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Styling multilateralism: Indian Ocean cultural futures

Isabel Hofmeyer



             FOR THE 



Year of publications: 2015

Place of publication: Rome, Italy

Other Entities Involved: UNEP

Pages: #98-109p.


Author: Isabel Hofmeyr

Serial Title: The State of the World's Forests (SOFO)

Series number: 2020

Publisher: FAO and UNEP

Keywords: Indian Ocean popular cultureIndian Ocean novelscultural multilateralismIndian Ocean kitsch


The Indian Ocean has long been held to be an important arena for bringing lateral, south-south links into view and hence for theorising the Global South. Yet, how is this vast and abstract idea being given substance in the Indian Ocean world? This article approaches this question from a cultural direction, looking at various cultural formations that address themselves to the Global South. The article makes sense of this material by sorting it into three traditions, high, low and in-between. The first is dominated by themes of mourning and nostalgia for the lost utopias of the third world. By contrast, the low tradition works with idioms of popular culture: slapstick, comedy, consumer excess. If the ‘high’ tradition deals in epic, and the ‘low’ tradition in comedy, then the ‘in-between’ tradition takes account of both, relativising romantic accounts of south-south solidarity as it traces the faultlines within the south.

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