Public Positions | Arjun Appadurai on Failure, Digitality, Memory | 28 February 2020 1pm

Saturday, 29 February, 2020 - 12:30

WiSER invites you to a lunchtime lecture in our new series PUBLIC POSITIONS

Arjun Appadurai 

Failure, Digitality, Memory

Arjun Appadurai is one of the world-leading anthropologists of our times and a key theorist in globalization studies. Whether in The Social Life of Things, Fear of Small Numbers, Modernity at LargeBanking on Words or The Future as Cultural Fact, his work has been largely devoted to designing  an ethics of the possible in a shrinking world. 
Drawing on arguments in a recent book called Failure, by Arjun Appadurai and Neta Alexander (Polity, 2019), this lecture will show how Wall Street and Silicon Valley promote the idea that scarcity should be eliminated. Yet, in reality, debt, crises, digital divides and (dis)connectivity are actually part of strategic and repeated failures finance and technology perpetuate and monetize. The lecture will explore the paradoxical relationship between failure, digitality and memory in our emerging futures. Appadurai  will revisit these concepts in light of  a dominant paradigm in which ordinary users, debtors and citizens are taught to blame themselves for all the technical and systemic failures that afflict them. As important, they are taught to forget yesterday's failures or to regard them as an inevitable cost of technological futurity, so that they can reach out for tomorrow's gadgets, consumer purchases and entertainment platforms. In this process, what appears to be an expanding horizon of futures is in fact a shrinking one, in which failure, frustration and endless waiting are continuously monetized.

Arjun Appadurai is Goddard Professor of Media, Communication and Culture at New York University and Senior Professor of Anthropology and Globalization at The Hertie School in Berlin. His most recent book is Failure, with Neta Alexander (Polity, 2019). He is Co-Editor of Public Culture,  starting in 2019. In Berlin, he is a Mercator Fellow for 2020 at the Latin America Institute of the Free University, and a member of the Advisory Board of the Merian Center for Conviviality and Inequality in Latin America, in Sao Paulo, a consortium of German and Latin American Universities. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Member of the UNESCO Commission on The Futures of Education. He is currently working on a book about enlightenment and empire.

Friday, 28th February 2020
WiSER Seminar room,
6th Floor, Richard Ward Building
East Campus, Wits University

All Welcome

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