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Race, Rights, and RecognitionJewish American Literature since 1969$
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Dean J. Franco

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801450877

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801450877.001.0001

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Globalization’s Complaint

Globalization’s Complaint

Gary Shteyngart’s Absurdistan and the Culture of Culture

(p.170) 6 Globalization’s Complaint
Race, Rights, and Recognition

Dean J. Franco

Cornell University Press

This chapter takes the satirization of multiculturalism in Gary Shteyngart's novel Absurdistan as a challenge to the discussion of pluralist recognition of the preceding chapters. For Shteyngart's antihero, the Russian Jewish scion and practitioner of global multiculturalism Misha Vainburg, multiculturalism is the transcendent truth amid the commodification of everything under global capitalism. Misha derives his multiculturalism from his liberal arts alma mater “Accidental College,” and Shteyngart's swipe at academia is the occasion for this chapter's discussion of how and why culture has become so venerated by some commentators and so discredited by others. Working toward a reconstructed pragmatic account of the efficacy of culture, the chapter also considers what culture has meant and can come to mean again for Jewish American literature, by looking backwards to a text with surprising parallels to Absurdistan, the memoir of the nineteenth-century Jewish homesteader Rachel Calof.

Keywords:   Gary Shteyngart, Absurdistan, Rachel Calof, multiculturalism, culture, Jewish American literature

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