Traditions and Trends
Edited By Elke D'hoker and Stephanie Eggermont
A World of Strangers? Cosmopolitanism in the Contemporary Irish Short Story
Zygmunt Bauman has argued that structures of community have altered fundamentally since the advent of the worldwide web. One of the most significant changes in our interpersonal ambit is that we now have regular contact with strangers.1 Such constant interaction would have been unthinkable before the invention of digital media and communications technology. Where in the past, exchanges with people we did not know and had never physically met might have been a rarity or even an impossibility, now in the era that Bauman pithily christens ‘liquid modernity’ we are multiply connected with countless strangers in the course of our everyday lives. Exchanges with distant Others and a shadowy network of virtual friends dominate digital conversations, chat-room postings and conversations on social media.
Yet, despite the seeming ease with which linking up with strangers and creating arrays of friends beyond our ken has become, social justice for asylum seekers and the difficulty of accommodating migrants in society are amongst the besetting issues of our times. Interactions with strangers and those seen as ethnically Other are at once an overriding challenge for current governments and facets of a quintessential fictional plot, not least in the realm of the short story. This essay seeks to explore how cross-cultural encounters are envisaged in a range of contemporary Irish narratives and to tease out how they are linked with the changing contours of the genre of the short story as it endeavours to incorporate and engage with the transnational, global...
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