Publication Type: Journal Article
Source: Public Culture, Volume 14, Issue 1, p.191-213 (2002)
"If circulation is to serve as a useful analytic construct for cultural analysis, it must be conceived as more than simply the movement of people, ideas, and commodities from one culture to another. Instead, recent work indicates that circulation is a cultural process with its own forms of abstraction, evaluation, and constraint, which are created by the interactions between specific types of circulating forms and the interpretive communities built around them. It is in these structured circulations that we identify cultures of circulation. Our idea draws from a variety of contemporary sources, including Benedict Anderson's (1991) account of nation, narration, and imagination; Jürgen Habermas's (1989) work on public opinion and the public sphere; Arjun Appadurai's (1996) conceptualizations of cultural flows and "-scapes"; and Charles Taylor's essay, in this issue, on the self-reflexive creation of modern social imaginaries. But our project also harks back to classic anthropological work on gifts and exchange such as studies by Marcel Mauss (1967) and Bronislaw Malinowski (1966), and their updatings by Pierre Bourdieu (1977), Annette Weiner (1992), and Jacques Derrida (1992), as well as Marxist analyses of money and capital (Postone 1993; Harvey 1982). The broad range of this legacy suggests that developing a critical perspective on circulation will require moving beyond disciplinary boundaries and placing it in a conceptual space that encompasses some of the most difficult and troubling issues in contemporary cultural and philosophical analysis: self-reflexivity, performativity, indexicality, metalanguage, objectification, and foundationalism, to name just a few.
Cultures of circulation are created and animated by the cultural forms that circulate through them, including--critically--the abstract nature of the forms that underwrite and propel the process of circulation itself. The circulation of such forms--whether the novels and newspapers of the imagined community or the equity-based derivatives and currency swaps of the modern market--always presupposes the existence of their respective interpretive communities, with their own forms of interpretation and evaluation. These interpretive communities determine lines of interpretation, found institutions, and set boundaries based principally on their own internal dynamics. [End Page 192]"