- The Limits of Cosmopolitanism: Globalization and Its Discontents in Contemporary Literature ed. by Aleksandar Stević and Philip Tsang
Aleksandar Stević and Philip Tsang's edited book The Limits of Cosmopolitanism: Globalization and Its Discontents in Contemporary Literature is a recent installment in the Routledge Studies in Comparative Literature series. Introduced by Stević and Tsang, the volume includes ten essays that substantially engage with and reflect on the limits of cosmopolitanism, exploring various contemporary literary texts from diverse locations. This book offers a necessary analysis of cosmopolitanism, interrogating the obstacles it faces amid resurgent nationalist and regionalist sentiments in the contemporary epoch of globalization.
The essays are divided into three sections. Four essays examine the hegemony of cosmopolitanism—"when its outlook is actively imposed on others" (13)—and explore cosmopolitanism's key frames and tropes from theoretical and practical contexts; three essays consider subjects of displacement, particularly issues of exile and immigration, which create anxiety, dualism, and tension regarding identity, nostalgia for home, (be)longing, and cultural conformity; and three essays focus on circulated objects in commercial and mobilized global networks. The essays critique the ideology of cosmopolitanism as a predominant norm and scrutinize issues such as transnational identities, (im)migration, and global circulation. The contributors draw from a wide range of literary texts and key theoretical concepts from leading theorists such as Arjun Appadurai, Étienne Balibar, Homi K. Bhabha, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Edward Said, Timothy Brennan, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Martha Craven Nussbaum, Stuart Hall, David Harvey, and Rebecca L. Walkowitz. They find that cosmopolitanism entails a paradox: as Stević and Tsang argue, "[c]osmopolitanism seeks to transcend certain limits—the limits of narrower communities in the name of an encounter with the world as a whole. At the same time, that encounter is always conditioned on and even defined by geographical, historical, and cultural limits" (1). The collection's contributors substantiate this claim by uncovering these limits in their essays. This timely book will be key material for researchers who study comparative literature, contemporary literature, cultural theory, and postcolonial studies.
The essays in this book are well-structured, scholarly, and thoroughly researched, and some are quite impressive and thought-provoking. Mukti Lakhi [End Page 263] Mangharam's essay, for example, expertly describes the importance of cosmopolitanism. Exploring Salman Ahmad's book, Rock & Roll Jihad: A Muslim Rock Star's Revolution, she finds that "Ahmad's embodied Sufism is built on a carefully cultivated process of self-transformation aimed at uniting with the divinity within the self so that it may connect with the divinity within others" (41). Ahmad's construction of (Sufi) cosmopolitanism is not only personal but also political: he offers an alternative to nation-state-centered cosmopolitanism and criticizes Indian and Pakistani nationalisms. Moreover, Ahmad's comparative approach to cosmopolitanism gestures beyond the South Asian nationalistic trajectory, "foster[ing] genuine cross-cultural respect and understanding" (34). In a similar vein, Suha Kudsieh's essay examines two Sudanese novels, exploring cosmopolitanism's inclusive values in Tayeb Salih's Season of Migration to the North and "hyperconsumerism and the superfluous cosmopolitanism that resonates with globalization and open-market economies" (71) in Leila Aboulela's Lyrics Alley. Kudsieh argues that cosmopolitanism's specific forms clash in both novels, though in different ways: Aboulela focuses on the roles of "globalization and consumerism" and Salih highlights "the nexus between education and nationalism" (77). Kudsieh's argument is twofold as she finds "a simple binary" (between Manichean terms in Season of Migration and between two metropolitan centers in Lyrics Alley) originating from a "complex tripartite configuration" (formed by the cities of Khartoum, Cairo, and London) and asserts that "the uniqueness of the Sudan's history raises interesting questions about the nature of Sudanese worldview" in both novels (71). Ana Cristina Mendes' essay, one of the book's best, deals with topography, postcolonial social realism, and economic, cultural, and transnational neoliberalism. Exploring Sunjeev Sahota's fiction, she offers a radical critique of cosmopolitanism by describing inconsistent cosmopolitan experiences, transnational links, cultural and political status, and religious intolerance in...