International Society of Political Psychology

Conference Abstracts

9C Globalization and Its Discontents: Explorations in Appadurai’s “Fear of Small Numbers”

(Session Organizer) Amy Ansell, Emerson College

Conference: ISPP 2011
Affiliation: Emerson College
Research Area: International relations, globalization, macropolitical issues

Arjun Appadurai's (2006) provocative monograph, Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the geography of Anger, is a meditation on the organic linkages between the triumph of open-market global capitalism, democratic political practice and human rights ideology, and the proliferation of ethno-political violence, ethnic cleansings, and terrorism. It is a brilliant, unruly tour-de-force, a product of fierce intelligence and originality, holding promise of significant consequence for political psychology and related fields. Appadurai's argument links the erosion of state sovereignty produced by the controlling reach of global finance, and by mass migration, communications technology and popular culture to a fundamental, jarring uncertainty around national and communal social identity, significance and power. This ubiquitous anxiety Appadurai's asserts creates "surplus rage" embodied through a communal urge towards purification, a cleansing, violent "predatory narcissism" particularly attuned to and intolerant of small numbers, minorities, the "other" - an extraordinary appropriation of Freud's "narcissism of small difference." The papers comprising this panel apply Appadurai's conceptual insights and terminology to the terrain of four quite diverse cultural/political settings: the politics of race and land in Zimbabwe, emergent rituals in Hindu Temples in India; asylum-seekers as object of compassion and fear in the United States; and the political psychology of HIV in South Africa.