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159 C h a p t e r F i v e Global English and the Predicament of Monolingual Multiculturalism In a 1999 article, “On Global English and the Transmutation of Postcolonial Studies into ‘Literature in English,’” Rita Raley draws our attention to a phenomenon that she calls the transmutation of postcolonial studies into Literature in English. A phenomenon that obliquely points to the fact that “Postcolonial Studies is still primarily a study of the English empire,” this transmutation, according to Raley, registers the declining significance of postcolonial studies as the site of critique of “Western epistemologies and their attendant assumptions about the world” and shows global English and its implicit universalism as crucial challenges for postcolonial studies.1 Most insightful in Raley’s analysis is her keen awareness of economic globalization and the emergence of Literature in English as interlocking systems. The continuity Raley sees in the imperial English of the British empire and the global English of the present day allows her to view with skepticism the idea that the diversification of English into various Englishes makes global English a sign of democratic communication. In that both the English of the British empire and global English sanction dialectal variants of English (which includes postcolonial Englishes of previous British and US colonies) as long as they are alterities defined against the norm of standard English, neither really interrogates the hegemony of English as the language of power and capital. Colin MacCabe’s statement that “English literature is dead—long live Global English and the Predicament of Monolingual Multiculturalism 160 writing in English,” which Raley includes as epigraph to her article and also refers back to later in the essay, takes on a whole different meaning from what he intends in this context. While the death of the canon in English literature signals the flourishing of multiple voices, experiences, styles in MacCabe, Raley astutely shows that “writing in English” informs a cultural politics that is not all that different in kind from the cultural politics of the English literary canon. The critique of multiculturalism may seem an unlikely counterpart to the critique of global English. Yet Raley’s concerns on the transmutation of postcolonial studies into Literature in English are echoed by Werner Sollors in his dissatisfaction with US multiculturalism ’s monolingualism. In his introduction to the collection of scholarly essays, Multilingual America, Werner Sollors advances a trenchant critique of how US multiculturalism failed to account for multilingualism, a failure that becomes manifest in the English Only movement. “The absence of ‘language’ as a variable in the debate [on multiculturalism],” Sollors suggests, “may have contributed to the dominance of racially based identifications and the pervasiveness of identity politics.”2 Multilingualism, according to Sollors, should be a fundamental element of multiculturalism because language lies at the heart of identity. “How can one advocate a better understanding of others without learning the others’ language,” Sollors eloquently asks.3 While the immediate sets of critical issues that provoke Raley ’s critique of World Literature in English and Sollors’s critique of US multiculturalism may be different, their critiques converge on the common observation of the power and influence of English. For Raley, English comes to replace other languages in representing the lives and experiences of those from the former British and American colonies in World Literature in English. Similarly, for Sollors, English becomes the medium of expression for the lives and experiences that are not always necessarily in English in US multicultural literature. The connection between Raley’s critique of World Literature in English and Sollors’s of US multicultural literature becomes palpable when we turn to a small group of bilingual writers of color that are based in the United States and who publish in both areas of World Literature in English and US multicultural literature. Typically, these writers are immigrants or 1.5 generation, and they defy a straightforward affiliation with a single nation-state by publishing writings that are both set in their countries of origin and dwell on the political , social, or cultural dimensions of life in these countries, and set in Global English and the Predicament of Monolingual Multiculturalism 161 the US and based the motifs of immigration, assimilation, or racialization . In this chapter, I examine the writings of Julia Alvarez and Ha Jin as examples of literary bilingual brokering in the age of global English. How these bilingual brokers come to straddle the two publishing fields of US multicultural literature and World Literature in English shows that...


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