Liberal Multiculturalism and the Limits of Recognition in Caryl Phillips's The Nature of Blood

Tye Evan Landels


In recent years, critics of Caryl Phillips’s The Nature of Blood (1997) seem to have developed a consensus that the novel presents a cosmopolitan view of diasporic identity. While I agree with these critics, I believe that their “cosmopolitan theses” have yet to articulate why Phillips chooses to present a cosmopolitan view of diasporic identity. To this end, I shall argue that, in The Nature of Blood, Phillips’s cosmopolitanism emerges as a conscious response to the failure of multiculturalism to recognize what Robin Cohen (2008) calls “victim diasporas” in liberal states. Phillips suggests that, for diasporic groups who have suffered a history of collective trauma, a cosmopolitan view of cultural identity, which draws upon histories of shared experiences and morality across cultures, is far more tenable than an essentialist view of cultural identity.

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