Daniel Yon
Department of
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4550 3.0 Anthropology of Cosmopolitanisms

Cosmopolitanism is used to describe the multiple and sometimes complex ways by which nationalism, globalization, transnationalism and multiculturalism converge in the making of our contemporary 'globalized' world. The conditions of the late twentieth and the twenty first century, distinguished by rapid movements and changing technologies, make redundant older anthropological models of peoples and cultures in their place.

The anthropology of cosmopolitanism therefore focuses on cultural flows, interactions and mixing as well as on how people make sense of their lives -how relationships and communities and new forms of citizenship are forged under such 'globalized' conditions. It is also concerned with displacements, travel, up-rooting and re-rooting, which may be forced, as in the consequence of war, disease, economic disparities, social and political persecution, or, voluntary and a matter of choice. Cosmopolitans may also stay 'rooted' in a single place but nevertheless feel estranged from the cultural practices that would otherwise tie them to that place.

The course also focuses on how cultural flows and interactions as well as multiple encounters with different cultural practices produce cosmopolitan places and spaces. The course also pays attention to the tensions that may arise when cosmopolitan aspirations encounter anti-cosmopolitan tendencies, in the form of fundamentalisms, the insistence upon closed identities and the erection of 'insider/outsider' boundaries of inclusion and exclusions.

The course provides an overview of the history of cosmopolitanism beginning with its origins in Ancient Greece, followed by a revival of the concept in European Enlightenment thought and ending with an exploration of the ways the concept has been re-worked and re-theorized in contemporary times. The course emphasizes the plural 'cosmopolitanisms' to signal the multiple ways in which the concept is deployed. Thus a variety of terms such as 'critical cosmopolitanism,' 'discrepant cosmopolitanisms,' and 'rooted cosmopolitanism' are drawn from the literature to describe the diversity of social relationships and configurations that the concept subsumes.

Course objectives may be summarized as follows: to explore and examine the history of cosmopolitanism; to apply cosmopolitanism as a conceptual and analytical tool in reviews and examinations of selected ethnographic and literary sources; to describe and explain how cosmopolitanism as a working concept contributes to anthropological concerns with culture and identity under conditions of globalization; to explain the merits and/or demerits of cosmopolitanism as a concept for thinking beyond multiculturalism.

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