The Nigerian and West African practice of aso ebi fashion invokes notions of wealth and group dynamics in social gatherings. Okechukwu Nwafor’s volume Aso ebi investigates the practice in the cosmopolitan urban setting of Lagos, and argues that the visual and consumerist hype typical of the late capitalist system feeds this unique fashion practice. The book suggests that dress, fashion, aso ebi, and photography engender a new visual culture that largely reflects the economics of mundane living. Nwafor examines the practice’s societal dilemma, whereby the solidarity of aso ebi is dismissed by many as an ephemeral transaction. A circuitous transaction among photographers, fashion magazine producers, textile merchants, tailors, and individual fashionistas reinvents aso ebi as a product of cosmopolitan urban modernity. The results are a fetishization of various forms of commodity culture, personality cults through mass followership, the negotiation of symbolic power through mass-produced images, exchange value in human relationships through gifts, and a form of exclusion achieved through digital photo editing. Aso ebi has become an essential part of Lagos cosmopolitanism: as a rising form of a unique visual culture it is central to the unprecedented spread of a unique West African fashion style that revels in excessive textile overflow. This extreme dress style is what an individual requires to transcend the lack imposed by the chaos of the postcolonial city.
From every quarter we hear of a new global culture, postcolonial, hybrid, announcing the death of nationalism, the arrival of cosmopolitanism. But under the drumbeat attending this trend, Timothy Brennan detects another, altogether different sound. Polemical, passionate, certain to provoke, his book exposes the drama being played out under the guise of globalism. A bracing critique of the critical self-indulgence that calls itself cosmopolitanism, it also takes note of the many countervailing forces acting against globalism in its facile, homogenizing sense.The developments Brennan traces occur in many places--editorial pages, policy journals, corporate training manuals, and, primarily, in the arts. His subject takes him from George Orwell to Julia Kristeva, from Subcommandante Marcos to Julio Cortázar, from Ernst Bloch to contemporary apologists for transnational capitalism and "liberation management," from "third world" writing to the Nobel Prize, with little of critical theory or cultural studies left untouched in between. Brennan gives extended treatment to two exemplary figures: the Trinidadian writer C. L. R. James, whose work suggests an alternative approach to cultural studies; and the Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier, whose appreciation of Cuban popular music cuts through the usual distinctions between mass and elite culture.A critical call to arms, At Home in the World summons intellectuals and scholars to reinvigorate critical cultural studies. In stripping the false and heedless from the new cosmopolitanism, Brennan revitalizes the idea.
In this follow up to their widely read earlier volume, The Trouble with Community, Vered Amit and Nigel Rapport ask: 'Do notions of community remain central to our sense of who we are, in the dislocating context of globalization, or can we see beyond community closures to a human whole?'
This volume explores the variable nature of contemporary sociality. It focuses on the ethical, organizational and emotional claims and opportunities sought or fashioned for mobilizing and evading social collectivities in a world of mobile subjects. Here is an examination of the tensions and interactions between everyday forms of fluid fellowship, culturally normative claims to identity, and opportunities for realizing a universal humanity.
The book offers a new perspective on human commonality through a dialogue between two eminent anthropologists who come from distinct, but complementary positions.
“Profound, beautifully written, and inspiring. It proves that Nussbaum deserves her reputation as one of the greatest modern philosophers.”—Globe and Mail“At a time of growing national chauvinism, Martha Nussbaum’s excellent restatement of the cosmopolitan tradition is a welcome and much-needed contribution…Illuminating and thought-provoking.”—Times Higher EducationThe cosmopolitan political tradition in Western thought begins with the Greek Cynic Diogenes, who, when asked where he came from, said he was a citizen of the world. Rather than declare his lineage, social class, or gender, he defined himself as a human being, implicitly asserting the equal worth of all human beings.Martha Nussbaum pursues this “noble but flawed” vision and confronts its inherent tensions. The insight that politics ought to treat human beings both as equal and as having a worth beyond price is responsible for much that is fine in the modern Western political imagination. Yet given the global prevalence of material want, the conflicting beliefs of a pluralistic society, and the challenge of mass migration and asylum seekers, what political principles should we endorse? The Cosmopolitan Tradition urges us to focus on the humanity we share rather than on what divides us.“Lucid and accessible…In an age of resurgent nationalism, a study of the idea and ideals of cosmopolitanism is remarkably timely.”—Ryan Patrick Hanley, Journal of the History of Philosophy
Contributors. Ackbar Abbas, Arjun Appadurai, Homi K. Bhabha, T. K. Biaya, Carol A. Breckenridge, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Ousame Ndiaye Dago, Mamadou Diouf, Wu Hung, Walter D. Mignolo, Sheldon Pollock, Steven Randall
Since the colonial era, Mexican art has emerged from an ongoing process of negotiation between the local and the global, which frequently involves invention, synthesis, and transformation of diverse discursive and artistic traditions. In this pathfinding book, María Fernández uses the concept of cosmopolitanism to explore this important aspect of Mexican art, in which visual culture and power relations unite the local and the global, the national and the international, the universal and the particular. She argues that in Mexico, as in other colonized regions, colonization constructed power dynamics and forms of violence that persisted in the independent nation-state. Accordingly, Fernández presents not only the visual qualities of objects, but also the discourses, ideas, desires, and practices that are fundamental to the very existence of visual objects.
Fernández organizes episodes in the history of Mexican art and architecture, ranging from the seventeenth century to the end of the twentieth century, around the consistent but unacknowledged historical theme of cosmopolitanism, allowing readers to discern relationships among various historical periods and works that are new and yet simultaneously dependent on their predecessors. She uses case studies of art and architecture produced in response to government commissions to demonstrate that established visual forms and meanings in Mexican art reflect and inform desires, expectations, memories, and ways of being in the world—in short, that visual culture and cosmopolitanism are fundamental to processes of subjectification and identity.
Interrogating current theories of cosmopolitanism, nationalism, and aesthetics in Postcolonial Studies, Decentering Rushdie offers a new perspective on the Indian novel in English. Since Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children won the Booker Prize in 1981, its postmodern style and postnational politics have dominated discussions of postcolonial literature. As a result, the rich variety of narrative forms and perspectives on the nation that constitute the field have been obscured, if not erased altogether.
Drawing on her research over the past two decades among urban residents and rural migrants in Hangzhou and Beijing, Rofel analyzes the meanings that individuals attach to various public cultural phenomena and what their interpretations say about their understandings of post-socialist China and their roles within it. She locates the first broad-based public debate about post-Mao social changes in the passionate dialogues about the popular 1991 television soap opera Yearnings. She describes how the emergence of gay identities and practices in China reveals connections to a transnational network of lesbians and gay men at the same time that it brings urban/rural and class divisions to the fore. The 1999–2001 negotiations over China’s entry into the World Trade Organization; a controversial women’s museum; the ways that young single women portray their longings in relation to the privations they imagine their mothers experienced; adjudications of the limits of self-interest in court cases related to homoerotic desire, intellectual property, and consumer fraud—Rofel reveals all of these as sites where desiring subjects come into being.
Historical work on the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries suggests that as nation-states were solidifying throughout Western Europe, exiled groups tended to develop rival national identities—an occurrence that had been fairly uncommon in the two preceding centuries. Diaspora Identities draws on eight case studies, ranging from the early modern period through the twentieth century, to explore the interconnectedness of exile, nationalism, and cosmopolitanism as concepts, ideals, attitudes, and strategies among diasporic groups.
Joseph considers New York's relation to the water that surrounds and defines it. Her reflections reach back to the city's heyday as a world-class port—a past embodied in a Dutch East India Company cannon recently unearthed from the rubble at the World Trade Center site—and they encompass the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. They suggest that New York's future lies in the reclamation of its great water resources—for artistic creativity, civic engagement, and ecological sustainability.
In the early sixteenth century, the monk Filofei proclaimed Moscow the “Third Rome.” By the 1930s, intellectuals and artists all over the world thought of Moscow as a mecca of secular enlightenment. In Moscow, the Fourth Rome, Katerina Clark shows how Soviet officials and intellectuals, in seeking to capture the imagination of leftist and anti-fascist intellectuals throughout the world, sought to establish their capital as the cosmopolitan center of a post-Christian confederation and to rebuild it to become a beacon for the rest of the world.Clark provides an interpretative cultural history of the city during the crucial 1930s, the decade of the Great Purge. She draws on the work of intellectuals such as Sergei Eisenstein, Sergei Tretiakov, Mikhail Koltsov, and Ilya Ehrenburg to shed light on the singular Zeitgeist of that most Stalinist of periods. In her account, the decade emerges as an important moment in the prehistory of key concepts in literary and cultural studies today—transnationalism, cosmopolitanism, and world literature. By bringing to light neglected antecedents, she provides a new polemical and political context for understanding canonical works of writers such as Brecht, Benjamin, Lukacs, and Bakhtin.Moscow, the Fourth Rome breaches the intellectual iron curtain that has circumscribed cultural histories of Stalinist Russia, by broadening the framework to include considerable interaction with Western intellectuals and trends. Its integration of the understudied international dimension into the interpretation of Soviet culture remedies misunderstandings of the world-historical significance of Moscow under Stalin.
Muslim Cosmopolitanism in the Age of Empire recovers the stories of five Indian Muslim scholars who, in the aftermath of the uprising of 1857, were hunted by British authorities, fled their homes in India for such destinations as Cairo, Mecca, and Istanbul, and became active participants in a flourishing pan-Islamic intellectual network at the cusp of the British and Ottoman empires. Seema Alavi traces this network, born in the age of empire, which became the basis of a global Muslim sensibility—a form of political and cultural affiliation that competes with ideas of nationhood today as it did in the previous century.By demonstrating that these Muslim networks depended on European empires and that their sensibility was shaped by the West in many subtle ways, Alavi challenges the idea that all pan-Islamic configurations are anti-Western or pro-Caliphate. Indeed, Western imperial hegemony empowered the very inter-Asian Muslim connections that went on to outlive European empires. Diverging from the medieval idea of the umma, this new cosmopolitan community stressed consensus in matters of belief, ritual, and devotion and found inspiration in the liberal reforms then gaining traction in the Ottoman world. Alavi breaks new ground in the writing of nineteenth-century history by engaging equally with the South Asian and Ottoman worlds, and by telling a non-Eurocentric story of global modernity without overlooking the importance of the British Empire.
Despite being told that we now live in a cosmopolitan world, more and more people have begun to assert their identities in ways that are deeply rooted in the local. These claims of autochthony—meaning “born from the soil”—seek to establish an irrefutable, primordial right to belong and are often employed in politically charged attempts to exclude outsiders. In The Perils of Belonging, Peter Geschiere traces the concept of autochthony back to the classical period and incisively explores the idea in two very different contexts: Cameroon and the Netherlands.
In both countries, the momentous economic and political changes following the end of the cold war fostered anxiety over migration. For Cameroonians, the question of who belongs where rises to the fore in political struggles between different tribes, while the Dutch invoke autochthony in fierce debates over the integration of immigrants. This fascinating comparative perspective allows Geschiere to examine the emotional appeal of autochthony—as well as its dubious historical basis—and to shed light on a range of important issues, such as multiculturalism, national citizenship, and migration.
Under these conditions, cosmopolitanism in the traditional sense—primary loyalty to the good of humanity as a whole, even if it conflicts with loyalty to the interests of one's own nation—becomes a necessary resource in the struggle against military aggression. To what extent does the "new" cosmopolitanism also include or support this "old" cosmopolitanism? In an attempt to answer this question, Robbins engages with such thinkers as Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Anthony Appiah, Immanuel Wallerstein, Louis Menand, W. G. Sebald, and Slavoj Zizek. The paradoxes of detachment and belonging they embody, he argues, can help define the tasks of American intellectuals in an era when the first duty of the cosmopolitan is to resist the military aggression perpetrated by his or her own country.
In a beautifully crafted narrative that transports the reader from the salons of Europe to the shores of Tahiti, Harry Liebersohn examines the transformation of global knowledge during the great age of scientific exploration. He moves beyond the traditional focus on British and French travelers to include Germans, Russians, and some Americans, as well as the Tahitian, Hawaiian, and other Pacific islanders they encountered. Germany gets special attention because its travelers epitomized the era’s cosmopolitanism and its philosophers engaged most fully in a multicultural understanding of humanity.Famous adventurers like Captain Cook make appearances, but it’s the observations of such naturalists as Philibert Commerson, George Forster, and Adelbert von Chamisso that helped most to generate a new understanding of these far-flung societies. These European travelers saw non-Europeans neither as “savages” nor as projections of colonial fantasies. Instead the explorers accumulated a rich storehouse of perceptions through negotiations with patrons at home, collaborators abroad, salon philosophers, and missionary rivals.Liebersohn illuminates the transformative nature of human connections. He examines the expectations these servants of empire brought to the peoples they encountered, and acknowledges the effects of Oceanian behaviors, including unexpected notions of sexuality, on the Europeans. Equally important, he details the reception of these travelers upon their return home.An unforgettable voyage filled with delightful characters, dramatic encounters, and rich cultural details, The Travelers’ World heralds a moment of intellectual preparation for the modern global era. We now travel effortlessly to distant places, but the questions about perception, truth, and knowledge that these intercontinental mediators faced still resonate.
The scope and complexity of the encounter with Europe in Victorian poetry remains largely underappreciated despite recent critical attention to the genre’s global and transnational contexts. Providing much more than colorful settings or a convenient place of self-exile from England, Europe—as destination and idea—formed the basis of a dynamic, evolving form of critical cosmopolitanism much in tune with attempts to theorize the concept today. Christopher M. Keirstead’s Victorian Poetry, Europe, and the Challenge of Cosmopolitanism synthesizes the complex relationship between several notable Victorian poets, including Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, Matthew Arnold, and A. C. Swinburne, and their respective attitudes toward Europe as a cosmopolitan whole. Examining their international relationships and experiences, the monograph explores the ways in which these poets worked to reconcile their emotional and intellectual affinity for world citizenship with their British identity.
India’s 1997 celebration of the Golden Jubilee marked fifty years of independence from British colonial rule. This anniversary is the impetus for Bishnupriya Ghosh’s exploration of the English language icons of South Asian post-colonial literature: Salman Rushdie, Vikram Chandra, Amitav Ghosh, Upamanyu Chatterjee, and Arundhati Roy. These authors, grouped together as South Asian cosmopolitical writers, produce work challenging and expanding preconceived notions of Indian cultural identity, while being sold simultaneously as popular English literature within the global market. This commodification of Indian language and identity reinforces incomplete and simplified images of India and its writers, and at times counteracts the expressed agenda of the writers. In When Borne Across, Ghosh focuses on the politics of language and history, and the related processes of translation and migration within the global network. In so doing, she develops a new approach to literary studies that adapts conventional literary analysis to the pressures, constraints, and liberties of our present era of globalization.
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