This must be a naive question, but I'm wondering about the definition of quasiunipotent monodromy for general families, not only 1parameter families. The problem is that usually, in the books of algebraic geometry, quasiunipotent monodromy is only discussed over a disc $\Delta^{\ast}$, i.e. for a 1parameter family. In this case we know that for a fibration $f: X \rightarrow \Delta$, with monodromy representation $\rho : \pi_{1}(\Delta^{\ast}) \rightarrow Aut(H^{i}(X_{0}))$, the image $\rho (T)$ of a generator $T$ of $\pi_{1}(\Delta^{\ast})$ is a quasiunipotent matrix. What is the correct generalization of this to arbitrary families? For example, in the multiparameter case, it could happen that there are several generators $T_{i}$ such that each $\rho(T_{i})$ is a quasiunipotent matrix but, for example, $\rho(T_{1})\rho(T_{2})$ is not quasiunipotent. So is the possible generalization that all of the matrices in the monodromy group (image of the monodromy representation) should be quasiunipotent or does it suffice that the image of the generators be quasiunipotent?

2$\begingroup$ In higher dimensions, I think quasiunipotent monodromy only makes sense in the case of normal crossings boundary. In this case the local fundamental group is abelian, hence if each the image of each generator is quasiunipotent, so is the image of any other element. $\endgroup$ – ulrich Jul 21 '12 at 12:58

$\begingroup$ You mean if the discriminant is not NC, the notion of quasiunipotency is not defined? Is there a reference which discusses the quasiunupotency in details? anyway thank you very much for your anser. $\endgroup$ – Jack Jul 21 '12 at 14:32

$\begingroup$ You should check out the answer to this: mathoverflow.net/questions/1912/… $\endgroup$ – Igor Rivin Jul 21 '12 at 17:55
Quasiunipotency is a well defined notion at any point of the discriminant. If we have a proper family $f : X \to S$ of varieties with a smooth total space and a smooth base, and if $p \in D \subset S$ is a point of the discriminant, then we say that the local monodromy of the family near $p$ is quasiunipotent if we can find a small analytic neighborhood $p \in U \subset S$ of $p$ in $S$, so that if $o \in U  D$ is a base point, then the monodromy representation $mon : \pi_{1}(UD,o) \to GL(H^{i}(X_{o},\mathbb{C})$ has an image whose Zariski closure $G$ is a quasiunipotent linear algebraic group (that is, the quotient of $G$ by its unipotent radical is a finitegroup).
In general it is rare for the local monodromy to be quasiunipotent. If $p$ happens to be a very singular point of the discriminant, then the local monodromy tends to be big and is often as big as it can be, and not quasiunipotent at all. However, if $p$ is at worst a normal crossing singularity of $D$, then the local monodromy is quasiunipotent.

$\begingroup$ Thank you very much for your beautiful answer. I had never known of this general definition of quasiunipotency. I have some more questions: First of all what is the best reference which discusses this definition and it's consequences. Secondly, if this is the definition of "quasiunipotency", then what would be the definition of "unipotency" in general? $\endgroup$ – Jack Jul 22 '12 at 6:46

1$\begingroup$ Ah, I noticed I missed an adjective in the comment  I was defining what it means for $G$ to be quasiunipotent. I edited the answer to reflect this correctly. The unipotency of $mon$ is defined in a similar manner  we say that $mon$ is unpotent, when $G$ is a connected unipotent algebraic group, i.e. when when it coincides with its unipotent radical. The references are numerous and the applications are usually Hodge theoretic. The quasiunipotency of a local systen can is also very useful when we compute cohomology. $\endgroup$ – Tony Pantev Jul 23 '12 at 3:00

1$\begingroup$ Two classical references are the paper "Periods of integrals on algebraic manifolds III", Publ. Math. IHES 38 (1970) by Griffiths and the paper "Variation of Hodge structure: the singularities of the period mapping" Invent. math. 22 (1973) by Schmid. They in particular explain Borel's proof of the quasiunipotency theorem that I mentioned above. There are many other modern references. For instance, you may want to take a look at the excellent book "Period mappings and period domains" by Carlson, MuellerStach, and Peters. $\endgroup$ – Tony Pantev Jul 23 '12 at 3:07