In Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection, Tsing (2005) examined how the concept of friction can be applied to examine global connections and interconnections. By specifically looking at both local and global interactions within the rainforests of Indonesia, Tsing (2005) complicated the notions of both universals and particulars within globalism. Specifically, universals can be seen as tools that reinforce hegemonic power structures while simultaneously providing mobilizations for empowerment amongst the powerless. Tsing (2005) examined this and other frictions within three parts of the book: prosperity, knowledge and freedom. In the end, Tsing (2005) concludes that the examination of the repressions and struggle for justice that happen simultaneously within localized globalization must take place within it, at the point of friction, rather than from the outside vantage point that is so frequently used in academia.
One of the things that struck me the most about this book was how the notion of friction is applied to the notion of global flows. As I have talked about previously in class, I am interested in Appadurai’s “–spheres” within globalization. While Appadurai did not intentionally mean to make the flow of globalization seem smooth and seamless, Tsing (2005) articulates these flows in a dynamic and nuanced manner. The friction she applies to these situations show us that the metaphor of flow is incomplete. Like the flow of water in a river, the flow of information, culture, assumptions, technology and ideologies do not travel unimpeded. Rather, there are rocks, bends, waterfalls and branches that reroute, change and influence the flow. What is so interesting is Tsing’s (2005) proposition to not try to necessarily fight this friction, but to give into it. This actually reminds me a lot of Bhabha and Rowe’s notions of “in-between-ness.” As Tsing (2005) said, the best vantage point is inside.
Questions from the reading:
1. I am interested in this notion of universals and particulars. Is this a concept that can be translated to other aspects of cultural studies?
2. I feel like there is a connection between the hybrid spaces of Castell’s social movments and Tsing’s frictions within globalization. Am I the only one, or is there more to be said about this “middle ground” approach to critical cultural studies?
Tsing, A. L. (2005). Friction: An ethnography of global connection. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.