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At the Edge of Postmodernity – Reflections on the Contemporary from the Global South

 

 

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The term ‘contemporary’ is often used synonymously with ‘the present’. It is often used to connote ‘newness’. But there is another sense where it refers to the idea of inhabiting the same time (as for example in the statement: ‘Gandhi was a contemporary of Tagore’) or of the industrial revolution being contemporaneous with the emergence of the steam engine. In this sense, it is not newness but ideas of simultaneity, co-presence, coevalness etc that are sought to be invoked through the use of the term ‘contemporary’.

The problem of the contemporary is therefore also a problem of multiplicity, of many different modes of being, and in a sense, can be seen as distinct from the idea of ‘the present’. For the category of ‘the present’, on the other hand, assumes a singularity and lies at the root of all attempts to understand ‘our times’ in relation to some specific characteristic or feature in relation to which others become ‘the past’. Thus ‘our time’ could be defined in terms of the ‘information technology and communications revolution’, ‘the digital revolution’ or the ‘era of post-truth’ and ‘populism’ and so on.

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