Appadurai’s 5 Scapes of Globalization Explained (2019)

Definition of the Appadurai Scapes

Appadurai Scapes: The 5 scapes of cultural flow are 5 ways cultures around the world influence each other. The 5 scapes are: mediascapes, technoscapes, ethnoscapes, financescapes and ideoscapes.

According to Appadurai, these 5 scapes flow have influenced each other more and more over time as globalization has sped up.

Who is Arjun Appadurai?

ultimate guide to appadurai's 5-scapes theory of cultural flow

Appadurai is a cultural theorist and anthropologist. He is the person who came up with the scapes theory.

Here are some quick facts about him:

  • Born in Mumbai, India in 1949;
  • Professor at the University of Chicago;
  • Major Publications: Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (1996) and Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy (1990);
  • Major concepts: global cultural flow, scapes theory, disjuncture, imagined worlds;
  • Co-founder of the journal Public Culture.

Citations for the above information (APA style)

Rantanen, T. (2006). A man behind scapes: An interview with Arjun Appadurai. Global Media and Communication, 2(1): 7–19. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1742766506061814 (free access here)

Global Cultural Flow

Appadurai’s scapes theory starts with the idea of global cultural flow (you should use this term in your essay!).

Appadurai argues that we used to always see the world in a binary: Global North vs. Global South, East vs, West, First World vs. Third World. Etc.

According to Appadurai, that’s too simplistic.

We’re not two separate worlds separated by the rich and poor.

Especially not now we’re in the age of globalization.

Instead, Appadurai argues, we all influence each other. Our cultures intersect and overlap all the time.

How do cultures around the world influence each other?

Well, through 5 different dimensions of cultural flow. You might recognize them:

  • Mediascapes
  • Technoscapes
  • Ethnoscapes
  • Financescapes
  • Ideoscapes

Here’s how Tzanelli explains Appadurai’s global cultural flow idea:

“We should try to understand how ‘flows’ or ‘scapes’ sweep through the globe, carrying capital, images, people, information, technologies and ideas.” (Tzanelli, 2011, p. 384)

Citations for the above information (APA style)

Appadurai, A. (1990). Disjuncture and difference in the global cultural economy. Public Culture, 2(1): 1-24. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F026327690007002017  (free access here)

Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalization. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.

Tzanelli, R. (2011). Cultural Flows. In: Southern, D. (Ed.) Encyclopedia of consumer culture. (pp. 384-386). Los Angeles: SAGE. (google books preview here)

Examples of the Scapes Theory

a) Ethnoscapes

Explanation:

‘Ethnoscapes’ represent the movement of people around the world. Appadurai says:

“…tourists, immigrants, refugees, exiles, guest workers, and other moving groups and persons […] appear to affect the politics of and between nations to a hitherto unprecedented degree.” (Appadurai, 1990, p. 297)

Appadurai notes that there do still appear to be very stable communities that stay in one place for generations – and who will stay there for generations to come.

But nonetheless there are more people than ever moving around the world for work, leisure, family and due to displacement from their homelands.

This is, in part, due to the increasing speed and ease and decreasing costs of travel around the glob.

Examples:

Refugees: People who have moved to seek asylum from danger in their homelands.

Economic migrants: People moving to seek jobs elsewhere.

Tourists: People traveling to share and experience different cultures

b) Technoscapes

Explanation:

‘Technoscapes’ refers to the ways technologies help speed up cross-border movements.

Technologies themselves are visible all over the world now. Even desperate asylum seekers crossing from Lybia to Italy are seen with mobile phones – sometimes their only worldly possessions.

On a much larger scale, we see the movement of Japanese and Chinese technologies all over the globe.

And, of course, technologies like the internet are helping facilitate the rapid movement of money, people and goods across borders at faster and faster rates.

Examples:

Handheld devices: The global movement of smart phones, cameras and personal computing devices.

Internet: Technology has helped us to connect across the globe at an unprecedented rate.

c) Financescapes

Explanation:

Financescapes represent the rapid movement of money across borders.

Visa and Mastercard are almost everywhere these days, enabling us to use our money globally.

It is only when you head to countries that are partially blocked from global financescapes like Iran and Cuba that you realize just how much we rely on financescapes. Imagine heading to a nation where it’s exceedingly difficult to use and access your overseas bank account.

Examples:

Stock Exchange: Trades of capital occur in seconds all hours of the day across the global stock exchanges.

Credit Cards: Most credit cards will work in most countries around the world, making it easier to spend globally.

New Transfer Technologies: Businesses like Transferwise and Monzo are revolutionizing transfer of money around the globe by creating new and cheaper money transfer business models.

d) Mediascapes

Explanation:

Media has an increasingly global reach.

Appadurai wrote of the power of international media to send news information across the globe at a rapid rate.

Imagine back in the 1700s when news was sent by ship across oceans, taking months to reach its intended audience!

Even when Appadurai first came up with the concept of mediascapes in the 1990s he would never have known just how far we would have come some 3 decades later.

The widespread use of the internet has meant traditional news media are being challenged by agile new media companies. However, these companies operate with editorial policies that may be less strict or target audiences of particular biases.

Examples:

Blogging: Rather than getting information from books, people can now get their news from anyone with an internet connection and a website.

BBC: People around the world rely on global news outlets like the BBC to get their information.

24-hour News: People are consuming media instantaneously using Twitter and smart phones. This has changed news cycles and fed a global hunger for more and more news instantly.

e) Ideoscapes

Explanation:

Ideoscapes refers to the ideas, symbols and narratives that have spread around the globe.

Appadurai points to the Enlightenment ideas of liberal democracy as one of the most powerful ideoscapes to sweep the world. This idea took root and spread across the globe, leading to the decline of monarchies and rise of democracies.

More recently, the Arab Spring – a season in 2011 in which the Arab world demanded their own democratic reform – is another ideoscape that jumped from one nation to the next, including Egypt, Syria and Libya (with limited success).

More recent still, perhaps, has been the move towards nationalism (and even ethnic nationalism) which has been visible in nations like the USA, UK and Austria in the period of 2016 – 2018.

Examples:

Capitalism and Socialism: Much of the second half of the 20th Century was consumed by the competing ideas of capitalism and socialism which spread through their spheres of influence.

Musical Styles: In the 1960s, the British Invasion bands like The Who and The Beatles spread their style of music to the United States and influenced subsequent musical styles for generations.

Citations for the above information (APA style)

Appadurai, A. (1990). Disjuncture and difference in the global cultural economy. Public Culture, 2(1): 1-24. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F026327690007002017  (free access here)

Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalization. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.

Case Study of the 5 Scapes

You might have noticed that the scapes overlap and influence one another.

In fact, when you think of one case study or phenomenon, you’ll notice the presence of several of the scapes at once.

Here is one case study by Tzanelli (2011) that demonstrates this overlap.

The Olympic Games

The Olympic Games are a sporting tournament originating in ancient Greece but rebirthed over 100 years ago. Now they are hosted by a different host nation every 4 years.

Financescapes: Different multinational corporations from across the globe invest in the host city. Host cities use that money to build the necessary infrastructure for the games.

Mediascapes: The opening and closing ceremonies are designed to demonstrate the diversity of cultures around the world. Each nation showcases their unique culture in the ceremonies.

Ideoscapes: The host nation uses the Olympic games to spread the story of their nation, heritage and customs. This in turn attracts tourists and inspires the affections of people around the world.

Ethnoscapes: Contestants, journalists and tourists around the globe travel to the city for the festivities. Jobs are created in the host city due to construction and preparations which may also attract economic migrants.

Technoscapes: Technologies from around the globe are used in the events. One nation may invent a new technology for recording competitions or improving transportation, which the host city will buy into in order to ensure the event is world-class.

Citations for the above information (APA style)

Tzanelli, R. (2011). Cultural Flows. In: Southern, D. (Ed.) Encyclopedia of consumer culture. (pp. 384-386). Los Angeles: SAGE. (google books preview here)

Bonus Information: Homogenization vs. Hetereogenization

(Use of these points will show Deeper Knowledge in your Essay)

One of the major points that sets the scapes theory apart from other views of globalisation (such as the neo-Marxist approach) is its perspective on homogenization and heterogenization.

In short, Appadurai does not believe that global cultural flows of the 5 scapes will cause international homogenization.

What is Homogenization?

This term refers to the world’s cultures all becoming one big, bland culture influenced mainly by the United States. You might have heard of the terms like ‘Americanization’, ‘McDonaldization’ and ‘Commodification’ to explain this concept.

Some people think that as the world globalizes, all the unique and interesting cultures around the world will be lost and we’ll all start watching the same TV shows, listening to the same music, eating the same food, etc.

What is Hetereogenization?

This term refers to the world’s cultures becoming more diversified. As the world grows, people have more freedom to pick and choose the cultures they want to be associated with.

You’re no longer just exposed to your local culture. If you’re into punk music, you can go online and make friends with other people interested in punk music from all over the world! Now, the world is your oyster. You can choose to associate with a more diverse range of sub-cultures than ever before.

According to Appadurai, we tend to spend too much time worrying about homogenization (the world’s cultures disappearing as one dominant global culture sweeps the world).

Appadurai thinks it’s more complex than that for two reasons.

Reason #1: America’s Reach isn’t That Strong

Appadurai argues that most places are less worried about Americanization than the influence of nearby cultures. For example:

  • Japanese culture may be impacting Korea more than American culture (Japanization)
  • Indian culture may be impacting Sri Lanka more than American culture (Indianization)
  • Vietnamese culture may be impacting Cambodia more than American culture (Vietnamization)
  • Russian culture may be impacting the Baltic republics more than American culture (Russianization)

Reason #2: Homogenization is Countered by Indigenization

Indigenization

When a dominant culture is changed by a local community.

Even if American culture is making its way around the world, it won’t stay purely American for long. Local groups of people will use and change the cultural influences of America for their own purposes.

For example, if McDonalds makes its way into a society in Asia, perhaps those McDonalds franchises will quite rapidly start integrating local Asian dishes onto the menu.

Here’s exactly what Appadurai says about this:

“What [homogenization] arguments fail to consider is that at least as rapidly as forces from various metropolises are brought into new societies they tend to become indigenized in one way or another.” (Appadurai, 1996, p. 32)

What’s this got to do with Scapes Theory?

Appadurai thinks that the scapes theory can show how culture flows around the world. Rather than culture being uni-directional and homogenizing (American culture heading out and influencing everyone), it is multi-directional.

Local cultures impact neighboring cultures. National media impacts regional media. And so on and so forth.

Citations for the above information (APA style)

Appadurai, A. (1990). Disjuncture and difference in the global cultural economy. Public Culture, 2(1): 1-24. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F026327690007002017 (free access here)

Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalization. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.

Criticisms of Appadurai’s 5-Scapes Concept

The ability to demonstrate insights into blindspots or flaws of ideas and arguments can win you a lot of marks in your essays.

I’d recommend touching on some critique of the scapes theory in order to show your critical thinking skills. It will also show you are a balanced, thoughtful scholar.

Below are two potential critiques you could discuss.

>>> Related Post: How to Show Critical Thinking in an Essay

a) Appadurai does not Acknowledge that Some Scapes are more Influential than Others

Heyman and Campbell (2009) use a neo-Marxist critique to highlight that there is one scape that is the most powerful: the financescape.

They argue:

“Financial capital, the most abstract expression of capitalism, has demonstrable power to impact global society on a greater scale than do the other types of flows proposed by Appadurai.” (Heyman & Campbell, 2009, p. 135)

Heyman and Campbell (2009) believe that Appadurai’s failure to see the power of financescapes over all other scapes is a weakness. If we highlighted the importance of global flow of capital above everything else, we would see that globalization is largely an effect of powerful people exerting their financial powers to exploit less financially well-off people across the globe.

This would explain, for example, why the wealth of the global north grows rapidly off the backs of the global south who are paid low wages to create goods for the global north.

b) There is no Systematic Rationale for Just 5 Scapes

In an interview with Appadurai, Rantanen asked “why five scapes?”. Appadurai’s response was, in part:

“[The -scapes concept] should not be indefinitely multiplied, because then you can’t keep your eye on the basic issue.” (Rantanen, 2006, p. 14)

To me, this is a difficult rationale to come to terms with intellectually. What if some important new scapes emerge? In what systematic manner did Appadurai identify these five scapes in the first place, and why did he not use hypothetical concepts such as languagescapes or timescapes (as suggested by Rantanen)?

Hopefully that gives you some ideas of how to critique the theory in your essay.

Citations for the above information (APA style)

Heyman, J. M., & Campbell, H. (2009). The anthropology of global flows: A critical reading of Appadurai’s Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy’. Anthropological Theory9(2), 131-148. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1463499609105474 (free access here)

Rantanen, T. (2006). A man behind scapes: An interview with Arjun Appadurai. Global Media and Communication, 2(1): 7–19. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1742766506061814 (free access here)

Scholarly Sources for your Essay

It’s great that you’ve accessed my website to learn about this information.

I try to give you the information you need in an easy to read format.

But unfortunately, if you’re writing an essay on this topic, you need to cite scholarly sources and not my website.

That’s why I provided you with a list of citations at the end of each section. I’ve also tried to give you links to free online access to as many of the sources as possible.

I strongly encourage you to read those recommended sources to learn more (Appadurai is surprisingly easy to read an understand!).

Below is the full list of sources I recommend you use. This list is in APA format. You may need to change your citations to another format if your teacher wants you to use a different style like Harvard, Chicago or MLA.

>>> Related Post: How to Find Scholarly Sources Online for Free

Appadurai, A. (1990). Disjuncture and difference in the global cultural economy. Public Culture, 2(1): 1-24. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F026327690007002017 (free access here)

Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalization. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. (google books preview here)

Heyman, J. M., & Campbell, H. (2009). The anthropology of global flows: A critical reading of Appadurai’s Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy’. Anthropological Theory9(2), 131-148. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1463499609105474 (free access here)

Rantanen, T. (2006). A man behind scapes: An interview with Arjun Appadurai. Global Media and Communication, 2(1): 7–19. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1742766506061814 (free access here)

Tzanelli, R. (2011). Cultural Flows. In: Southern, D. (Ed.) Encyclopedia of consumer culture. (pp. 384-386). Los Angeles: SAGE. (google books preview here)

>>> Related Post: How to Write a Top-Quality Essay

 

 

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