ASA06: Cosmopolitanism and Anthropology
Can one be a cosmopolitan in one’s own country? Conversely, can one be a cosmopolitan without being rooted in a particular place, country or culture? Social anthropologists are particularly well-placed to study cosmopolitans in developing countries, in marginal locations away from the metropolitan center.
Travel to distant places and cultures and the comparative study of society and culture epitomize social anthropological practice. But is modern social anthropology a cosmopolitan discipline or is it merely a new form of (colonial and postcolonial) domination?
Cosmopolitanism is often dismissed as merely a liberal aspiration of well-to-do westerners. But social anthropological research highlights the way cosmopolitan ideas and ideals permeate the struggles of women and indigenous minorities in developing countries, well beyond these elite circles.
Global ideologies often claim to be cosmopolitan while being highly contested and often exclusive, so that they create new boundaries around emergent transnational communities. The panel will consider to what extent human rights, Islam and Christianity, whose reach is global, are also cosmopolitan.
Cosmopolitanism often emerges in sites of cultural and ethnic pluralism, in cities and factories. This is where new cosmopolitan cultures may be formed, but also where animosity towards strangers can threaten emergent cosmopolitan cultures.
Alan MacFarlane, University of Cambridge:
Open Debate on Robert Hayden’s ‘Shared Shrines, Syncretism and Tolerance’
Religious shrines have often been multi-ethnic sites of cosmopolitan
tolerance. This debate kicked off around an article by Robert Hayden in
Current Anthropology. Click here to download and read Robert's
Current Anthropology paper.
Chair: Glenn Bowman