Accepted Paper:

From "flows" back to actors: why "the local" is no longer a place for anthropology  

Author:

Judith Beyer (University of Konstanz)

Paper short abstract:

“The local” is no longer a place for anthropology not because “things” have become “global” nowadays, but because it does not exist. Neither does “the national” nor “the global”. This terminology does not help us to foster an understanding of people’s constantly shifting frames of references and activities, but instead introduces an unnecessary layer of abstraction

Paper long abstract:

More and more, social science is delineating the world into three distinct spheres: "the local", "the national" and "the global". It often treats each of these spheres as if it factually existed and as if it had fixed boundaries. It thus territorializes the world even at a time when a great deal of its publications deal with "transnational flows" (Appadurai, Hannerz). In attempting to analyze these "flows", anthropologists have so far either concentrated on how "locals" are resisting, appropriating or reinterpreting "the global" - usually portrayed as a homogenizing force coming from "above" or "outside". The anthropology of globalization is increasingly less about people's lives and more about such "flows" as 'a classic fetishized image of capital acting on its own accord, metaphorically treated as a natural phenomenon' (Graeber 2002: 1224).

I hold that "the local" is no longer a place for anthropology. Not because "things" have become "global" nowadays, but because "the local" does not exist. Neither does "the national", nor "the global". The above mentioned terminology does not help us to foster an understanding of their (and our) constantly shifting frames of references and activities, but instead introduces an unnecessary layer of abstraction. By using ethnographic material stemming from fieldwork in Kyrgyzstan, and following Bruno Latour, Marilyn Strathern, Marc Augé and John Law in their theoretical approaches, I offer an exploratory alternative view on how we can conceive of the connectedness of actors and institutions without having to take recourse to "the local", "the national" and "the global".

Panel IW05
Local encounters with the global: diversity of anthropological fieldwork approaches in globalization studies