Where are my Melamed notes? Bring it!
Melamed’s text centers on her exploration and analysis of the terms of global citizenship, particularly in connection to the geographic, economic, and political contexts of “global citizens.” The thesis of her article is restated (and reformed) often throughout the article, but the essence of the argument can be found in the following moments:
-“Neoliberal policy engenders new racial subjects as it creates and distinguishes between newly privileged and stigmatized collectives, yet multiculturalism codes the benefits that accrue to those advantaged by neoliberalism as the just rewards of multicultural world citizens, while representing those neoliberalism disposes as handicapped by their own monoculturalism and other historico-cultural deficiencies” (146).
-“Multicultural formalism represents neoliberal economic policies as multicultural rights and global capitalism itself as antiracist in spirit” (148).
-“This chapter investigates how these antiracist roles for literature have developed in a particularly neoliberal-multicultural direction, specifically how literature has entered into the training of transnational professional-managerial classes as an element of the technologies of subjectivity that influence the self-making of elites and of the technologies of subjugation that elites learn to exercise in order to manage less-profitable populations” (140-1).
The primary thrust of the chapter rests in the first quoted section, wherein Melamed is making the argument that, while some may think that the aims of “multiculturalism” are noble, and that neoliberal policy is inclusive and progressive, the opposite is true because of the racialized (and classist) dispersement of the benefits of multicultural citizenship. Branching from this basic foundation that “neoliberal multiculturalism is bad,” Melamed reaches a connected point about the value of literature (and the value of studying it) in this system.
The motive is stated rather clearly a few pages into Melamed’s article. She writes: “This chapter contributes to this scholarship by considering how the idea of literature as an antiracist technology has been enfolded into the charge of universities to produce individuals of value for globalization” (140). Frequently citing literary critics, especially those from post-colonial studies, Melamed establishes authority as a member of Gaipa’s “ballroom.” Her point builds on the scholarship of those before her who looked at the neoliberal system in a colonial context; however, her framing suggests that looking more narrowly at the university as a site of the production of global citizen is novel.
Melamed takes a few different approaches — primarily: the historical, the political, and the textual. The historical evidence is most pronounced in her definition of neoliberalism and tracing of its origins and endurance into the present. Pages 146-148 are helpful to look at more closely if seeking an example of where she effectively provides a history and situates the modern within it. Political evidence is found throughout the piece, most notably in the repeated references to the Bush administration and various policy decisions it made. The opening paragraphs of the article establishes this connection, and her section on the literary values of the administration that describes the promoting of “nationalist forms of literature and literacy” is of special interest, given the topic of this class (159, but do check out the whole section from 159-162). Textual evidence and analysis is the most used method by Melamed in the article. She relies on a close study of Azar Nafisi’s Reading “Lolita” in Tehran: A Memoir in Books and places this text in marked contrast with Ebadi’s Iran Awakening. Here is one example of her providing evidence and analysis:
-On Reading “Lolita” in Tehran: A Memoir in Books — “Reading “Lolita” inserts literary sensibility into this assemblage, making it a means of distinguishing between those deemed multicultural and those deemed monocultural, that is, between those who may be internalized into the new, multicultural global public, such as the women of Nafisi’s group, and those externalized for being unfit for (neo)liberal subjectivity. One example occurs when Nafisi decides to put The Great Gatsby on trial…” (169). This moment of analysis is bookended by a reference to a particular moment in Nafisi’s book wherein a male “working class student leader,” is critical of the novel for its “immoral” influence.. He is condemned by Nafisi and the class for his criticisms. Melamed contends that this moment within the novel reveals “class fractions … [with] the prorevolution poor in Iran [shown] unfit for membership in the neoliberal-multicultural global community” (170). The significance of this example is as such: Melamed highlights the pains of neoliberal multiculturalism as they connect to the question of literary value, particularly the value of “Great Books” written in the Western European tradition. Shown through this example is that who are fluent in this currency of cultural knowledge (primarily educated, wealthy) are deemed worthy of citizenship, where those without such knowledge are outcast from gaining power within the system.
There are a lot of directions to take in an essay utilizing Melamed’s article. The significance of her piece in attempting an answer to the guiding question of our class — What Good is Literature?— should not be discounted. While some think of a literary education as a mode of honing empathy, or as a way to understand people who are different from oneself (a point of particular significance when it comes to global literature), this article seeks to redefine what literature can, and does do in the current global system. That literary studies are instrumentalized in pursuit of the creation of a class of global citizens is of concern to any who study literature, or who have aims of teaching it. Her article connects well with Anne Boyer’s “No” and “Not Writing,” in that each seem to take a primary view that literature / writing itself is a politicized and economized activity. Some questions that I think would be interesting to encounter, equipped with this text: (1) How does the literary “canon” shape representations and/or understandings of certain periods or places? I think this could be interesting to look against the literary texts we have in terms of either genre or form — For example, How does the Sellout engage with its historical, social, and cultural context? How do its deviations from formal traditions shape Beatty’s representation of the modern African American experience? (2) Reiterating from above: What good is literature? What is its value/purpose/“selling point” in 2019? This might be interesting to approach from a more theoretical standpoint, looking at Melamed and Bourdieu’s article, but also Mary Alcock’s “A Reciept for Writing a Novel.”
In Jodi Melamed’s “Making Global Citizens: Neoliberal Multiculturalism and Literary Vaule” the thesis she presents relates to this term neoliberal multiculturalism. It’s presented as the, “…racialization operates in tandem with what Aihwa Ong calls “differentiated citizenship” (Melamed 138). Ong appears to associate the definition of neoliberal multiculturalism in a negative light by revealing that citizens are looked down upon differently. Melamed goes on to tell us how, “This chapter examines the terms, criteria, and repertories that racialize neoliberalism’s beneficiaries as worthy multicultural global citizens…” (138). Melamed tells us that is important to be multicultural citizens rather than focusing on one culture. She uses examples to further her thesis that we need to explore various literature to be multicultural, and be focused on working to be a person who is not focused on racism.
The motive of this text is to show us how important it is to read literature that help us to not be racist citizens. We’re told that, “…the idea that literature has something to do with antiracism and being a good person enters into the self-care of elites, who learn to see themselves as part of a multinational group of enlightened multicultural global citizens” (Melamed 141). Literature, again, can help us be citizens who want to know more about antiracism, however it appears as if this is something people who have wealth are doing. These “elites” are using literature to get to know more about people who are not wealthy, then using their knowledge to go into neighborhoods that are not as profitable. Melamed asserts, “Susskind showed that honor killings increased dramatically between 2003 and 2007, at which time, Susskind estimated, nearly 20 percent of Iraqi women were surviving through prostitution and sex trafficking” (143). Melamed shows us how important literature is in spreading information about what is happening in other countries, like Iraq. These people, specifically women, were being violated while the United States wanted to get rid of extremist in Iraq.
Keeping on this topic of literature, one text Melamed discusses is Azar Nafisi’s “Reading ‘Lolita’ in Tehran: A Memoir in Books.” We’re told how this is, “…a memoir in the dramatized style of New Journalism, “Reading ‘Lolita’” tells the story of a secret group that Nafisi held for women students in Tehran in the years after the Iranian Revolution” (Melamed 141). Nafisi’s text is a well-known text taught in universities in the United States. It connects back to Melamed’s thesis because it shows how literature is important when being multicultural. By reading what happened to these students in Tehran in United States universities, we’re learning about a different culture from ours. Melamed informs us how, “Published at the moment the Iraq War began, in December 2003, it became an instant success and remained on the best seller lists for more than 120 weeks, or the first two and a half years of the war” (Melamed 143). When the Iraq War was happening this text was published. It showed the importance of freeing women from a war that oppressed them, and Nafisi had to help these women out in Tehran. Here, we see how powerful literature was in helping people to understand the toll war can have on others, including women.
Melamed’s text can be used on the test, to explore this idea of race and how literature plays a role in helping people understand the cultures of others not only their own. Melamed reveals, “While whites have been continuing to receive preference based on skim color alone, the lack of access to higher education for poor and working-class students has intensified and become the most pressing civil rights issue” (156). Melamed’s text discusses various groups of people in her text one being people who can’t receive a proper education, and how race plays a factor in this. Melamed’s text can be paired with Claudia Rankine’s “Citizens” to discuss how people of color aren’t always treated correctly because of the color of their skin; similar to the people who can’t receive a proper education as Melamed discusses.
The Thesis: Starting as an economic ideology that promotes global capitalism, neoliberal multiculturalism can now be identified that same economic strategy that is now mobilized through a social understanding of multiculturalism that is taught by education institutes to train young people. Labeled as Global Citizens, the individuals that follow the ideal of neoliberal multiculturalism do more harm than good as they work under a social agenda that makes them believe that they are doing good things but in reality they are taking part in a system that undermines literature for economic growth and teaches people how to read literature in a bad way while stratifying people based on their ability or inability to be multicultural. “This chapter examines the terms, criteria, and repertoires that racialize neoliberal’s beneficiaries as worthy multicultural global citizens and its losers as doomed by their own monoculturalism, deviance, inflexibility, criminality, and other attributes deemed antisocial.”(P. 138)
The Motive: Making its own way into an existing conversation, the place where Melamed provides something new to the argument is when she discusses global literature classes in American universities and how the higher education system takes part in the training of individuals to global agents through providing training in reading and analyzing literature from different places of the world so that later on these agents will be to see literature in their own terms according to the ideals of neoliberal multiculturalism and in turn will pass it on to others. “This Chapter contributes to this scholarship by considering how the idea of literature as an antiracist technology has been enfolded into the charger of universities to produce individuals for value for globalization. After the World War II racial break, literature became important for official antiracism as it was theorized to be a privileged tool for information retrieval, a privileged domain for coming to terms with difference, and a social guarantee of racism’s eventual irrelevance.”(P. 140)
Evidence: Melamed’s use of the misuse of Azar Nafisi’s memoir provides perfect insight into the method and effect that “global citizens” and neoliberal multicultural ideals have on literature. In neoliberal multicultural ideology, Nafisi is considered as a native informant whom through her memoir is calling to the western capitalist world for help. Rather, her memoir describes the experience she had leading a reading group of Muslim women who read Nabokov’s Lolita in secrecy and came to learn so much about it, neoliberal multicultural ideology comes to turn that into proof for an economic/political decision in 2003 for the Bush administration to invade and occupy the middle east for the sake of saving and liberating Muslim women. Nafisi’s memoir was also promoted and distributed by publishing companies on that same vein, feeding into a trained multicultural desire to assess and take part in “change”. “Published at the moment of the Iraq War, it became an instant success and remained on the best seller list for more than 120 weeks…. The book’s popularity can be attributed to its resonance with the political requirements that led the bush Administration to cast war and occupation in Iraq as a humanitarian mission, a mission that foregrounded the goal of securing freedom for Iraqi women. And in fact, Reading “Lolita” was sold by its publishers as a book that revealed the depressing, intimate truth of gender oppression in the Middle East yet also optimistically foreshadowed Women’s eventual liberation by emphasizing the imaginative freedom the women in Nafisi’s book group experienced by reading U.S and European literary classics. ”(142)
B. Melamed’s theory is a great way to discuss how literature written in other parts of the world and written in America by marginalized people are read and sold. The neoliberal multicultural ideal speaks a lot to reading trends of determining racism and whether through the books we read how do readers want to be perceived and what is their agenda in reading. Two texts I would use with this lens is Beatty’s The sellout and Rankine’s Citizen because both texts definitely ask something of their readers (in different ways) that relates back to this agenda of being a “global citizen”.
Part A: Melamed’s central argument in her lengthy article is against the function(s) of “neoliberal multiculturalism” (138). She argues neoliberal multiculturalism has turned into a “racial formation” meant to continue the oppressive system of racism (138). Neoliberalism, which is a kind of liberalism which favors free-market capitalism (prices determined by the consumers), is continually paired with another keyterm for Melamed’s article: multiculturalism. She claims, “neoliberal multiculturalism as a racial formation helps to make the internalization/externalization procedures… appear fair by innovating new systems of ascribing privilege and stigma” (138). By embracing the multiculturalism present in the world, specifically the world market, the system of neoliberalism thrives and certain cultures are instantly valued more over others. One of the main motives for the Melamed piece is the effect ‘neoliberal multiculturalism’ has on racism in America. According to Melamed, “…neoliberal multiculturalism provides a restricted sense of antiracist equality and codes U.S.-led global capitalist developments as beneficial” (139). While at the surface ‘neoliberal multiculturalism’ seems to embrace the various cultural/ethnic groups in the world, the ultimate function the system serves is to “code an economic order of things” (139). An example of the downsides to ‘neoliberal multiculturalism’ Melamed provides is the U.S. government’s actions during the Cold War. Melamed suggests, “the ending of African American segregation was meant to prove the moral legitimacy of U.S.-led transnational capitalism” (137), which meant the government could enlist more soldiers for the war. Ending segregation at the time was less about embracing America’s ‘multicuralism’ and more about adding to the ‘neoliberal’ market economy.
Part B: Jodi Melamed’s “Making Global Citizens: Neoliberal Multiculturalism and Literary Value” could be applied to Paul Beatty’s “The Sellout.” Melamed argues “race and racism remain central to neoliberal arrangements” such as the “catastrophic rates of African American male imprisonment in the postindustrial United States (Melamed 145). The Sellout seems to provide a political statement in response to America’s unfair legal system by “getting high” on the steps of the Supreme Court (Beatty 7), which has the power to legalize marijuana and effectively reduce African American male imprisonment.
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