On the Outskirts of Form: Cosmopoetics in the Shadow of NAFTA

  • Michael Davidson


In Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu’s 2006 film, Babel, the historical geography of globalization is presented through a series of interlinked stories about a crisis of communication among widely dispersed individuals.3 A Japanese businessman gives a rifle to a Moroccan herdsman who has served as the former’s guide on a hunting expedition in northern Africa. The herdsman gives the gun to his two sons so that they can ward off jackals that are preying on their herd of goats. While engaging in target practice, one of the boys shoots at a bus carrying tourists, striking an American woman, Susan (Cate Blanchett) and causing her husband, Richard (Brad Pitt), to staunch the bleeding while attempting frantically to contact the American embassy for medical aid in a remote mountain village. Once Susan is helicoptered to a hospital, Richard phones his undocumented Mexican nanny back home in San Diego and asks her to take care of their children for a few more days. The nanny, Amelia (Adriana Barraza), had planned on returning to Tijuana to witness her son’s wedding. Lacking any alternative childcare, she takes the two American children with her across the border. After the wedding, she returns late at night with her nephew, and when the border guards become inquisitive about the presence of two American children in the back seat, the inebriated nephew guns the car across the border, leaving Amelia and the children in the California desert.


North American Free Trade Agreement Prose Passage Plant Closing Strip Club Bretton Wood Institution 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    David Harvey, “Cosmopolitanism and the Banality of Geographical Evils,” Public Culture 12, no. 2 (2000): 557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Lisa Robertson, Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture (Astoria, Ore.: Clear Cut Press, 2003), 13.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Aiwa Ong, Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality (Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1999). See also her “Flexible Citizenship Among Chinese Cosmopolitans,” in Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation, ed. Phen Cheah and Bruce Robbins (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1998), 134–62.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Walter Mignolo defines “globalization [as] a set of designs to manage the world while cosmopolitanism is a set of projects toward planetary conviviality” (721). As such, globalization as a tendency begins much earlier than its current post-Fordist moment and is coterminous with the emergence of modernity: “Coloniality, in other words, is the hidden face of modernity and its very condition of possibility” (722). Walter D. Mignolo, “The Many Faces of Cosmo-polis: Border Thinking and Critical Cosmopolitanism,” Public Culture 12, no. 3 (2000): 721–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 7.
    Craig Calhoun, “The Class Consciousness of Frequent Travelers: Towards a Critique of Actually Existing Cosmopolitanism,” in Conceiving Cosmopolitanism: Theory, Context, and Practice, ed. Steven Vertovec and Robin Cohen (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002), 86–109.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Cristina Rivera-Garza, “Tercer Mundo,” in Sin puertas visibles: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by Mexican Women, ed. and trans. Jen Hofer (Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 2003), 24–37;Google Scholar
  7. Mark Nowak, Shut Up Shut Down (Minneapolis: Coffee House P, 2004); Robertson, Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture. Subsequent references to these works will be included within the text in parentheses.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Amitava Kumar, ed., World Bank Literature (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2003).Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    Maria Josefina. Saldaña-Portillo, “In the Shadow of NAFTA: Y tu mamá también Revisits the National Allegory of Mexican Sovereignty,” American Quarterly 57, no. 3 (September, 2005): 753.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 16.
    Jim Yong Kim, Joyce V. Millen, Alec Irwin, and John Gershman, eds., Dying for Growth: Global Inequality and the Health of the Poor (Monroe, Me: Common Courage P, 2000).Google Scholar
  11. 26.
    Walter Benjamin, “Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth-Century,” Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, trans. Edmund Jephcott (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978), 148.Google Scholar
  12. 29.
    On “structure of feeling,” see Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1977), 128–35.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Carrie Noland and Barrett Watten 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Davidson

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations