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Publisher Description

Characters repeatedly ask other characters what they would risk (for love, for safety, for others) in Catherine Bush's 2000 novel The Rules of Engagement; the avoidance of risk, and the search for its opposite, caution, act as the primary catalyzing forces for action in the novel.(1) Arcadia Hearne, the novel's protagonist, abandons her family and Canada for the (seeming) safety of London in the face of personal violence when Evan, her boyfriend, and Neil, the man with whom she has had an affair, fight a duel over her. Basra Alale, a Somali refugee whom Arcadia encounters in London, must leave Somalia via Kenyan refugee camps and London to arrive in Toronto in the face of the lingering violence of the Somali civil war and the broader legacies of Somali clan traditions. Amir Barmour, with whom Arcadia becomes romantically involved in London, must leave Iran on foot, arriving in England via Frankfurt to escape the ideological violence of the Iranian mullahs. The global movement of all three characters centres on questions of risk and responsibility as, in all three cases, they are forced to leave others behind in order to evade risk. Yet, instead of a narrative that progresses towards safety and away from risk, Rules of Engagement posits risk-taking as inevitable, suggesting that one must engage it rather than avoid it. Nonetheless, the novel does not suggest that all risks are commensurate; instead, Bush outlines a model of cosmopolitical engagement that centers on the transformation of personal risks into global cosmopolitical responsibility. I argue in this paper that Rules of Engagement theorizes a model of cosmopolitanism that brings together competing theoretical discourses on the topic by emphasizing the connection between/inseparability of elite and subaltern cosmopolitan subjects in a system defined (per Ulrich Beck) by global risk. For Bush, this recognition of risk foregrounds the necessary centrality of responsibility to a global cosmopolitics, acknowledging the affective potential of personal experience (and, by extension, the aesthetic). Hannah Arendt argues that while "our political life rests on the assumption that we can produce equality through organization, because man can act in and change and build a common world, together with his equals and only with his equals," "the 'alien' [remains] a frightening symbol of the fact of difference as such, of individuality as such, and indicates those realms in which man cannot change and cannot act and in which, therefore, he has a distinct tendency to destroy" (301). This link between an artificial (yet reassuring) equality and a terrifying individuality highlights the ideological ground of a critically reflexive or ethical cosmopolitanism. Such a cosmopolitanism is ultimately compelled to address interconnection rather than just the self, refiguring the relationship between the individual citizen and the global polis. Rules of Engagement offers one possible way of speaking to this problem: the question of responsibility--and a particularly cosmopolitan version--as a way of mediating between the narcissistic self and the global common. Rather than privileging one version over the other, or outlining the possibility of the existence of subaltern cosmopolitanism, Rules of Engagement instead brings these two versions together, showing the way they operate in concert.

Professional & Technical
January 1
University of Calgary, Department of English

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