Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Whose Cosmopolitanism?

Whose Cosmopolitanism?: Critical Perspectives, Relationalities and Discontents

Nina Glick Schiller
Andrew Irving
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 264
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Whose Cosmopolitanism?
    Book Description:

    The termcosmopolitanis increasingly used within different social, cultural and political settings, including academia, popular media and national politics. However those who invoke the cosmopolitan project rarely ask whose experience, understanding, or vision of cosmopolitanism is being described and for whose purposes? In response, this volume assembles contributors from different disciplines and theoretical backgrounds to examine cosmopolitanism's possibilities, aspirations and applications-as well as its tensions, contradictions, and discontents-so as to offer a critical commentary on the vital but often neglected question:whose cosmopolitanism?The book investigates when, where, and how cosmopolitanism emerges as a contemporary social process, global aspiration or emancipatory political project and asks whether it can serve as a political or methodological framework for action in a world of conflict and difference.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-446-5
    Subjects: Population Studies, Political Science, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Introduction. What’s in a Word? What’s in a Question?
    (pp. 1-22)
    Nina Glick Schiller and Andrew Irving

    Ever since Diogenes (412–323 bc), an outcast, exile, slave and criminal, was asked where he was from and answered, ‘I am a citizen of the World’ (kosmopolitês), precise definitions of cosmopolitanism, whether as an idea, moral practice or form of action, have remained contentious and elusive. The history of cosmopolitanism is commonly traced from Diogenes to Kant to Levinas up to contemporary thinkers such as Ulrich Beck, Martha Nussbaum, Kwame Anthony Appiah and Judith Butler. Other genealogies might begin with Mohism, Mo Tzu’s (470–391 bc) alternative to Confucianism, which offered a critique of ancient China’s unequal social hierarchies...

  6. Part I. The Question of ‘Whose Cosmopolitanism?’: Provocations and Responses

    • Provocations

      • Chapter 1 Whose Cosmopolitanism? Multiple, Globally Enmeshed and Subaltern
        (pp. 27-28)
        Gyan Prakash

        It is hard to speak of cosmopolitan attachment to a human community in the old sense. Colonialism and empire, slavery and capitalist exploitation, the world wars and the Holocaust and other such inhumanities have put paid to the Kantian ideal. The notion that a cosmopolite was detached from local roots, or rose above them, to embrace the larger world was elitist. The term was never applied to the Africans who were uprooted and transported across the Atlantic to work as slaves. Nor was it used to name those who were shipped from the Indian subcontinent to work as indentured labour...

      • Chapter 2 Whose Cosmopolitanism? Genealogies of Cosmopolitanism
        (pp. 29-30)
        Galin Tihanov

        The question ‘whose cosmopolitanism?’ is also a question about the complex genealogies and dynamics of cosmopolitan discourses and practices. It is imperative to broaden the field of theoretical enquiry and examine the origins of modern discourses of cosmopolitanism in conjunction with the origins of capitalism. I believe that current theoretical work on cosmopolitanism largely brackets off this contradictory genealogy. While the current focus on the Enlightenment and Kant’s ideas of perpetual peace is an expression of a specific trend that is anxious to endow cosmopolitanism with a ‘positive’ genealogy, it is also essential to reveal the ‘negative’ genealogy of cosmopolitanism...

      • Chapter 3 Whose Cosmopolitanism? And Whose Humanity?
        (pp. 31-33)
        Nina Glick Schiller

        The year 2009, in which we began the discussions of cosmopolitanism that resulted in this book, started with the invasion of Gaza and the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians, who have no place to flee to and no option but to struggle. This followed a year marked by continuing war, not only in high-profile places like Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in regions of Africa such as the Congo, where millions of people have died amidst little public notice but much private profit. These wars continue although their forms change, as does the degree to which they are featured in...

      • Chapter 4 Whose Cosmopolitanism? The Violence of Idealizations and the Ambivalence of Self
        (pp. 34-36)
        Jackie Stacey

        In an early scene in Danny Boyle’sSlumdog Millionaire(2008), a young boy, Jamal Malik, is forced to dive through the abject contents of a communal latrine in the slums of Mumbai in order not to miss the chance of obtaining the autograph of his favourite Bollywood star, who is unexpectedly visiting their neighbourhood. In the culmination of this almost unwatchable quest for a celebrity signature, Jamal emerges from the crowds triumphantly waving in the air the signed photograph of his idol. This image of heroic ascent from the depths of hell condenses the film’s overall narrative, which poses the...

      • Chapter 5 Whose Cosmopolitanism? Postcolonial Criticism and the Realities of Neocolonial Power
        (pp. 37-38)
        Robert Spencer

        Postcolonial criticism has on the whole shied away from engaging with what are, by any reckoning, the most salient facts for any scholar or student wishing seriously to make sense of the relationship between culture and empire in the early years of the twenty-first century. These include rapacious corporate power; the domination by powerful states of international institutions of governance; those states’ partial observance and frequent flouting of the principles of international law; the belligerence of the United States (symbolized by torture and unlawful incarceration and by the calamitous occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan); the continued underdevelopment of the poorer...

    • Responses

      • Chapter 6 Wounded Cosmopolitanism
        (pp. 41-48)
        Jacqueline Rose

        The word ‘cosmopolitanism’ has an aura. Perhaps because its semantic status, or the part of speech to which it belongs, is in some ways uncertain. Cosmopolitanism hovers somewhere between an assertion, this is the reality of the world, and a desire, if only this was how the world could be. For that very reason, the word makes me uneasy, although I think that might be exactly the reason why it matters. Cosmopolitanism has the character of being at once a description and a fantasy, although that distinction is, I think, misleading. When we use the word ‘cosmopolitanism’ it always requires...

      • Chapter 7 What Do We Do with Cosmopolitanism?
        (pp. 49-56)
        David Harvey

        Several years ago, when I was invited to give the Wellek Library Lecture Series at the University of California, Irvine, I decided to give the series of lectures on the subject of ‘Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom.’ It seemed to me to be a useful and relevant topic because I had recently read Immanuel Kant’s own lecture series on ‘Physical Geography’, which he taught for forty years at the University of Königsberg. However, his work on geography often comes across as being absolutely bizarre. This is because, on the one hand, Kant is known as a philosopher who speaks...

      • Chapter 8 Cosmopolitan Theory and the Daily Pluralism of Life
        (pp. 57-64)
        Tariq Ramadan

        Drawing on my own experience, I will try to connect the world of philosophy and academia with the world in which people live their daily lives. That is, I will try to connect a cosmopolitan dimension to practical things in order to speak to the problem that confronts us when trying to develop a theoretical framework that encompasses the challenge of connecting the abstract principles of philosophy to the demands of everyday life. Of course, part of the problem is that in theory and in practice there are many ways that the term ‘cosmopolitanism’ is actually applied.

        What I am...

      • Chapter 9 Chance, Contingency and the Face-to-Face Encounter
        (pp. 65-73)
        Andrew Irving

        ‘The trouble with words’, as the playwright Dennis Potter once remarked, ‘is you don’t know whose mouths they’ve been in before’. This is especially true of a word such as ‘cosmopolitanism’, which seems to have been in many different mouths of late. From TV hosts, politicians and lawmakers to journalists, activists and academics, it is regularly used across a range of public and private forums to describe things as varied as world citizenship, urban culture, intellectual sophistication, fashion, art and international cuisine. It turns out that ‘cosmopolitan’ is a word thatdoes many thingsand is deployed by people for...

      • Chapter 10 Cosmopolitanism and Intelligibility
        (pp. 74-82)
        Sivamohan Valluvan

        In my research with and on minority youth in the cities of London and Stockholm, I am often intrigued by the fluency with which these young people, whose parents were immigrants, interact with a wide array of other/Other subject positions (and the wider city in general) without necessarily conceding or eliding a sense of their own ethnic difference. There transpires, however, in equal measure a frustration amongst them at the inability of politicians and researchers, and even theirowninability, to comprehend and convincingly describe these relationships. When culture and place are commonly framed as ethnic property – as belonging...

  7. Part II. The Questions of Where, When, How and Whether:: Towards a Processual Situated Cosmopolitanism

    • Encounters, Landscapes and Displacements

      • Chapter 11 ‘It’s Cool to Be Cosmo’: Tibetan Refugees, Indian Hosts, Richard Gere and ‘Crude Cosmopolitanism’ in Dharamsala
        (pp. 87-102)
        Atreyee Sen

        Some stories begin best at the end. It was my last day of research in Dharamsala. A posse of people came to visit me. The street in front of my shady guesthouse had turned into a carnival, with friends and informants drinking tea and chewing biscuits. Buddhist monks and nuns debated the bad quality of DKNY spectacles; new Tibetan refugees looked forlorn while cupping their hands around warm mugs of tea; refugees from the old age home wondered loudly why the Tibetan youth were keen to relocate to America in search of freedom when they were already free in India;...

      • Chapter 12 Diasporic Cosmopolitanism: Migrants, Sociabilities and City Making
        (pp. 103-120)
        Nina Glick Schiller

        The phrase ‘diasporic cosmopolitanism’ juxtaposes the seemingly opposite sensibilities of communalism and openness. This specific modification of the term ‘cosmopolitanism’ reflects a broader propensity among scholars of everyday migrant life to link the term with a modifier that implies its opposite – such as vernacular, rooted, ghetto and diasporic (Appiah 2006; Bhabha 1996b; Sinatti 2006; Nashashibi 2007, Werbner 2006). These seemingly contradictory terms query hegemonic assumptions about how cosmopolitanism is lived, whose cosmopolitanism is being noted and who is in fact open to the world (Werbner 2008; Glick Schiller, Darieva and Gruner-Domic 2011). By selecting the term ‘diasporic cosmopolitanism’ from...

      • Chapter 13 Freedom and Laughter in an Uncertain World: Language, Expression and Cosmopolitan Experience
        (pp. 121-138)
        Andrew Irving

        This chapter examines the role of language within people’s experiences of cosmopolitanism and investigates how certain terms take on the status of ‘lived words’. More specifically, it considers how words come to life, are animated with social significance and become meaningful, not only in terms of their semantic definitions but in the way certain words are felt and experienced in people’s bodies, which in the case of this chapter means after journeying across an international border or when moving between domestic and public spaces. For Heidegger, words come alive because they are grounded in a particular relation of a people...

    • Cinema, Literature and the Social Imagination

      • Chapter 14 Narratives of Exile: Cosmopolitanism beyond the Liberal Imagination
        (pp. 141-159)
        Galin Tihanov

        This chapter is prompted by the need to locate a methodological tool that would assist us in addressing the open wounds of transition, the ruptures and apertures of difference channelled through the experiences of border crossing. Equally, I should like to talk about exile as creativity, not just suffering. On either occasion, however, my ultimate goal is to ask why exile came to be so firmly associated with these two experiential fields, different as they might be at first sight, and to see whether this lasting inscription in narratives of suffering and creativity is not hampering attempts to rethink the...

      • Chapter 15 The Uneasy Cosmopolitans of Code Unknown
        (pp. 160-174)
        Jackie Stacey

        Signalling the potential barriers to communication in its title,Code Unknown(2000), directed by Michael Haneke, makes the materiality of the cinema the grounds of our encounter with the ‘ethic of hospitality’ that Jacques Derrida argues lies at the heart of the current cosmopolitan project ([1997] 2001: 16). If the promise of cosmopolitanism is to be found in a sense of worldliness that accompanies a sociality more open to difference, thenCode Unknownturns the processes of spectatorship into the testing ground for such a vision, pulling its foundational certainties from under us and questioning the transparency upon which the...

      • Chapter 16 Pregnant Possibilities: Cosmopolitanism, Kinship and Reproductive Futurism in Maria Full of Grace and In America
        (pp. 175-186)
        Heather Latimer

        This chapter explores reproduction as a crucial site of anxiety and legitimacy within theories on cosmopolitanism. As other authors in this volume note, cosmopolitanism finds itself in a critical paradox. It considers encounters with foreignness as a positive basis for being culturally open to the unfamiliar, but recognizes that this openness is often brought on by experiences of forced exile, economic deprivation and cultural displacement. Cosmopolitanism is a description of the world, acknowledging its increasingly globalized dimensions, but it is also a prescriptive for the world, demanding an ethical reconfiguration of human relations. My contention is that reproduction is constitutive...

      • Chapter 17 Backstage/Onstage Cosmopolitanism: Jia Zhangke’s The World
        (pp. 187-198)
        Felicia Chan

        The medium of cinema offers us an entry point into debates on cosmopolitanism in the following ways: first, cinema’s mode of production is intimately related to global capital; second, its reception, with very few exceptions, is nearly always transnational or transcultural; and third, its capacity for immersive engagement with imagined realities allows for encounters with difference and otherness that could well be termed ‘cosmopolitan’. Jia Zhangke’sThe World(2004), in particular, expresses some of these concerns both in narrative and style, and in its modes of production, reception and address. By foregrounding the tensions between China’s desires to be part...

    • Endless War or Domains of Sociability?: Conflict, Instabilities and Aspirations

      • Chapter 18 Politics, Cosmopolitics and Preventive Development at the Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Border
        (pp. 201-217)
        Madeleine Reeves

        The rural land borders that mark the limits of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in the Ferghana Valley have become the focus for multiple interventions by local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) seeking to foster harmonious social relations within and between borderland communities. These initiatives are occurring in the context of the profound social transformations occurring in this region, including the declining salience of Russian as a common language of interethnic communication, growing economic inequalities, out-migration, and the preference among national governments for single-state rather than transboundary solutions to problems of pasture use and irrigation use.

        By examining the ‘international imaginaries’...

      • Chapter 19 Memory of War and Cosmopolitan Solidarity
        (pp. 218-231)
        Ewa Ochman

        Talk of cosmopolitan memories that transcend national and ethnic boundaries has been in circulation in memory studies for some time now. This discussion emerged along with efforts to challenge the use of methodological nationalism in studies investigating contemporary constructions of the past and revolved around a number of concerns: Why – in a world characterized by the deterritorialization of politics – is the construction of the past still being investigated within the narrow context of the nation-state? Is it possible to understand the ways in which memories of historical events are shaped and appropriated for political legitimization and various identity...

      • Chapter 20 Cosmopolitanism and Conviviality in an Age of Perpetual War
        (pp. 232-244)
        Paul Gilroy

        In Britain, the unpopularity of the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent war on terror has largely been reversed. Greater militarization of national media and cultural life has followed the contours of the campaign in Afghanistan. This development, which the government insists corresponds to the linked imperatives of cohesion and security, has invoked and projected memories of anti-Nazi war directly into present conflicts, where they serve as an inspiration and provide an interpretative frame populated and polarized by a proliferation of Hitlers and Churchills. Additional legitimation for apparently interminable war is discovered in the cosmopolitan idea of humanitarian intervention and...

  8. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 245-248)
  9. Index
    (pp. 249-253)