The Postcolonial Flâneur: Open City and the Urban Palimpsest

Alexander Greer Hartwiger


Using reading, specifically Edward Said’s contrapuntal reading, as a metaphor for walking the city, I examine how the postcolonial flâneur re-reads New York back into history in Teju Cole’s Open City. The narrator’s palimpsestic walks through New York enable readers to situate the city’s global identity in a longer colonial and postcolonial history, challenging ahistorical characterizations of global cities. Coupled with the principles of nineteenth-century French flâneire, the postcolonial perspective offers a way to re-see the urban landscape through a dialectical insider/outsider position, enabling a critique of the complicity between globalization and capitalism in marginalizing voices and histories. Furthermore, my argument suggests that the novel challenges the celebratory cosmopolitan narratives that praise the rise of the global citizen while ignoring the plight of the unhomely.


Flâneur; Contrapuntal Reading; New York; Open City; Postcolonial; Global City; Cosmopolitanism

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