Monthly Archives: October 2014

Social Acceleration and Plodding Ethnography

I recently learned of German critical theorist Hartmut Rosa and his work on social acceleration (and I hastily ordered his book¬†Social Acceleration: A New Theory of Modernity) over at Mark Carrigan’s blog. Rosa is a professor in the Institute of Sociology at the University of Jena. Based on a couple of talks in English available on Youtube (see here and here), I understand his argument to be cented around the constant speed up of cultural life in which the possibility for us to live rich and complete lives diminishes as the scope of unrealizable opportunities expands (this idea is reminiscent of Heidegger’s argument that being is fundamentally null, in that we are composed of multiple possibilities that cannot be realized, though I have no idea if Rosa attaches this idea to Heidegger’s concept of nullity). Paradoxically, this process is rooted in the imperative of economic growth, which is oriented toward the maintenance of the status quo. In other words, we go faster as a society to stand still.

Reading Nancy Abelmann’s “plodding” ethnography, The Melodrama of Mobility,¬†about South Korean women and the social change they experience and represent during the years 1992-2001, I came across a comment on the jarring speed with which South Korea has changed. According to Abelmann, the speed of change had consequences for studying and understanding contemporary South Korea. Continue reading