ABSTRACT

Circulation is a central dimension of contemporary global processes, in­ volving the velocity, scale, and form of movement of ideas, persons, commodities, and images, in ways that disturb virtually all existing car­ tographies of culture, place, and identity. Yet circulation is more than the movement of people, ideas, and commodities from one culture to another; it is also a cultural process with its own types of abstraction and constraint that are produced by the semiotic nature of the circulating forms. Contem­ porary global capital flows presuppose the intertranslatability of financial instruments and information technologies while at the same time demand­ ing that ‘local’ economic activities be translated into cross-culturally comparable economic categories. These ‘interfaces’ of translation trans­ cend national borders and languages (of which the Arabic, Japanese, English, and Chinese versions of Windows ’98 are only one example) and are reminiscent of the more nationally based projects such as censuses that also required regimenting local social processes into statistically denumerable categories.