Migrating Objects and Wanderers between Worlds: Cosmopolitan Selves in Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with Amber Eyes
Keywords:Edmund de Waal, The Hare with Amber Eyes, family memoir, biography of objects, relationality, cosmopolitanism
Edmund de Waal‘s widely acclaimed family memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes (2010) is a hybrid text that fuses biography, autobiography and the biography of objects and interlaces these with critical reflections on art, transnationality, cross-cultural communication and the development of cosmopolitan identities. This article examines the central role of the collection of netsuke synecdochally evoked in the book’s title that not only provides the pivotal structural element but also the major conceptual focus of the text. I argue that this idiosyncratic gravitational centre effects the permeability of generic boundaries by establishing an intricate relationality between the narrative’s different protagonists, who continuously decentre and reconfigure each other. Moreover, the art objects’ own history of migration and multiple belonging becomes a blueprint for de Waal’s construction of his Jewish ancestors’ highly mobile and cosmopolitan selves, which sidesteps the narrowly circumscribed vision of national or religious identities. The full extent of these connections is revealed through an examination of the author’s artistic vision, his ceramic art and art criticism. Finally, I will read The Hare with Amber Eyes as an act of restitution in a two-fold sense: as an attempt to undo the politically motivated erasure of some of his ancestors’ traces and as a historical reminder of lived forms of cosmopolitanism that can speak to contemporary debates around globalisation and migration.
Copyright (c) 2021 Eveline Kilian
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work.