Capitals without Countries

Cairo and Beirut in English

Authored by: Jenine Abboushi

The Routledge Companion to Global Popular Culture

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415641470
eBook ISBN: 9780203081846
Adobe ISBN: 9781136175961


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Global English is a form of popular culture. It is distinct from Anglophone English, perhaps surprisingly, as Anglophone cultures are by definition transcultural. Yet Anglophone cultural forms, originally grounded in former British colonies, are, when addressing bilingual publics, paradoxically less easily transmittable globally. In contrast, narratives written in global English are remarkably monocultural, particularly in terms of social class. Contemporary narratives writing cities in global English are perhaps the clearest examples of this phenomenon, as they seek to represent the nation and, in so doing, paradoxically unground it. Both Ahdaf Soueif’s Cairo: My City, Our Revolution and Zeina El-Khalil’s Beirut, I Love You—works written directly in English—write third-world capitals with no countries. In fact, these texts are strangely ungrounded in either Cairo or Beirut, and seem to cede into an extra-geographical realm of global culture. They are marked by interesting differences, however, and these differences help clarify some of the new forms and politics of global English in media and culture.

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