The banal conviviality of neoliberal cosmopolitanism
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2015 Taylor & Francis. This paper examines the depiction of the banal cosmopolitan conviviality of metropolitan life in two recent British novels: Maggie Gee's My Cleaner (2006) and Tessa Hadley's The London Train (2011). Both texts depict cross-cultural encounters in London as typical to everyday life in a global metropolis and central to the mode of metropolitan cosmopolitanism. Yet, at the same time, through a narrative pattern of failed individual development, these texts draw to the surface the neoliberal values that undergird even seemingly progressive notions about the transformative value of metropolitan diversity. Neoliberal alterity becomes hyper-individualised, acting as a catalyst for self-actualisation, rather than as the point where a variety of global systems and histories coalesce. I argue, therefore, that Gee's and Hadley's critique turns to the way both neoliberal and progressive depictions of metropolitan difference ignore and make invisible the socio-economic barriers that underpin every day life in the metropolis, and elsewhere. Both texts - with varying levels of forthrightness - illustrate the structural limits that make emancipatory cultural interactions difficult.
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