When and how did the third world transform into an emerging market in the global economy? Kaur addresses this ongoing reinscription of the old third world as market, unpacking new modes of imagination and knowledge at the heart of this historical shift. She argues that if the quest for valuable commodities led to the discovery of the new world in an earlier age, the early twenty-first century is characterized by the rediscovery of that familiar world along the speculative index of untapped national enclaves—signaling potentiality and accessibility—rapidly opening up across continents. The world-as-commodity captures and encloses entire territories to be transformed into branded sites of unlimited commodification and exchange and actualize the capitalist dream of unending growth. A world grasped and imagined in commodity form is what eventually can be put at the disposal of investors. Dressed up as branded commodities, third world nations become visible as attractive investment destinations in the global publicity. The article takes the spectacular Brand India exhibition at the World Economic Forum, Davos, as an example of how the commodification of the nation-form is performed, and how cultural difference is harnessed and co-opted in the service of global capital.
World as Commodity: Or, How the “Third World” Became an “Emerging Market”
Ravinder Kaur is an associate professor of modern South Asian studies, University of Copenhagen, where she also directs the Center for Global South Asian Studies. She is the author of Since 1947: Partition Narratives among Punjabi Migrants of Delhi (Oxford University Press, 2018) and coeditor of several journal special issues, including “Governing Difference: Identity, Inequity and Inequality in India and China” (Third World Quarterly), “Aesthetics of Arrival: Spectacle, Capital, Novelty in Post-reform India” (Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power), and “Social Mobility in Post-reform India” (Contemporary South Asia). She currently leads a collective research program titled “Emerging Worlds: Ethnographic Explorations of ‘New’ South-South Connections” (2014–19).
Ravinder Kaur; World as Commodity: Or, How the “Third World” Became an “Emerging Market”. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 August 2018; 38 (2): 377–395. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201x-6982145
Download citation file: