Kazuo Ishiguro is often seen as an "international writer" of "world literature," writing for a "global" audience. His novels address cosmopolitan themes of complex belonging in a globalized world, ethical responsibility beyond the ethnos, and universal human dignity. Such concerns loom large in Never Let Me Go (2005), which repeats the hostility to unreflective belonging seen in Ishiguro's earlier work as well as, in its investigation of the grounding and reach of human rights, the ongoing appeal to moral norms beyond those legitimated by the institutional arrangements of particular peoples. Ishiguro, it seems clear, subscribes to a normative vision of the world that contests the sovereignty of the particular.
Given the inevitable unease that such universalism can generate, the current paper aims to bring Ishiguro's work into dialogue with that of political theorist Seyla Benhabib on human rights. Benhabib's situated cosmopolitanism, with its emphasis on the "democratic iterations" through which the universal is reclaimed as particular within an inclusive and agonistic public sphere, tackles head-on the charge of moral imperialism and provides a valuable conceptual framework for discussing Ishiguro's cosmopolitan concerns. Yet the novel's bleak vision of the outlook for the clones fails to support Benhabib's optimism over the "jurisgenerative power" of democratic iterations. The question of what drives a particular people to accept the universal extension of rights to excluded others remains a thorn in the side for cosmopolitans.
Paul Minford, Musashi University, Japan
Stream: Cultural Studies
This paper is part of the ACCS2013 Conference Proceedings (View)
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