuses on one particular "zone of awkward engagement"--the rainforests of Indonesia--where in the 1980s and the 1990s capitalist interests increasingly reshaped the landscape not so much through corporate design as through awkward chains of legal and illegal entrepreneurs that wrested the land from previous claimants, creating resources for distant markets. In response, environmental movements arose to defend the rainforests and the communities of people who live in them. Not confined to a village, a province, or a nation, the social drama of the Indonesian rainforest includes local and national environmentalists, international science, North American investors, advocates for Brazilian rubber tappers, UN funding agencies, mountaineers, village elders, and urban students, among others--all combining in unpredictable, messy misunderstandings, but misunderstandings that sometimes work out.
Providing a portfolio of methods to study global interconnections, Tsing shows how curious and creative cultural differences are in the grip of worldly encounter, and how much is overlooked in contemporary theories of the global.
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economy and identity. By the 1980s, its locus had shifted from mining in Canada to mining for Canada. It represented opportunity, initiative, and the potential prosperity in national character. Bre-X’s run from the bottom of the Alberta stock exchange to the top of the Toronto exchange and into the world was a source of pride for many Canadians. As much as for profits, Canadians invested for reasons of national pride.33 Yet the national specificity of attraction to investments disappears in the
shifting heterogeneity there are new sources of hope, and, of course, new nightmares. II Knowledge ........ Global vision 1955 “Let a new Asia and a new Africa be born” [Global vision] Stories of the Enlightenment often pair knowledge and vision, in two senses: the privileging of the sense of sight, and the importance of planning. Vision has energized knowledge of the globe by condensing it in a friendly visual icon and normalizing its futurist aspirations. Yet global
mobilize all the spiritual, all the moral, all the political strength of Asia and Africa on the side of peace. Yes, we! We, the peoples of Asia and Africa, 1,400,000,000 strong, far more than half the human population of the world, we can mobilize what I have called the Moral Violence of Nations in favor of peace. We can demonstrate to the minority of the world which lives on the other continents that we, the majority, are for peace, not war, and that whatever strength we have will always be
with the fall of the New Order and the rise of a more open national politics, secular and pluralistic stances became possible (see chapter 6). There have also been continuities. Banjar environmental activists continue to struggle within the moral economy of regional social justice. Yet the rapidity of change reminds me that every confluence of knowledge is tentative and ephemeral. Despite its commitments to timeless standards of truth, ethics is historical. 4 Nature Loving ........