Arjun Appadurai: Cultural Homogenization/Heterogenization, The Five Scapes, Deterritorialization, and The Two Fetishes

by Gershom Chua

(This web work will be dealing with the Arjun Appadurai's written section on Homogenization and Heterogenization)

"The central problem of today's global interaction is the tension between cultural homogenization and cultural heterogenization"(Appadurai 588).

To understand the process and effects of globalizations, one should first see how culture is homogenized and heterogenized. Now cultural heterogenization is simply the notion of ethnic purity and fundamentalism that drives a group of people claiming a shared historic and cultural heritage (a nation) to insist on closing its doors to the world to preserve and maintain thi sheritage. This is what fuels patriotism and nationalism in closed cultures such as the ancient Qin dynasty of China led by the powerful and unifying Qin Shi Huang.


Cultural homogenization on the other hand happens when one culture is made to conform to or resemble another through cultural influences. This happens when "as forces from various metropolises are brought into new societies, they tend to become indigenized in one or another way: this is true of music and housing styles as much as it is true of science and terrorism, spectacles and constitutions"(Appadurai 588). It is this cultural homogenization that is oft regarded as Americanization but if one truly looks at the nations, one can see cultural homogenization happening more between neighbor nations, "for politics of smaller scale, there is always a fear of cultural absorption by politics of larger scale, especially those that are nearby"(Appadurai 588).

Contemporary examples of these are the indigenization of Japanese fashion in Taiwan japaneseand the actual construction of a Korean Town in Beijing which is the name of a section of an underground mall my sister and I visited this summer, the popularity of which came about with the popularization of Chinese-dubbed showings of Korean television serials.

Now that the tension between cultural homogenization and heterogenization is recognized, Appadurai then follows with the creation of five scapes or flows which characterizes globalizations, namely the ethnoscape, the technoscape, the financescape, the mediascape, and the ideoscape. The coinage of these words which share the same root, scape, was chosen because it "indicates that these are not objectively given relations that look the same from every angle of vision but, rather, that they are deeply perspectival constructs, inflected by the historical, linguistic, and political situatedness of different sorts of actors: nation-states, multinationals, diasporic communities, as well as subnational groupings and movements"(Appadurai 589). This underlining of the perspectival construction of globalization flows recognize the differences in the globalizations experienced by different nations.

The ethnoscape is composed of the peoples of a nation or peoples of nations "with the realities of having to move or the fantasy of wanting to move" out of their home nation to another(Appadurai 589). This is basically the groups of people who cross nations for a myriad of reasons such as the OFWs who travel out of the Philippines to work abroad, the Sindhis of India who fled Sindh when it was claimed by Pakistan during the India-Pakistan states separation. Another good example of this is the global Chinese diaspora who either originate from the trading ventures of Chinese individual merchants during the early days of the dynasties or the Chinese who fled the political turmoil of the Communist-Nationalists era of China. These Chinese have gone on to establish homes away from home through the Chinatowns found all over the world. (such as the San Fransisco Chinatown shown below)


The technoscape is the "global configuration, also ever fluid, of technology and the fact that technology, both high and low, both mechanical and informational, now moves at high speeds across various kinds of previously impervious boundaries"(Appadurai 589). A good contemporary example of this is a scene in the recent film Batman Begins when Bruce Wayne and Lucius Fox, the head of the technology department of Wayne's billion-dollar company, in discussing how Bruce Wayne would go about building his Btaman suit of armor, weapons, and vehicles. They discussed how they would ship made-to-order parts of their design from a certain country which would be able to supply it cheaper and another part from another country. This scene is a perfect example of just how freely moving technology is between nations and nation-states nowadays. Unfortunately, a video of this scene is unavailable online but I strongly recommend looking out for it when Batman Begins start re-airing on HBO or in DVDs.


Financescapes, on the other hand, refer to the flow of currency and finances between nations/nation-states. This is usually seen in multinational companies who invest the economy of a nation and has a network of affiliates with which to back it up and do transactions with it. A good example of this is the US company AIG that arguably started the economic recession not just of the US but, through the connections brought about by globalizations, also of the global economy.


Mediascape is the flow of media products between nations participating in the trade. It is the "distribution of the electronic capabilities to produce and dessiminate information"(Appadurai 590). A good example of this is the global exportation of Bollywood, the largest movie-producing country in the world. According to a study done by Mark Lorenzen and Florian Arun Taeube, Breakout from Bollywood?: Internationalization of Indian Film Industry, for the Danish Research Unit for Industry Dynamics (or DRUID), India produced a whooping 1041 films (mainly from Bollywood) in 2005 while the US only had 535 out the same year. From this great film industry that produces at least a single film a week (according to an Indian respondent for research done in my MediaDiaspora class), the global market has been the target these past few years. With the ever-increasing Indian diaspora (comprisingly mostly of Punjabis, as in the case of the Indian diaspora in the Philippines), plus the growing number of Indiaphiles and international film festivals, the international market for Indian film and media has dramatically increased. (Further information on the growing Indian media market around the world and the analysis of this phenomenon can be found in the .pdf file of the study attached in this page, in the files section.)

Hand in hand with the mediascape is the ideoscape that is brought with it. The flow of media products from one nation to the world naturally brings with it the ideologies found in these media. Ideoscope comes in the forms of "chains of ideas, terms, and images" that are contained in the media forms that comprise the the mediascape(Appadurai 591). A good example of this is the rise of the ideals of democracy in China as the nation opened its doors to international media such as films, television programs, publications, etc., even to the point where these imported media forms are pirated inside the Chinese nation-state and becomes part of the illegal exports that build up most private dealings in China.

Naturally, these five flows/scapes interact with each other, sometimes one prompting the rise of another.

A good example of this interaction is the rise of the ethnoscape from India through the mediascape that flows from and into it. Media and ideologies of the West have come to influence contemporary Indian media through the softeneing and breaking down of archaic and traditional values that have successfully kept India to itself in the past. Contemporary Indian films such as hits Kal Ho Naa Ho and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna which represent the growing interest in the diasporic condition of Indian sthat have migrated to the West influence the Indian view of the fantastical romanticized diasporic experience and create the surging desire to move that create the Indian ethnoscape. Through them, "the lines between the realistic and the fictional landscapes they see are blurred, so that the farther away these audiences are from the direct experiences of metropolitan life, the more likely they are to construct imagined worlds that are chimerical, aesthetic, even fantastic objects, particularly if assessed by the criteria of some other perspective, some other imagined world… fantasies that could become prolegomena to the desire for acquisition and movement"(Appadurai 590,591).

kal kabhi

Sometimes, if not most of the time, mediascapes are even utilized by the nation-state to calm the nation of people it controls and pacify any dessension that may arise from them. An example of this is the main media outfit in Chinese television, CCTV or China Central Television. CCTV is the state-run media outfit that dominate the airwaves in China, with over 18 channels that range from sports broadcasts to traditional arts broadcasts such as Peking Opera performances and even showbiz broadcasts that range from showbiz talk shows to movie broadcasts. This state-run media naturally benefits that which funds it, and so the information and ideologies that are contained within it are mostly state-approved. Rarely would you view anything that would criticize the state and the government. This is quite ironic in that it shares its name with the common house and even office cctv or close-circuited television which is used to ensure security and guard off unwanted guests in said establishments.


Appadurai highlighted the role of deterritorialization as "the central force of the modern world" that characterizes globalization(Appadurai 592). As he notes, deterritorialization or the displacement of peoples "creates new markets for film companies, art impresarios, and travel agenices, which thrive on the need of the deterritorialized population for contact with its homeland"(Appadurai 592). In this context, the diaspora, the product of or even the precursor to globalization, is brought up. "It is in this fertile ground of deterritorialization, in which money, commodities, and persons are involved in ceaselessly chasing each other around the world, that the mediascapes and ideoscapes of the modern world find their fractured and fragmented counterpart"(Appadurai 593).

Appadurai ends with the phenomenon of the creation of fetishisms. Fetishisms result from the capitalist nature of the scapes that take place in globalizations. This phenomenon results in two fetishisms: production fetishism and fetishism of the consumer.

Production fetishism happens when "production has itself become a fetish, obscuring not social relations as such but the relations of production, which are increasingly transnational"(Appadurai 596). This happens when there is but an insatiable desire to produce to facilitate the scapes that characterize globalizations. This allows for the Marxist notion of alienation to take up root and find a contemporary adaptation. This degree of alienation is specifically the alienation of man from his product, in that he is not able to enjoy the fruit of his labor which he creates for others. An example of this would be these Vietnamese factory workers pictured below in the middle of work.


Fetishism of the consumer happens when "the consumer has been transformed through commodity flows… into a sign… [that is made] to believe that he or she is an actor, where in fact he or she is at best a chooser"(Appadurai 596). A good example of this would be the exaggerated but funny person of Rebecca Bloomwood in Confessions of a Shopaholic which is a film adapted from Sophie Kinsella's bestselling book series. It is in her that the fetishism of the consumer is embodied in that she is made to believe that she is an actor of the act of choosing a purchase, but at the end of the film and the book series realize that she is but made to believe so as her addiction/fetishism has taken over her judgments.


(If the pictures continue to show as boxes without the image, please see the image files uploaded in this page's files section that can be accessed below and preview via the 'info' button beside the image files in the list together with the .pdf file of the cited study)

Appadurai, Arjun. Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy. In Public Culture. 1990.
Lorenzen, Mark, et al. Breakout from Bollywood?: Internationalization of Indian Film Industry. Danish Research Unit for Industry Dynamics. <> Last accessed 27, March 2009.

Image sources
San Fransisco Chinatown from
Lucius Fox from Flicker c/o Morning Magician
Confessions of a Shopaholic from Flicker c/o cybermelli
Qin Shi Huang from Flicker c/o peppermint_knob
Vietnamese Factory Workers from
Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna from
CCTV China tower from Flicker c/o fgk81
CCTV logo from
Japanese Fashion in Taiwan from
Security Camera cctv from
Kal Ho Naa Ho from
AIG Company Logo from

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