After Globalization

The essays in Negative Cosmopolitanism focus on critical appraisals of the Enlightenment-based optimism attached to cosmopolitanism as bound to mobility, human rights, and global citizenship. As editors Terri Tomsky and Eddy Kent write, negative cosmopolitanism attempts to extend the term while cynically “engag[ing]” with the ways that cosmopolitanism is entangled with world citizenship, globalization, and human rights. The collection’s provocative aim is to keep this critical frame in mind while considering the term’s productivity for those who desire world citizenship or have cosmopolitanism imposed upon them. The fourteen interdisciplinary essays are written by scholars with backgrounds in literature, history, film, sociology, geography, and political science, but they share in common attempts to address cosmopolitanism’s inconsistencies without discarding it as a critical tool, and to harness its usefulness as a method of contending with the experiences of those caught up in economic and cultural globalization.

Part One, “Cosmopolitan Histories,” is ambitious in scope, as it engages with human rights, philanthropy, imperialism, and national disasters. Crystal Parikh’s salient chapter on the “Bandung Spirit” argues that while the 1955 Asian-African conference in Bandung, Indonesia was influenced by American conceptions of human rights, the cosmopolitan solidarity produced through this anti-colonial community exposes the limits of the American “good life” as universal human rights. Following this chapter are Geordie Miller’s critique of the MacArthur Foundation’s philanthropic aims as inculcated in global capitalism, Dennis Mischke’s analysis of the nineteenth-century transatlantic insurance industry in relation to the Zong massacre and Herman Melville’s fiction, and Liam O’Loughlin’s reading of Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows as exploring “disaster cosmopolitanism from below” by yoking together the experiences of the survivors of Nagasaki, India’s Partition, and 9/11. An especially vital example of negative cosmopolitanism is Sneja Gunew’s analysis of vernacular cosmopolitanism, which recognizes “global interdependence” yet remains “rooted in and permeated by” the local concerns of minoritized peoples. Gunew draws on the autobiographical works of Eur/Asian artists that “construct the estrangement from one’s own culture” bound to the “new planetarily conceived cosmopolitanism” as the artists struggle to recover their diasporic histories through archival and artistic traces of global trade. Negative cosmopolitanism emerges here and throughout this section not only as exposing failed internationalist efforts, but also through imagined or forgotten historical intersections and moments of solidarity shaped by the emergence of global capitalism.

Part Two, “Cosmopolitan Labour,” extends this reading of global capitalism; this section is especially cohesive as all four chapters address individual experiences in relation to labour forms that “transcend national paradigms.” Paul Ugor examines those made unwilling subjects of cosmopolitanism in the Niger Delta under the global petroleum industry, and how the region’s youths developed an “alternate community” organized around an “underground” oil economy. Pamela McCallum considers how literature and journalism provide situated narratives of unseen labour while exposing the relationship between migrant lives and global markets. Melissa Stephens critiques celebratory approaches to the creolization of migrant workers in the Caribbean that risk “bolster[ing] a neoliberal logic of diversity while concealing racialized forms of economic exploitation.” Heather Latimer also examines migrant labour, but by incisively critiquing how heterosexual reproduction and the pregnant bodies of undocumented migrant labourers become caught up in cosmopolitan fantasies of a “better future community.”

Latimer’s chapter neatly segues into Part Three, “Cosmopolitan Communities,” which focuses on communities not readily viewed as cosmopolitan. As Timothy Brennan argues in his chapter on “homiletic realism,” emerging cosmopolitan critiques ask that we make connections between global processes that lie “behind the apparent.” From Juliane Collard’s chapter on illegalized sex workers as foils against which ideal cosmopolitan citizens are defined, to Mike Dillon’s analysis of the tension between representations of undocumented immigrants and Japanese homogeneity in yakuza films, to Dina Gusejnova’s chapter on the political parties that redeployed the Enlightenment cosmopolitan ideals that shaped world literature, and Mark Simpson’s chapter on crime novels that use excessive “cosmopolitical violence” to critique neoliberal orthodoxy, this final part is somewhat diffuse. But the breadth successfully expands the terms of cosmopolitan critiques, and, as Peter Nyers articulates in the afterword, helps expose the paradoxes of “liberal cosmopolitanism.”

Taken together, the chapters in Negative Cosmopolitanism provide a masterful and timely contribution to cosmopolitan studies. The collection carefully balances critiques of the inequity and exclusionary practices that shape global capital with examinations of competing forms of cosmopolitanism—particularly those that contest or exceed optimistic approaches to cosmopolitanism under globalization.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.

Canadian Literature is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.