Title

The nation after the Age of the Global

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

12-1-2009

Abstract

In his innovative and often transformative book, National Consciousness and Literary Cosmopolitics: Postcolonial Literature in a Global Age (henceforth NC), Weihsin Gui takes up the question ofhowpostco- kmialism should inform our understanding of the global moment by re-invigorating literature's relationship to nationalism. Analyzing works by Kazuo Ishiguro, Derek Walcott, Shirley Geok-Lin Lim, Twan Eng Tan, and Preeta Samarasan, he does what very few of the books of this genre manage; he tightly defines his use of the national and the global to avoid bland paeans to either term and avoids making one subservient or even counter-purposed to the other. He focuses on a "national consciousness and literary cosmopolitics, rather than a study of economic and demographic flows and movements" (3). He rethinks nationalism as a constellation of interdependent relationships, some local and others global, using Theodor Adorno's negative dialectics. The openness of the negative dialectics allows Gui to read multiple, simultaneous attachments to the nation-as diasporic and native, linguistically major or minor, commodity or aesthetic-without the tension between these oppositions being determinative orfated to resolution. Read through the aesthetic experiments in poetry and prose that NC brings into an unexpected space of comparison, these relationships simultaneously critique and define forms of national belonging without resorting to a blithe rejection of the nation in favor of an idealized cosmopolis. "[N]egative dialectics," Gui writes, "points to an arrangement or a reconfiguration of national consciousness and cosmopolitics as intertwined concepts as opposed to the triumph of postnational globalism in which transnational flows render nations moribund and obsolete" (22). What makes NC substantively different from other efforts to unseat nationalist discourses is that it addresses literary texts neither as producers nor as products of an antinational- ist counter-discourse but rather according to the unexplored aesthetic and formal resonances already at work within a writer's national consciousness. Gui makes room for postcolonial interventions from novels, stories, and poems that might at various moments be classified as national, transnational, diasporic, and global texts, thus making their canonicity irrelevant, or at least uninteresting in comparison to the way each text is simultaneously produced by and critical of nationalisms.

Publication Name

Diaspora

Volume Number

18

First Page

392

Last Page

403

Issue Number

3

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