The Neoliberal Production of Cultural Citizenship in <i>My Year of Meats</i>

  • Nelson Thomas Shake Texas A&M University
Keywords: Ruth L. Ozeki, My Year of Meats, neoliberalism, immigration


This essay draws together political theory on immigration and theories of neoliberalism to examine their shared interest in the individual’s ability to have agency and be acted upon by the nation-state. Though both theoretical perspectives tend to separate these subject and object positions, this essay argues that Ruth L. Ozeki’s novel My Year of Meats helpfully problematizes such a bracketed understanding by narrating the complex political and economic positionality known as cultural citizenship. Ozeki shows, through the character of Japanese housewife Akiko Ueno, how an immigrant’s subject and object positions cannot be separated from one another within the transnational work of neoliberalism. Individual agency and external control occur simultaneously until they are difficult to distinguish. Ozeki navigates various artistic, economic, and political conflicts to show that they cannot be separated into simple binaries. Instead, the narrative foregrounds the simultaneity of these experiences to suggest opportunities for freedom and agency are both possible and impossible all at once. This essay contends that My Year of Meats envisions forms of substantive individual and communal resistance to neoliberal values while also identifying how socially-produced cultural citizenship still places immigrants within the purview of the neoliberal nation-state.

Author Biography

Nelson Thomas Shake, Texas A&M University

Nelson Shake is a Ph.D. candidate at Texas A&M University. His research focuses on postcolonial literatures, postcolonial theory, and neoliberal theory. His current project examines how the contemporary novel can be a vehicle for political resistance to the damaging work of neoliberalism.