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Fear of Small Numbers, Arjun Appadurai

"The puzzle is about why the relatively small numbers that give the word minority its most simple meaning and usually imply political and military weakness do not prevent minorities from being objects of fear and of rage."


"It is difficult to know who might emerge as the target minority, the ill-fated stranger. In some cases it seems obvious, in others less so. And that is because minorities are not born but made, historically speaking."

p. 45

"Identities may be described as "majoritarian" not simply when they are invoked by objectively larger groups in a national polity but when they strive to close the gap between the majority and the purity of the national whole." p. 52

"As abstractions produced by census techniques and liberal proceduralism, majorities can always be mobilized to think that they are in danger of becoming minor (culturally or numerically) and to fear that minorities, conversely, can easily become major (through brute accelerated reproduction or subtler legal or political means)." p. 83

"The brutal ethnic violence of the 1990s is deeply inflected by factors which triangulate a highly specific sort of modernity: passport-based national identities; census-based ideas of majority and minority; media-driven images of self and other; constitutions which conflate citizenship and ethnicity; and, most recently, ideas about democracy and the free market which have produced severe new struggles over enfranchisement and entitlement in many societies." p. 90

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