Rethinking cosmopolitanism without its exploitative grip through alternative traditions and practices of the cosmopolitan from across the globe.
Cosmopolitanism is a theory about how to live together. The earliest
formulation of cosmopolitanism in the West could be dated to as early as
the fourth century BCE in ancient Greece by Diogenes, who famously said
that he was a “citizen of the world – kosmopolitês,” an idea later picked
up by Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher who proposed a philosophy of a
world of “perpetual peace.” When cosmopolitanism first emerged as a
political idea for modernity in the European Enlightenment, the project
embraced the liberal promises of a globalizing economy, yet remained
oblivious to, and even complicit with, capitalism, slavery and colonialism
It centered on the male, bourgeois, and white liberal subject,
irrespective of the ongoing disenfranchisement, dehumanization, and
extermination of its Others.
At the dawn of the 21st century, and in the wake of rapid globalization
however, academics, politicians and other pundits enthusiastically
declared cosmopolitanism to be no longer just a philosophical ideal, but a
real, existing fact. Across the globe, they argued, people were
increasingly thinking and feeling beyond the nation, considering
themselves citizens of the world. Meanwhile, the global ecological
crisis worsens, fascism with different outfits returns in many places of
the world, the repression of women, sexual
racial, class and other minorities on a global scale persists; the so
called “refugee crisis” inundates the mediascape and political spectacle.
Not much of those cosmopolitan promises have left it seems. Perhaps
precisely because of this, however, it seems to be an absolute necessity
for scholars, activists, and artists today to face the complexities and
promises cosmopolitanism has raised although not adequately answered. What
has happened to the cosmopolitan promise, and who betrayed it?
“Minor cosmopolitanisms” wishes to challenge the underlying premises of
“major” cosmopolitanism without letting go of the unfulfilled emancipatory
potential of the concept at large. It wants to rethink cosmopolitanisms in
the plural, and trace multiple origins and trajectories of cosmopolitan
thought from across the globe. Regarding cosmopolitanisms as emerging
through diverse locally, historically and politically specific practices,
minor cosmopolitanisms are predicated on difference without abandoning the
quest for a shared vision of conviviality and justice. It seeks to answer:
how to live at once with our difference and shared struggle? How to think
our complicity with even those we most resist? Who sustains the world's
flourishing despite all this?