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Feeling Global

Feeling Global: Internationalism in Distress

BRUCE ROBBINS
Copyright Date: 1999
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qg431
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  • Book Info
    Feeling Global
    Book Description:

    Is global culture merely a pale and sinister reflection of capitalist globalization? Bruce Robbins responds to this and other questions in Feeling Global, a crucial document on nationalism, culturalism, and the role of intellectuals in the age of globalization. Building on his previous work, Robbins here takes up the question of the status of international human rights. Robbins' conception of internationalism is driven not only by the imperatives of global human rights policy, but by an understanding of transnational cultures, thus linking practical policymaking to cultural politics at the expense of neither. Robbins' cultural criticism, in other words, affords us much more than an understanding of how culture "shapes our lives." Instead, Robbins shows, particularly in his discussions of Martha Nussbaum, Richard Rorty, Susan Sontag, Michael Walzer and others, how "culture" itself has become a term that blocks--for commentators on both the right and the left--serious engagement with the contemporary cosmopolitan ideal of a nonuniversalist discourse of human rights. Rescuing "cosmopolitanism" itself from its connotations of leisured individuals loyal to no one and willing to sample all cultures at will, Feeling Global presents a compelling way to think about the ethical obligations of intellectuals at a time when their place in the new world order is profoundly uncertain.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6937-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-9)

    Bombs are falling. I watch them through the open bomb-bay doors of my father’s B-17. Clusters of bombs drop off into space, wobbly but still symmetrical. I notice a different symmetry far below—dark smoke in overlapping circles that blot out the ground.

    Later, when World War II is over, my father pilots the Flying Fortress on a mapping mission over southern Europe, while his navigator, relaxed now, takes more photographs. There is time for detours over Florence, Rome, Naples, Athens. It’s a kind of government-issue Grand Tour, an aerial overview of some cultures and monuments my father might have...

  5. 1 INTERNATIONALISM IN DISTRESS
    (pp. 11-37)

    In December 1995, Susan Sontag published an article inThe Nationtitled “A Lament for Bosnia: ‘There’ and ‘Here.’ ” Back in New York in the days after the Bosnian peace agreement in Dayton, Ohio, after her ninth stay in Sarajevo, Sontag finds herself “angry” that “people don’t want to know what you know, don’t want you to talk about the sufferings, bewilderment, terror, and humiliation of the city you’ve just left” (818). She is horrified at the “widespread indifference, or lack of solidarity … with the victims of an appalling historical crime, nothing less than genocide” (819). But her...

  6. 2 SOME VERSIONS OF U.S. INTERNATIONALISM
    (pp. 39-59)

    This is a rough and provisional report on some ways in which American cultural critics have recently been conceiving and practicing what Edward Said calls, encouragingly, “adversarial internationalization.”¹ Said’s phrase is clearly not meant as a tautology, as if, in the domain of knowledge, any move from the local toward the global scale were necessarily deparochializing, destabilizing, and therefore desirable. It should be understood, rather, as a necessary provocation, a challenge to inquire whether, to what extent, and on what terms any versions of international knowledge production might truly be considered adversarial in relation to the hegemonic internationalization of the...

  7. 3 THE WEIRD HEIGHTS IMPERIAL EYES, UNIVERSALITY, AND HUMAN RIGHTS
    (pp. 61-77)

    In the last chapter of her bookImperial Eyes,Mary Louise Pratt offers a contrast to what she has been calling “the monarch-of-all-I-survey scene,” the male European traveler’s view of the non-European world from the superior vantage point of a promontory or, later, a hotel balcony. Pratt finds perspectives that she prefers in the travel writing of a European woman, Mary Kingsley, and an African American man, Richard Wright.² For both Kingsley and Wright, the contrasting scenes tend to take place “in the night, when the alienation of the seer/seen relations is suspended” (222). Further, female explorers like Kingsley, Pratt...

  8. 4 FEELING GLOBAL JOHN BERGER AND EXPERIENCE
    (pp. 79-95)

    Much of John Berger’s writing since 1975 has had to do with peasants. What Berger calls “peasant experience” is the explicit subject of the short fictions ofPig Earth(1979); it is the point of departure and social counterweight of his essay on European migrant workers,A Seventh Man(1975); it provides the privileged field of instances drawn on by the art criticism ofAbout Looking(1980) and the unclassifiable volume of and about photographic narration,Another Way of Telling(1982)—likeA Seventh Man,a collaboration with the photographer Jean Mohr. Peasant experience insinuates itself less directly into the...

  9. 5 UPWARD MOBILITY IN THE POSTCOLONIAL ERA KINCAID, MUKHERJEE, AND THE COSMOPOLITAN AU PAIR
    (pp. 97-113)

    E. J. Hobsbawm opens his bookNations and Nationalism since 1780with an anecdote about “an intergalactic historian” who lands after a nuclear war and, going through the archives, concludes that “the last two centuries of the human history of planet Earth are incomprehensible without some understanding of the term ‘nation’ and the vocabulary derived from it.”¹ I take Hobsbawm’s appeal to this not otherwise very entertaining anecdote as an illustration of how contradictory the general understanding of nationalism has become. If he has to ascend into outer space in search of an observer who will look at nations and...

  10. 6 SECULARISM, ELITISM, PROGRESS AND OTHER TRANSGRESSIONS ON EDWARD SAIDʹS ʺVOYAGE INʺ
    (pp. 115-125)

    In what has come to be called “colonial and postcolonial studies,” there seems to be a gathering consensus that the institutional rise of the field is somehow an anomaly and an embarrassment.¹ To judge from recent essays and conference presentations, the best thing to do with its success story, as perhaps with any success story, is to subject it to the most scathing critique possible. A certain sarcasm about the field’s sociogeographical position—which seems irresistible even to observers who are otherwise quite opposed to one another, such as Aijaz Ahmad and his many critics—takes the characteristic form of...

  11. 7 SAD STORIES IN THE INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC SPHERE RICHARD RORTY ON CULTURE AND HUMAN RIGHTS
    (pp. 127-145)

    In 1994 theNew York Timespublished an op-ed piece by the philosopher Richard Rorty under the title “The Unpatriotic Academy.”¹ The trouble with the academic left in the United States, Rorty argued, is that “it is unpatriotic. In the name of ‘the politics of difference,’ it refuses to rejoice in the country it inhabits. It repudiates the idea of a national identity, and the emotion of national pride.” Rorty concludes, “If in the interests of ideological purity, or out of the need to stay as angry as possible, the academic left insists on a ‘politics of difference,’ it will...

  12. 8 ROOT, ROOT, ROOT MARTHA NUSSBAUM MEETS THE HOME TEAM
    (pp. 147-168)

    “In the course of my life,” Joseph De Maistre famously observed, “I have seen Frenchmen, Italians, Russians; I even know, thanks to Montesquieu, that one can be a Persian; butmanI have never met.”¹ De Maistre’s genteel snubbing of “man” is still remembered, and usually with satisfaction. But the propriety of this snub has never seemed so open to doubt. Even if one could assume, with De Maistre, that the abstract universal “man” is vague and ungraspable, recent history has made it difficult to pretend that it can be neatly opposed to particular nationalities, assumed to be palpable and...

  13. AFTERWORD
    (pp. 169-174)

    “If Kip had been asked whom he loved most he would have named his ayah before his mother” (226).¹ To judge from this detail inThe English Patient, Ondaatje rests Kip’s worldliness—which is affirmed, rather than discredited, when Kip renounces his part in the war—on much the same narrative of moral development as Martha Nussbaum offers in defense of hers. Her critics, Nussbaum says, rely on an account of how children grow that is familiar but flawed: “When a child is little, it recognizes and loves only its own particular parents; then, after a while, it comes to...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 175-210)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 211-220)
  16. ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    (pp. 221-222)