Cosmopolitanism in the Modern Social Imaginary

Over at the SSRC, Craig Calhoun on cosmopolitanism (part 1 of 3):

Eritreans settled in the US also found old friends, sometimes former comrades in arms and often distant relatives. They too inhabited a global world. And in fact the Eritreans successful in navigating the maze of international organizations and national governments to reach Europe or the US were generally the more cosmopolitan among the migrants. They knew of far flung events and appreciated cultural difference. They followed world news, were more educated than their fellow-nationals, had more experience of cities and complex organizations. But they were less prone than the Western aid workers they met to think of globalization as a matter of nations fading into a borderless world. The refugees made connections across long distances but they recognized these as particular, specific connections and didn’t confuse them for unambiguous tokens of a universalistic type: global connections.

Common approaches to the idea of cosmopolitanism encourage people like Vaughan and me to confuse the privileged specificity of our mobility for universality. It is easy for the privileged to imagine that their experience of global mobility and connection is available to all, if only everyone would “be” cosmopolitan…