Cosmopolitanism and the Literary Imagination

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Beck , 4 For Beck, a structural change has fundamentally altered the status of cosmo- politanism. As traditionally theorized, cosmopolitanism is a disruptive stance which entails the rejection—for better or for worse—of some narrower and seemingly more natural loyalty. A cos- mopolitan is therefore a disruptive figure always opposed to the conventional ways in which individuals and institutions manage social relations.

However, a key part of the cosmopolitan equation has shifted in recent decades. This is a long-standing anti-cosmopolitan argument. Nowadays, however, such arguments have become more difficult to make as the ratio of local to global in our lives has changed. One no longer has to overcome the limitations of the local to engage with the far-off stranger: the stranger is already here.

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While we may not all subscribe to the values of cosmopolitanism—as amply demonstrated by the recent triumphs of xen- ophobic political agendas—we are, in practical terms, increasingly citizens of the world: for many of us, interaction with those with whom we share little in terms of origin, culture, and language is a daily affair. In other words, as a doctrine and an ethical attitude, cosmopolitanism has always proceeded from the assumption that reality is not cosmopolitan.

However, we now live in something akin to a prison-house of cosmopolitanism: no longer a choice or an aspiration, but a limiting condition, a compulsory order of things to which we are all conscripted. Theorizing Cosmopolitanism How do we think about cosmopolitanism when it is no longer a utopian possibility that lies beyond the limiting horizon of a national culture but a limiting condition in its own right? To speak of cosmopolitan- ism now is increasingly to speak about the world as it is and to attend to various justifications and critiques of its present condition.

The omnipresence of cosmopolitanism, along with the complex dynamic of celebration and radical questioning, has led to a theoretical recalibra- tion, which is particularly evident in the numerous attempts over the last two decades to move away from the European traditions of Stoicism and Kantianism to explore multiple, alternative, and non-Western models of cosmopolitanism.

The collection Cosmopolitanism exemplifies this paradigm shift. Privi- leging observation over judgment, cosmopolitanism in the plural is neither evaluative nor normative.

Yet Chakrabarty argues that Marx also makes room for another kind of history, one that consists of nonabstract, embedded activities that do not contribute to capitalist production. It is only by attending to History 2s that we can appreciate the diversity of human practices and social formations. However, one might ask, how is difference perceived, recognized, and articulated? What are the mediating factors and apparatuses through which one differentiates History 1 from History 2s?

What are the material and epistemological conditions that make History 2s visible to scholars and tourists? Chakrabarty is curiously silent on these questions. It gives us a ground on which to situate our thoughts about multiple ways of being human and their relationship to the global logic of capital. He is not alone in that regard.

But then, how do those infinite ways of being come to be recognized as cosmopolitan? Like Chakrabarty, Craig Calhoun emphasizes the centrality of belong- ing in cosmopolitan thought. Appiah synthesizes old and new theories of cosmopolitanism by arguing that cultural attachments and allegiances may not conflict with ethical obligations to distant strangers. One can be a pa- triot as well as a citizen of the world. What we want to highlight is that critical skepticism about normative cosmopolitanism often leads to an investment in belonging and embeddedness.

Yet this dichotomy of universalist detachment and particu- laristic attachment occludes their mutual contingency on highly specific historical and material conditions. Can we really speak of cosmopolitanism in strictly descriptive terms without appealing to some normative ground?

What is it exactly that makes them interesting, makes them valuable? To put this another way: can we really separate the new from the old, the plural from the singular? However, if normativity is in some way inescapable, it is not without its problems. This becomes particularly apparent when we look at how the concept of cosmopolitanism has been deployed in literary studies since Cyrus R.

Literature is a tool for advanc- ing this perspective. Any unilateral declaration or pursuit of cosmopolitanism, however well-intentioned, is no cosmopolitanism at all. Schoene , 5 Like Patell, Schoene is interested in how literature pursues cosmopolitan aspirations. These versions of normative cosmopolitanism often come with the val- orization of certain aesthetic practices.

Cosmopolitanism and the Literary Imagination

Each of these accounts endorses a version of cosmopolitanism, which it then goes on to trace through a particular literary archive. Our project in this collection therefore faces a dual challenge: how do we take into account the transformation of cosmopolitanism into a practical reality without losing sight of its normative aspects, and how do we speak of cosmopolitanism in contemporary literature without merely tracing a certain version of cosmo- politan commitment through a predefined literary archive?

The Question of Limits The essays in this collection turn to contemporary literary fiction as the main site of analysis. The current production and circulation of fiction on the global scale harbors a paradox: the fact that literature remains one of the most language- and culture-specific art forms also means that it can acutely register the tensions and impasses in the prison-house of cosmo- politanism. Nowadays, one widely accepted benchmark for literary greatness is the number of languages a work has been translated into.

While Parks laments the irreversible trend of globalism, others have defended it. This information is used to ensure our website is operating properly, to uncover or investigate any errors, and is deleted within 72 hours. In the case of all users, we reserve the right to attempt to identify and track any individual who is reasonably suspected of trying to gain unauthorized access to computer systems or resources operating as part of our web services. Your information, whether public or private, will not be sold, exchanged, transferred, or given to any other company for any reason whatsoever, without your consent, other than for the express purpose of delivering the purchased product or service requested.

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Buy Hardcover. Buy Softcover. FAQ Policy. About this book Through contemporary theories of cosmopolitanism and analyses of literary texts such as Heart of Darkness, Lilith's Brood, and Moby-Dick, this book explores the cosmopolitan impulses behind the literary imagination. Show all.