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Date of Award
Department or Program Affiliation
Master of Arts (MA)
Anderson, Katherine J.
Dietrich, Dawn Y., 1960-
This thesis attempts to prove that 9/11 enshrined a troublesome critical ideology in America’s most vaunted book reviews and magazines. The ideology sometimes presented itself brazenly. In these cases, I follow historian Mahmood Mamdani in describing it as “Culture Talk” — a discourse that reduces history and politics (in this case, the history of Cold War U.S. involvement in the Middle East) to talk of culture or religion. At other times, however, this ideology wore the mask of “cosmopolitanism” — a loose jumble of ideas centered on the rejection of anything “tribal,” “premodern,” or “sectarian.” In reality, it is very difficult to distinguish those rejected by cosmopolitanism from those disenfranchised by the slow march of the global economy.
Yet cosmopolitanism was and remains a popular worldview in educated Euro-American circles. It is preached at the U.N. and at the New York Times Book Review. There especially, and throughout our critical culture, it led to a fascinating and sometimes insidious set of practices: critics praised books that confirmed their sense of facile global community, panned books and authors that questioned the post-9/11 American political consensus, and — most interesting of all — found clever ways to misread books that took an ambiguous or disturbing approach to cosmopolitanism.
This widespread pattern of reception betrays a pernicious critical incuriosity about the political facts of recent history. And incuriosity, at the highest levels of American cultural discourse, aids power: in the violent, unthinking years after 9/11, many of our government’s most egregious missteps went unquestioned in the press. When the public is asked to back a paranoid and unjustifiable war, critical laziness has consequences.
9/11, cosmopolitanism, culture talk, criticism, neoliberalism, Mohsin Hamid, Teju Cole
Western Washington University
Subject – LCSH
Cosmopolitanism--United States; September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001; United States--Civilization--21st century; Neoliberalism--United States
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Reid, Chris, "Cosmopolitan Culture Talk After 9/11" (2023). WWU Graduate School Collection. 1200.