ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Global Icons in Popular Culture

Global Icons: Apertures to the Popular by Bishnupriya Ghosh (Durham & London: Duke University Press), 2011; pp xiii + 383, paperback $25.95, hardback $146.99.

The Enlightenment sought to do away with the magical and establish a rational system of thought that would be buttressed by empiricism. Max Weber, while singing the paeans of rational bureaucratic processes, was prescient in his warning that the death of enchantment would leave us impoverished. Luckily, it would seem that popular culture has continually sought to r­e­surrect the magical – a witness being the rise of books like the Harry Potter series. Bishnupriya Ghosh brings to our attention another set of magical technologies – the bio-icon.

The three bio-icons examined by her are Phoolan Devi, Mother Teresa and Arundhati Roy. As opposed to abstract icons like the Coca-Cola logo, these icons arise from an interplay of corporeal living beings. While all three may seem to be tethered to south Asia, Ghosh affirms that they come from a globalising region. Following on from Partha Chatterjee’s call to provincialise Europe, she reminds us that we need to challenge the self-evident primacy of other local arenas like the United States. These public figures have a set of widely circulating signifiers that have come to embody and represent global aspirations.

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