Review of J. M. Coetzee and the Limits of Cosmopolitanism, by Katherine Hallemeier.

In the old sense of 'cosmopolitan' as describing a global citizen, Nobel LaureateJ.M. Coetzee certainly could be seen to fit the bill. Born in South Africa of mixed English and Afrikaans heritage, having worked and studied in London and Texas, and now living in Adelaide as an Australian citizen, he seems to have escaped the constraints of old-fashioned nation/ ality.

But Katherine Hallemeier's book, JM. Coetzee and the Limits of Cosmopolitanism, is not concerned with the writer's cosmopolitan identity: it is a carefully considered explication of his later fiction in the light of contemporary cosmopolitan theory and discourse. Cosmopolitanism, crudely summarised, is a particular branch of interdisciplinary theory that considers the ethics of human relations as based either on equality and universalism or on the recognition of, and respect for, difference. In Hallemeier's words, 'cosmopolitan scholarship is arguably united in its commitment to envisioning a common humanity without eliding its constitutive multiplicity' (4). Nonetheless, and perhaps ironically, there are many often-competing versions of the term. More recently associated with multiculturalism, globalisation and diaspora, literary and cultural critics and theorists have used it to avoid both Eurocentric and nation-based models of identity. Theorists have identified new forms of cosmopolitanism such as 'rooted' (Kwame Anthony Appiah), 'vernacular' (Homi Bhabha) and 'postcolonial' (Benita Parry). Despite these attempts to pin it down, cosmopolitanism remains a notoriouslyslippery term- one that Hallemeier describes as 'capacious' (3) - and is therefore a potentially risky hook on which to hang a book of literary criticism. Katherine Hallemeier's book, however, admirably rises to the challenge, providing a clear pathway through the tangle of cosmopolitanisms.

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Published 1 June 2014 in Volume 29 No. 1-2. Subjects: Cosmopolitanism.

Cite as: Kossew, Sue. ‘Review of J. M. Coetzee and the Limits of Cosmopolitanism, by Katherine Hallemeier..’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 29, no. 1-2, 2014. https://doi.org/10.20314/als.b301ef30ad.