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At Home in the World

At Home in the World

Cosmopolitanism Now

Timothy Brennan

ISBN 9780674050310

Publication date: 08/30/1997

From every quarter we hear of a new global culture, postcolonial, hybrid, announcing the death of nationalism, the arrival of cosmopolitanism. But under the drumbeat attending this trend, Timothy Brennan detects another, altogether different sound. Polemical, passionate, certain to provoke, his book exposes the drama being played out under the guise of globalism. A bracing critique of the critical self-indulgence that calls itself cosmopolitanism, it also takes note of the many countervailing forces acting against globalism in its facile, homogenizing sense.

The developments Brennan traces occur in many places--editorial pages, policy journals, corporate training manuals, and, primarily, in the arts. His subject takes him from George Orwell to Julia Kristeva, from Subcommandante Marcos to Julio Cortázar, from Ernst Bloch to contemporary apologists for transnational capitalism and "liberation management," from "third world" writing to the Nobel Prize, with little of critical theory or cultural studies left untouched in between. Brennan gives extended treatment to two exemplary figures: the Trinidadian writer C. L. R. James, whose work suggests an alternative approach to cultural studies; and the Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier, whose appreciation of Cuban popular music cuts through the usual distinctions between mass and elite culture.

A critical call to arms, At Home in the World summons intellectuals and scholars to reinvigorate critical cultural studies. In stripping the false and heedless from the new cosmopolitanism, Brennan revitalizes the idea.


  • Timothy Brennan first contributed to [the] controversies [surrounding cosmopolitanism] in his trenchant study, Salman Rushdie and the Third World. What interested him at the time was how such writers as Derek Walcott became fashionable by virtue of a ‘cosmopolitanism’ which made them ambiguous witnesses… Brennan’s formidable new book, At Home in the World, elaborates this diagnosis, extending the account of ‘cosmopolitanism’ to include the internationally informed academics, journalists, and policy advisors who are (in his view) stifling the message of liberation movements and clearing the way for a globalism, which is American capitalism writ large. The idea that Disney and McDonald’s are taking over the world is not exactly novel, but Brennan gives a nuanced account of globalization and he has fresh, provocative things to say about the role of intellectuals in the New World Order. Most of those engaged in postcolonial criticism would consider themselves radical, but Brennan contends that they advance the interests of Western pluralism when they celebrate ‘hybridity’ or ‘problematize’ situations which are exploitive.

    —John Kerrigan, Times Literary Supplement


  • Timothy Brennan is Associate Professor of English at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.

Book Details

  • 369 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press