Decolonization and Cold War geographies

Remapping the post-colonial world

Authored by: Christopher J. Lee

The Routledge Handbook of Transregional Studies

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138718364
eBook ISBN: 9780429438233
Adobe ISBN:


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Since the end of the Cold War during the late 1980s and early 1990s, scholars in a number of fields have called for new research that looks at transnational processes (e.g. Appadurai 1996; Clifford 1997), diasporic connections (e.g. Gilroy 1995; Ho 2006), and the global circulation of knowledge (e.g. Cooper and Stoler 1997; Moyn and Sartori 2013). These appeals were made with the purpose of challenging what has become known as ‘area studies’ (e.g. Szanton 2004). This post-Cold War agenda consequently reflects the new form of neo-liberal globalization that emerged in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union and much of the former socialist world, albeit with key regional exceptions such as the People’s Republic of China (PRC), North Korea, and Cuba (e.g. Harvey 2007). However, this evolving phenomenon also served as a reminder that globalization was not new but an ongoing process in the longue durée, defined by such factors as European imperialism and popular migration – forced and unforced – alike. Differences in academic discipline and method have, as a result, surfaced over the meanings of contemporary globalization. The cultural anthropologist Arjun Appadurai, for example, seeks to position present-day globalization as an intersection of older processes, such as migration, with new factors of mass communication and attendant claims of cultural universality in the name of a global ‘modernity’. Assisted by technology, individual and collective imaginations enable such sweeping affinities and connections between the local and the global to occur. This exercise of imagination, as Appadurai writes, is ‘neither purely emancipatory nor entirely disciplined but is a space of contestation in which individuals and groups seek to annex the global into their own practices of the modern’ (Appadurai 1996: 4). The historian Frederick Cooper (2001), in contrast, insists that globalization is not new and that the term ‘globalization’ itself tends to obscure the unevenness and multidirectional nature of global economic, political, and demographic processes. Too often overused, the term implies coherence and direction for widely dispersed phenomena that might be more regional and local than global and universal.

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