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Education in a cosmopolitian society

Education in a cosmopolitian society
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the readings are Reading Sobe, N. W. (2009). Rethinking “cosmopolitanism” as an analytic for the comparative study of globalization and education. Current Issues in Comparative Education, 12(1), 6-13.
Reading Rizvi, F. (2006). Towards cosmopolitan learning. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 30(3), 253-268.
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Rethinking ‘Cosmopolitanism’ as an Analytic for the
Comparative Study of Globalization and Education
Noah W. Sobe
Loyola University Chicago
This article proposes that for scholars in comparative and international education the study of
“cosmpolitanisms” offers a productive avenue for thinking outside of the traditional paradigms of
area studies and for understanding the new world-generating optics and multi-layered geographies
that appear to be emerging with globalization.  The piece explores the concept of “vernacular
cosmopolitanisms” and discusses recent scholarship – on 21st century American education and on
early-20th-century Yugoslav education – that have used cosmopolitanism as an analytic category.
The article argues that studying actually, existing cosmopolitanisms is a useful strategy for
examining the ways that solidarities are formed, identities are developed, and principles of inclusion
and exclusion are elaborated amidst local and global assemblages.
ne of the key analytic challenges that globalization presents is the need to develop social
science research strategies appropriate to understanding emergent social, political and
cultural forms. In this article I argue that the study of cosmopolitanisms offers a productive
avenue for thinking outside of the traditional paradigms of area studies and for understanding
the new world-generating optics and multi-layered geographies that appear to be emerging
with globalization. These new, often non-territorial configurations bring people, knowledge,
institutions, and objects together in novel and sometimes surprising assemblages. These are the
social spaces within which educational issues increasingly take their shape, thus prompting a
need for comparative education researchers to rethink their methods and conceptual tools. My
suggestion is that one strategy (among numerous possibilities) to address this situation is to take
up the study of ‘cosmopolitanisms.’
I am not suggesting that scholars of comparative and international education examine the various
ways that cosmopolitanism as an intellectual ethic descends from European Enlightenment
and earlier thinkers – where it is typically seen as a paradigmatic alternative to the national
organization of civic/political allegiances. Instead, I suggest that we turn our gaze to actually
existing cosmopolitanisms and focus on a variety of actually existing practical stances. Following
an argument advanced by Ifeoma Kiddoe Nwankwo (2005), I would maintain that the term
“transnationalism” – while useful for referring generally to movements that cross national
boundaries – is inadequate for describing the positioning of self and community amidst local and
global assemblages that we can get a purchase on by making use of the concept of cosmopolitanism.
I would propose that we can think, for example, about “vernacular cosmopolitanisms” such as
“Islamic cosmopolitanism,” “Chinese cosmopolitanism,” and “Slavic cosmopolitanism.” Each
instance is homologous in that each cosmopolitanism involves a historically specific set of
techniques for living and forming solidarities outside the local, as well as strategies for knowing
forms of belonging connected with estrangement, displacement, and/or distance from the
immediate local.
While the global diffusion of images and media is often credited with opening up the potential of a
“global imagination,” too often the role of schooling is overlooked in this and similar processes. In
numerous settings around the globe, cosmopolitan dispositions and commitments are thoroughly
© 2009 Current Issues in Comparative Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Current Issues in Comparative Education, Vol. 12(1): 6-13.
Rethinking ‘Cosmopolitanism’
enmeshed in the curricular and pedagogic practices of modern schooling. This is not to make the
argument that cosmopolitanisms are structurally part of any “grammar” of schooling. Rather,
it is to suggest that researchers of comparative and international education might productively
focus on the culturally and historically varying ways in which schools produce versions of the
cosmopolitan child as a future citizen. At the same time, attention must be paid to its opposite,
the future citizen who is trapped in circuits of exclusion for not being sufficiently progressive,
worldly, and global-minded.
Vernacular and Actually Existing Cosmopolitanisms
My purpose here is not to advocate for cosmopolitan orientations or to contribute to any emerging
consensus that curricula and schools ought to be more cosmopolitan. In the conclusion of this
piece I will take up the question of what positive, normative vision is embedded in the research
strategy I am proposing. However, the first order of business is to elaborate on what is meant by
the concept of “actually existing cosmopolitanisms” and to provide a definition of the seemingly
oxymoronic concept of a “vernacular cosmopolitanism.”
The proposition that we can loosen cosmopolitanism from its Kantian and European Enlightenment
moorings has a number of analytic implications. One of these is to locate the present project
in scholarly circles, which maintain that universals are inevitably articulated from particular
perspectives. This can be advanced as at once an epistemological and an empirical argument,
noteworthy versions of which are becoming increasingly prevalent in anthropological circles
(Geertz, 2000; Shweder, 1989). In this intellectual paradigm, one of the challenges of analysis is
to understand how ’particular‘ systems of reasoning come to appear as ’universal.’ A second
implication is that what I am proposing here can be seen as allied with the ’provincializing Europe‘
thrust of post-colonial studies. Dipesh Chakrabarty usefully points out that identifying European
universals as culturally-specific is not an adequate analysis – one must additionally seek to
document how such ’reason‘ has become ’obvious’ in the ways that it has (Chakrabarty, 1992, pp.
20-21; 2000, p. 43). This kind of post-colonial analysis denaturalizes concepts (e.g. ’citizenship‘,
’politics‘) that historically have been held to be abstractions that transcend boundaries of time
and place. One goal of this current of analysis would be to show these as ’provincial‘ projects that
are, in fact, bound by time and place. For example, when Immanuel Kant was proposing a world
political community grounded in cosmopolitan right in the 1780s and 1790s, it is significant that
he was writing at a time of transition from feudal to capitalist modes of production. Kant argued
that increasingly globalized international commerce was the historical condition and an already
existing model for the cosmopolitical community he envisioned. Also worth noting – because so
much has been made of the cosmopolitan/national binary – is that Kant’s cosmopolitan project
was in fact presented in opposition not to nationalism but to statism, something that again speaks
to the particular political and social contexts in which ’Enlightenment cosmopolitanism‘ was
articulated (Cheah, 1998, pp. 22-27).
An influential piece on cosmopolitanism by Sheldon Pollock, Homi Bhabha, Carol Breckenridge
and Dipesh Chakrabarty (2000) proposes that it be considered a historical category “not pregiven or
foreclosed by the definition of any particular society or discourse” (Pollock, Bhabha, Breckenridge,
& Chakrabarty, 2000, pp. 577-578). The suggestion in their work is that we can productively think
of multiple cosmopolitanisms. Certainly, there are other scholars who would disagree with this
contention, for example by pointing to the continuity and integrity of certain key elements (for
example, having to do with membership and identity) as they develop in a body of texts whose
authors were in conversation with one another (see, e.g., Pagden, 2000). All the same, the position
taken in this article is that the social fields in which we can examine cosmopolitanism are enough
Current Issues in Comparative Education 7
N. Sobe
crowded, disjointed, and episodic as to preclude a single intellectual genealogy.
The proposal here is that regardless of whether the term ’cosmopolitan‘ is used in particular
settings or not, there are instances in which it is a useful analytic descriptor for research purposes.
In this, I am concerning myself less with an “institutionalized system of cosmopolitan governance”
and more with “cosmopolitan attitudes,” or, put differently, “cosmopolitanism as a way of being
in the world” (Appiah, 2006; Waldron, 1995). This is also to speak of cosmopolitanism more in
its cultural and civic dimensions. In this vein, I would propose that it can be useful to stipulate
two key features that might allow comparative education researchers to “recognize” a vernacular
1. Viewed as a question of identity and identity formation, a cosmopolitanism concerns
self-definition in relation to and in relationship with the world beyond one’s immediate
local conditions.
2. Viewed as a form of political action, a cosmopolitanism can be seen as a strategy for
locating self and community amidst local and global formations.
Cosmopolitanism in Relation to Schooling
As the previous discussion starts to suggest, concepts of cosmopolitanism ricochet around
academic literature these days. Above I have discussed what one might mean by a ’vernacular
cosmopolitanism;’ in this section I elaborate on the ways that cosmopolitanisms figure as
educational questions.
There is, appropriately, a normative way of interrogating cosmopolitanism in political philosophy
that looks, for example, at categories and definitions of world citizenship, universality, human
rights and the like. Notions of cosmopolitanism are also used by scholars such as David Held
(1995) to examine the idea of a global democracy based on liberal conceptions of human rights.
Martha Nussbaum (1996) has perhaps done the most significant work in translating this kind of
discourse into concrete educational recommendations and visions. She makes strong arguments for
educating children with a sense of world citizenship and an allegiance to a global humanity; and,
she has proposed humanities-based curricular projects designed to nurture ideal, cosmopolitan
citizens who can rise above their national patriotisms. Nussbaum’s challenge has been taken
up by a number of educational theorists (see, e.g., Donald, 2007; Hansen, 2008; Papastephanou,
In the post-9/11 environment, the possibilities of normative cosmopolitanism have shifted in some
intriguing ways. Katharyne Mitchell (2007) has pointed out that former US President George W.
Bush embraced international education programs within a cosmopolitan idiom that emphasizes
communicating with and understanding others who are different from ourselves. With programs
such as the National Strategic Language Initiative, we are seeing the emergence of what Mitchell
usefully terms “strategic cosmopolitanism” – or, “cosmopolitan learning in service of the national
interest” (p. 709). Strategic cosmopolitanism extends beyond the kinds of “global competencies”
that the US Department of Defense prizes and of which it is in desperate need. It also intersects
with a neoliberal vision where learning about others is less for purposes of multicultural tolerance
and more motivated by ideas of ’global competitiveness‘ and the need to fashion individuals who
can rapidly adapt to shifting national and international contexts (Mitchell, 2003).
Nussbaum’s cosmopolitanism (which can be referred to as an ethical cosmopolitanism) follows
8 Current Issues in Comparative Education
Rethinking ‘Cosmopolitanism’
in the Kantian tradition of articulating a “regulative ideal” – a governing principle that sets forth
an absolute ideal of the good (Stoddard & Cornwell, 2003). In an analogous manner, neoliberal
strategic cosmopolitanism in the US is regulative in its ambition to specify sets of proper individual
behaviors, dispositions, and proficiencies. Over the past several years, this ’regulative‘ dimension
of cosmopolitanism has been seized up on by a group of educational researchers who analyze
cosmopolitan educational imperatives as a form of ’governmentality‘ (e.g., Hultqvist & Dahlberg,
2001; Popkewitz, Olsson, & Petersson, 2006). As is well known, the term was coined by the
French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault (1978 / 2000) to describe a terrain of analysis
that centered on the arts of governing. In the simplest terms, governmentality refers to the way
techniques of governing become enshrined in modes of thought. To examine cosmopolitanism
in this manner is to examine a set of practices and rationalities that far exceeds the boundaries
of institutions and political philosophies and extends well into the social administration of
individuals, families and communities. Popkewitz, Olsson and Petersson (2006) state that they,
are interested in the rules and standards of conduct in producing the selfgoverning actors who are simultaneously responsible for the social progress and
for … personal fulfillment. (p. 433)
They then propose that,
Cosmopolitanism … provides a way to examine the system of reason that regulates,
differentiates and divides the acts and participation of the child in the name of
universal human principles such as the Learning Society. (p. 433)
For these scholars, then, cosmopolitanism goes beyond attachment to things non-local; it references
the principles and norms that are bound up in how children are taught to think about humanness
in local and global dimensions.
Two Instances of Governing Cosmopolitanisms
To illustrate the ways that comparative education scholars can analyze particular, actual
cosmopolitanisms I will discuss two instances of the culturally and historically varying ways
that schools seek to produce a cosmopolitan child as a future citizen. The first draws on my
own historical scholarship on the particular notions of worldliness and extra-local forms of
self- identification that Yugoslav schools sought to produce in the 1920s and 1930s. The second
example is of the “new cosmopolitanism” that is being expressed in contemporary American
educational reform through the vision of – and the work done to create – “lifelong learners.”
Here I rely on scholarship by Thomas Popkewitz who proposes that the “universalization” of
this new mode of cosmopolitanism creates a schema for exclusion and disablement even as it
valorizes inclusiveness and participation.
Yugoslavia came into existence with the territorial reorganizations that accompanied the end of
the First World War. With political sovereignty came the mandate to fabricate “Yugoslavs” through
a unified school system. The Yugoslav project was frequently attached to a larger project of Slavic
integration and notions of Pan-Slavism circulated widely. In a recent book (Sobe, 2008) I have
argued that for Yugoslavs in the interwar era, the “Slavic world” served as a space for cosmopolitan
identity work to such an extent that it is appropriate to discuss “Slavic cosmopolitanism” as one
of the important regulative ideals circulating in and through the educational system.
Current Issues in Comparative Education 9
N. Sobe
In the 1920s and 1930s Czechoslovakia was the most important reference point for Yugoslavs
actively seeking to modernize social institutions and cultural behaviors. Both Yugoslav teachers
and students traveled to Czechoslovakia in significant numbers, “importing” lessons and
bringing examples back home that – on the basis of notions about Slavic kinship, coevality, and
reciprocity (uzajamnost) – were seen as uniquely appropriate for the Yugoslav context/project
(Sobe, 2005a, 2005b, 2006). This practice of using Czechoslovakia to think about “modern” modes
of living and social organization extended into the Yugoslav school through curricular mandates
that valorized Czechoslovak “heroes” such as Jan Hus and Tomas Masaryk. Yugoslav children
were also to take part in celebrating Czechoslovak national holidays and to participate in a form
of Slavic gymnastics (“sokoling”) that had been pioneered in Prague. Yugoslavia’s attraction to
Czechoslovakia was part of envisioning a Slavic world and forms of belonging that exceeded
and surpassed local conditions and local constraints. In an uncanny presaging of the educational
harmonization efforts underway in Europe at present, in 1927 a Yugoslav-Czechoslovak interparliamentary commission proposed that school laws and regulations in the two countries be
coordinated, diplomas be recognized, and Czechoslovak and Yugoslav students be permitted to
study freely in one another’s countries at both the tertiary and secondary level. To be sure, this
vision of Slavic integration and cooperation was never realized to the extent for which it was
called. Nonetheless, it helps to illustrate the “cosmopolitical” significance of interwar Yugoslavia’s
“Slavic” interests and activities.
The Slavic cosmopolitanism that can be seen in Yugoslavia in the 1920s and 1930s is very clearly a
vernacular cosmopolitanism. It was, to use Arjun Appaduri’s words, “a world-generating optic”
(2000, p. 8). While the world that was being envisioned did not encompass the terrestrial globe, it
did propose its own form of universal reason and locate self and community betwixt and between
local and global formations. And, it did specify a host of behaviors, dispositions and modes of
thought that were considered ’proper‘ for the ideal Yugoslav. At the same time, those who were
able to properly attach themselves to this social world in formation were disqualified, excluded
and pathologized as outside the realm of the reasonable. In interwar Yugoslavia, the list of those
who were deemed not ’worldly‘ enough could include strident ethnic nationalists, Roma, and the
tradition-bounded peasantry.
Looking at a substantially different setting, Thomas Popkewitz in a 2008 book discusses the
“new cosmopolitanism” that has begun to emerge in the United States at the beginning of the
21st century. This new cosmopolitan “is spoken about in universal terms” and is manifested as
“the lifelong learner who acts as the global citizen” (p. 112). In Popkewitz’s account, this new
cosmopolitanism is saturated with myths of participation and inclusion that help to undergird
its pretensions to universality. He points to the rhetoric of the 2002 “No Child Left Behind”
(NCLB) legislation as creating “a space of mystical participation in a common good that, in fact,
differentiates and divides” (p. 112). In Popkewitz’s argument, the “inclusionary project” that is
carried out through NCLB and numerous other contemporary American educational initiatives
postulates an ’all children‘ that is much more about sameness than diversity or difference. The
contemporary American child as a future citizen is to live in the mode of the lifelong learner
who possesses “self-responsibility in making choices, problem solves, works collaboratively, and
continually innovates” (p. 163). This mode of life is to be universalized and made open to “all.”
Yet, simultaneously, it becomes the standard against which ’all children‘ are measured, classified,
and differentiated.
The normalization of the characteristics of the ’lifelong learner‘ leads Popkewitz (2008) to refer
to the regulative cosmopolitanism that is entering the educational arena as one calibrated on
10 Current Issues in Comparative Education
Rethinking ‘Cosmopolitanism’
producing an “unfinished cosmopolitan.” The new cosmopolitanism is ’unfinished‘ because “the
lifelong learner lives in a continuous course of personal responsibility,” and inhabits a world
where “life is now thought of in segments of time where quick actions are required to meet the
challenges of new conditions and where nothing seems solid or stable” (p. 119). This contrasts
with the cosmopolitan vernacular that Popkewitz describes as prevalent in US educational circles
a century earlier. Early 20th-century American cosmopolitanism engineered the child to fix
problems and reduce uncertainty in the name of democratic ideals and within the social public
sphere (p. 45-109). In the early 21st century, the problem-solving individual has the capacity and
responsibility to work across multiple domains and within multiple kinds of “communities,”
none of which have clear sets of boundaries.
Contemporary “unfinished” American cosmopolitanism starkly contrasts with this earlier
American cosmopolitanism in its dividing and differentiating mechanisms. At the turn of the
20th century, individuals were organized in relation to a social whole that gained its definition
because of a given “national ethos” or on the basis of so-called “civilizational” values. These
formed the criteria that qualified and disqualified certain kinds of people. Increasingly, according
to Popkewitz (2008), divisions occur at a different level. Comparisons are made less and less
among people in terms of where they stand in relation to a quintessential ’American-ness‘ or
in relation to ’American values.’ Rather, Popkewitz argues that “comparativeness operates at
the micro level, related to the particular lifestyles, choices, and problem solving organized in
collaborative communities” (2008, p. 113). Here it is evident that in Popkewitz’s scholarship
’cosmopolitanism‘ captures a process of the globalization and universalization of categories and
forms of reason, in addition to indexing particular ways of being in the world.
In this piece I have tried to present an argument that looking at ’cosmopolitanisms‘ seems a wellmatched analytic tool for critically approaching the “collapsing of distances,” the broadening of
the “outlines of communities”, and the reframing of the sources of individual and social selves
that are claimed to accompany the globalization of today. In addition to looking at contemporary
instances, comparative education scholars can also productively examine different historical
instances of actually existing vernacular cosmopolitanisms.
As I stated at the outset, my purpose here has not been to advocate for or against any particular
kind of cosmopolitan orientation. Yet, I do take some inspiration from the late Jacques Derrida who
in a 1999 lecture before the International Parliament of Writers, and in reference to that group’s
efforts to create “cities of refuge,” asked the question: “where have we received the image of
cosmopolitanism from?” (2001, p. 3). Derrida included in his talk a discussion of cosmopolitanism
as it moves through Stoic, Pauline, and Kantian thought. Neither interwar Yugoslav Slavic
cosmopolitanism, nor new American unfinished cosmopolitanism fully completes the possible
range of images of cosmopolitanism that human societies have produced and are continuing to
produce. As the above examples illustrate, there is both danger and promise in cosmopolitanisms.
There is much more about cosmopolitanisms that comparative and international education
research can tell us.
Appadurai, A. (2000). Grassroots globalization. Public Culture, 12(1), 1-19.
Appiah, K. A. (2006). Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a world of strangers. New York: W. W. Norton.
Current Issues in Comparative Education 11
N. Sobe
Chakrabarty, D. (1992). Postcoloniality and the artifice of history: Who speaks for “Indian” pasts?
Representations, 37, 1-26.
Chakrabarty, D. (2000). Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial thought and historical difference. Princeton:
Princeton University Press.
Cheah, P. (1998). Introduction Part II : The Cosmopolitical – Today. In P. Cheah & B. Robbins
(Eds.), Cosmopolitics: Thinking and feeling beyond the nation (pp. 20-41). Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press.
Derrida, J. (2001). On cosmopolitanism and forgiveness. London ; New York: Routledge.
Donald, J. (2007). Internationalisation, diversity and the humanities curriculum: Cosmopolitanism
and multiculturalism revisited. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 41(3), 289-308.
Foucault, M. (1978 / 2000). Governmentality. In J. D. Faubion (Ed.), Essential Works of Michel
Foucault, Volume 3, Power (pp. 201-222). New York: New Press.
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to the strategic cosmopolitan. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 28, 387-403.
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Geography, 31(5), 706-720.
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Debating the limits of patriotism. Boston: Beacon Press.
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Rethinking ‘Cosmopolitanism’
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society by making the child. New York: Routledge.
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cosmopolitan, and governing education, public health and crime prevention at the beginning of
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Towards cosmopolitan learning
Fazal Rizvi
Department of Educational Policy Studies , University of Illinois ,
1310 S Sixth Street, Champaign, IL, 61820, USA
Published online: 30 Jun 2009.
To cite this article: Fazal Rizvi (2009) Towards cosmopolitan learning, Discourse: Studies in the
Cultural Politics of Education, 30:3, 253-268, DOI: 10.1080/01596300903036863
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01596300903036863
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Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education
Vol. 30, No. 3, September 2009, 253268
Towards cosmopolitan learning
Fazal Rizvi*
Downloaded by [University of Western Sydney Ward] at 13:15 12 January 2015
Department of Educational Policy Studies, University of Illinois, 1310 S Sixth Street,
Champaign, IL 61820, USA
In recent years, the idea of cosmopolitanism has variously been explored as a
political philosophy, a moral theory and a cultural disposition. In each of these
cases, this new interest in cosmopolitanism is based upon a recognition that our
world is increasingly interconnected and interdependent globally, and that most
of our problems are global in nature requiring global solutions. In this paper,
I argue that this recognition demands new resources of learning about how our
lives are becoming re-shaped by global processes and connections, and how we
might live with and steer the economic, political and cultural shifts that
contemporary forms of global connectivity represent. In the context of these
global shifts, learning itself needs to become cosmopolitan. This requires the
development of a new approach around the old idea of cosmopolitanism,
interpreting it not so much as a universal moral principle, nor as a prescription
recommending a particular form of political configuration nor indeed as a
transnational life-style but a mode of learning about, and ethically engaging
with, new social formations.
Keywords: cosmopolitanism; globalization; neoliberalism; cultural encounters;
In recent years, much has been said and written about the idea of cosmopolitanism.
In popular discourse, cosmopolitanism has come to refer to various elite modes of
living made possible by the global mobility of capital, people and ideas, resulting in
inter-cultural encounters of various kinds. In academic literatures, it has been used to
articulate a set of principles with which to interpret and respond to the
contemporary conditions of globalization. The idea of cosmopolitanism has
variously been explored as a political philosophy, a moral theory and a cultural
disposition. In each of these cases, this new interest in cosmopolitanism is based
upon a recognition that our world is increasingly interconnected and interdependent
globally, and that most of our problems are global in nature requiring global
In this paper, I want to argue that this recognition demands new resources of
learning about how our lives are becoming re-shaped by global processes and
connections, and how we might live with and steer the economic, political and
cultural shifts that contemporary forms of global connectivity represent. In the
context of these global shifts, I want to suggest, learning itself needs to become
cosmopolitan. This, in my view, requires the development of a new approach around
*Email: frizvi@uiuc.edu
ISSN 0159-6306 print/ISSN 1469-3739 online
# 2009 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/01596300903036863
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F. Rizvi
the old idea of cosmopolitanism, interpreting it not so much as a universal moral
principle, nor a prescription recommending a particular form of political configuration nor indeed a transnational life-style but a mode of learning about, and
ethically engaging with, new social formations. My argument is that if global
connectivity has become a pervasive socio-cultural condition, then attempts to
understand the dynamics of intercultural relations should no longer be aligned
entirely to local and national requirements and prejudices, but should instead seek to
become cosmopolitan. In the context of educational practice, this focus on
cosmopolitan learning should involve efforts to develop in students a set of epistemic
virtues. This does not mean ignoring local issues, but to understand them within the
broader context of the global shifts that are reshaping the ways in which localities,
and even social identities, are now becoming re-constituted. Such a cosmopolitan
understanding, I want to argue, is necessary, if we are develop ways of ethically
steering the direction of globallocal relations, instead of allowing them to be shaped
simply by the dictates of global corporate capitalism.
Historical cosmopolitanisms
There is, of course, nothing new about the idea of cosmopolitism. In a highly
influential paper, Martha Nussbaum (1996) notes, for example, the enthusiasm some
ancient Greek philosophers displayed towards the notion of a globally inter-related
moral order. For the Stoic philosophers, the term, ‘cosmopolitan’ stood for ‘citizens
of the world’ those who considered humankind as more important than their own
state or native land. The Stoics were opposed to the views of their contemporaries,
such as Plato, who considered citizens to have a duty to identify themselves first and
foremost as citizens of a particular polis or city, help defend it from attacks, sustain
its institutions of justice, and contribute to its common good. In contrast, according
to Nussbaum (1996, p. 11), the Stoic philosophers regarded any attempt to accord
one’s own traditions ‘special salience in moral and political deliberations’ as ‘both
morally dangerous and, ultimately subversive of some of the worthy goals patriotism
sets out to serve’: morally dangerous because this reinforced the unexamined
assumption that one’s own preferences and ways of acting were somehow natural
and perfectly rational and subversive because it overlooked the fact that, in the
longer term, even our most local of interests are tied to the broader concerns of
For the Stoics, cosmopolitanism did not, however, mean giving up local
affiliations in order to be citizens of the world, but to recognize that while local
traditions could be a source of great richness in the world, they could also produce
much conflict, especially if they were celebrated in an uncritically partisan fashion.
Indeed, the Stoics developed their view of cosmopolitanism against the backdrop of
regular wars and on-going conflict between city-states. Their philosophical case for
cosmopolitanism was thus based not only on a set of moral dictates but also on a
particular understanding of how the interests of city-states were economically and
politically related. Indeed, their moral principles evolved out of an empirical
understanding of the nature and causes of political disputes. For the Stoics,
education had an important role to play in disseminating this understanding linked
to certain convictions about how such disputes could be resolved with a genuine
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belief in a common humanity that transcended differences in cultural traditions and
political configurations.
In the nineteenth century, various concepts of cosmopolitanism similarly
emerged within a historical context of wars and on-going conflict among European
states. Indeed, Kant’s famous essay, ‘Perpetual Peace’ (1795/1960), was written
during a period of considerable inter-state turmoil in Europe, around the time of the
French Revolution. Kant saw the attainment of a cosmopolitan order as the greatest
challenge facing humanity, even greater than the achievement of a coherent legal
system within nation-states. He insisted that as ‘fantastical’ as the notion was, a
cosmopolitan order was essential if the human race was not to consume itself in wars
between nations and if the power of the nation-state was not to overwhelm the
freedom of individuals. Kant objected to the Hobbesian view that conflict was
inimical to human nature, and was also critical of the ways in which European
powers treated foreigners as enemies and continued to treat their colonies as if they
were ‘land without borders’. In this way, Kant resisted growing nationalistic currents
in his own times, expressed in France as ‘enlightened’ and in Germany as ‘romantic’.
As an Enlightenment philosopher, Kant was committed to a set of universal
moral precepts. He viewed the world in terms of an integrated moral order, based on
the promise of science as a language of universal laws that was applicable to the
entire world, natural as well as social. Kant’s conception of cosmopolitan order was
thus based on his ‘formula of universal law’, the highest of moral principles the
categorical imperatives. This politico-legal order consisted of rules that prescribed ‘a
lawful external relation among states’ and a ‘universal civil society’. These rules were
designed to constrain states’ power, but not their freedom. Kant intended such rules
to guarantee the right of ‘hospitality’, a universal right of ‘humanity’ to all
individuals. His view of cosmopolitanism thus implied a particular form of moral
education, designed to teach students the universalism of his moral theory, an
understanding of the formal codification of individuals’ fundamental rights
irrespective of their nationality, ethnicity, race, social status of religious beliefs,
and a moral disposition to act in demonstration of respect for human dignity and
universal rights (Kant, 2003).
Over the years, the Kantian view of cosmopolitanism has not of course been
uncontested. Even during Kant’s own times, many German philosophers favored a
romantic nationalism, while others favored contrasting conceptions of cosmopolitanism. Pauline Kleingeld (1999) has noted that there were a number of different
versions of cosmopolitanism in late eighteenth-century Germany. She lists these as:
moral cosmopolitanism; proposals for reform of the international political and legal
order; cultural cosmopolitanism, which emphasizes the value of global cultural
pluralism; economic cosmopolitanism, which aims at establishing a global free market
where all humans are equal potential trading partners; and the romantic cosmopolitan
ideal of humanity as united by faith and love. (1999, p. 506)
Kleingeld notes that these kinds of cosmopolitanism are by no means mutually
exclusive and are even related to each other. However, what her list indicates is that
the idea of cosmopolitanism has not only been highly contested over the ages, but
that its different versions are grounded in different accounts of the ways in which the
world is interconnected, accounts that foreground different aspects of this
connectivity. As social and political conditions change, new ways of thinking about
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cosmopolitanism become necessary, as it becomes important to reconcile the moral
demands of cosmopolitanism with emerging historical realities.
For most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, support for cosmopolitanism
in Europe had to come to terms with, for example, developments in capitalism, and
also with the emergence of ideologies of colonialism. Under colonialism, notions of
cosmopolitanism had to be taken beyond abstractions, into more substantive realms
of social, economic and political practice. During the nineteenth century, for
instance, globally integrated markets and financial systems emerged, as it became
possible to transport goods across vast distances, and as people were able to remain
in touch with each other using new communication technologies, such as the
telegraph. As Scholte (2000, p. 70) notes, it is the incipient global communications,
markets, money and finance in the late nineteenth century that encouraged the
formation of international organizations to regulate cross-border movement of
goods, money and people. These connectivities were not, however, restricted to the
economic sphere, they also led to the development of a popular consciousness, as
people wished to find out more about the countries with whom they traded, as well
as the peoples and cultures they colonized.
As Edward Said (1985) points out, the colonial consciousness was above all a
mode of thinking, a system of knowledge with which to exercise power over
colonized people, which contradicted many of the key tenets of Kantian universalistic cosmopolitanism. It represented a new way of describing and interpreting the
global connectivity, a calculation that was able to justify colonial expansion and
exploitation, without abandoning a sense the colonizers had of themselves as
morally correct. In this new hegemonic view of cosmopolitanism education had to
play a major role in the dissemination of colonial ideas, designed not only to buttress
the exercise of power, but also to make it appear legitimate to the colonized and
colonizing populations alike. In this way, the main aim of ‘orientalism’ (Said, 1985)
was the development of a global consciousness consistent with the economic and
political interests of the colonial powers.
Not surprisingly therefore both Britain and France invested heavily in creating
educational systems in the countries they colonized. Schools were established to
educate the masses, and universities were created to develop a local administrative
elite beholden to colonial powers. The ethos and structure of the emerging colonial
systems of higher education mirrored those of the colonial centre. The universities in
far-flung parts of the British Empire, for example, followed the same curriculum, and
examined students in the same manner. Universities in both Britain and the colonies
encouraged students to imagine the British Empire as a seamless entity, built around
a core set of values and interests that were often viewed as ‘cosmopolitan’. Students
were encouraged to learn the languages and cultures of the Empire, even if this
knowledge was constructed in a particular way, which portrayed the native as simple,
exotic or inferior, in need of ‘civilizational’ development.
Contemporary global connectivities
What these brief historical observations show is that the notions of global
connectivity and interdependence have always been both located within particular
historical contexts and informed by various political interests. This is true equally of
our own age, in which global connectivity is experienced and interpreted in a range
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of new ways. The revolutionary advances in technology have enabled people living in
different countries to not only become more inter-connected than ever before but
also develop a distinctive consciousness about the challenges and possibilities of
inter-cultural encounters. People have now become much more mobile, with global
mobility perhaps becoming one of the defining characteristics of our age. And even if
many, perhaps most, people are not able to travel extensively, they are constantly in
touch with friends and colleagues who live and work around the world: their lives are
increasingly shaped by the social imaginaries of what Craig Calhoun (2002) calls the
‘frequently traveled’ and what Zygmunt Bauman (1998) refers to as ‘tourists’.
Contemporary accounts of global connectivity hence differ markedly from earlier
historical constructions. They are different from the colonial constructions, for
instance, in that they do not assume a political center from which economic and
political activity across the world is controlled and coordinated. They suggest rather
that the major advances in information and communication technologies have
converted the world into a single world system. According to Albrow (1991, p. 9),
‘the peoples of the world are incorporated into a single society, global society’. As a
result of time-space compression, Robertson (1992, p. 8) argues, ‘cultures and
societies are being squeezed together and driven towards mutual interaction’, within
various social, economic and political networks that no longer presuppose linearity
and homogeneity.
So, while in various religious doctrines, the notion of global inter-connectivity
represented a spiritual aspiration, and while in its colonial construction it was a
political project designed to legitimize territorial conquests, in the contemporary era,
it describes an empirical reality resulting from the ease with which goods, finance,
people, ideas and media are now able to flow across the world, leading to a radical
shift in our understanding of space and time. It places great emphasis on the role
people themselves play in forging and sustaining conceptions of global connectivity. In this way, global connectivity is neither systematic nor structured around
some central locus of power, but is defined through popular consciousness, a form of
social imagination (Taylor, 2004). It is produced organically through the shifting subjectivities of people. Tomlinson (2000, p. 2) refers to this as ‘complex
connectivity’, consisting in ‘the rapidly developing and ever-densening networks of
interconnections and interdependences that characterize modern social life’. This
form of connectivity, he argues, implies proximity as a social-cultural condition. It
suggests a kind of cultural awareness that has itself become ‘global’. In this way, the
idea of globalization does not only refer to new practices of economic exchange but
perhaps more significantly ‘the intensification of consciousness of a world as a whole’
(Robertson, 1992, p. 8).
As Arjun Appadurai (1996, p. 11) points out: ‘globalization is not simply the
name for a new epoch in the history of capital or in the biography of the nation-state,
but is marked by a new role for imagination in social life’. In relation to the various
ways in which global processes now work through the flows of people, capital and
information, as well as ideas and images found in the media Appadurai is surely
correct in arguing that imagination has become ‘a critical part of collective, social,
everyday life and is a form of labor’ (1996, p. 11). A global imagination now plays a
crucial role in how people engage with their everyday activities, consider their
options and make decisions within the new configurations of social relations that are
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no longer confined to local communities but potentially span, either directly or
indirectly, across national boundaries.
It is now abundantly clear that no community is entirely unaffected by global
processes, because even if people do not recognize their effects, it is hard to see how
their subjectivities can remain unaltered by global shifts, produced by increasing
amounts of travel, access to the global media, the changing nature of work, and the
shifting modes of social imagination. People often experience these transformations
as social disruption, but do not always recognize how the sources of this disruption
do not necessarily lie within their own communities but in the massive changes
taking place in the wider world. These changes shape the lives of both ‘the tourists’
and ‘the vagabonds’, as well as those who are not mobile, in a manner that is
dialectical, as Bauman (1998) has so clearly demonstrated. They represent various
shifting dynamics of connectivity, produced in many different ways, displaying
modalities that are uneven and disproportional.
Contemporary global connectivities are generating intricate demographic profiles, economic realities, political processes, media and technologies, cultural facts
and artifacts and identities. There people are now ‘on the move’ more than ever
before, for a whole range of reasons migration, work, tourism, education and the
like. New dynamics of immigration are transforming the cities around the world,
making them ‘global’ (Sassen, 1991). Communities are now transnationally
networked, with new patterns of communication and ideological links, configured
in a range of diverse and complicated ways. The ‘new diasporas’ (Cohen, 1997) are,
for example, no longer reluctant to exercise political power in the communities they
have left. All communities are exposed to global media and popular culture as never
before. Cultural products are now globally produced, distributed and consumed. The
nature of work is constantly changing, and is often organized in a manner that
stretches across the world. In short, goods, capital, technologies, people, knowledge,
images, crime, beliefs, fashions and desires all readily flow across territorial
While recent globalization theories have struggled to understand these new
realities, the appeal of the idea of cosmopolitanism is in its suggestions about how
best to live with them in a morally coherent fashion. In this way, the notion of
cosmopolitanism has the potential to bring together both the facts and the values
associated with complex connectivity. While the facts of rapidly developing and everdensening network of interconnections can no longer be denied, it is less clear how
particular communities and people experience and are affected by global connectivity, how they interpret its various expressions and how they utilize this understanding to forge their sense of belonging, and their social imagination. These
questions clearly require detailed empirical research that has now begun to be
conducted by historians, sociologists, anthropologists and cultural theorists alike
(see, for example, Burawoy, Blum, George, & Gille, 2000). But these are not merely
empirical questions, they are also normative. They relate to the issues of how we steer
these global transformations to forge better futures. And if indeed these transformations affect everyone, albeit in ways that are highly differentiated and unequal, then
the question arises as to how we develop a conception of cosmopolitanism that is not
only empirically informed but also ethically grounded.
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Corporate cosmopolitanism
In recent years, many theorists have sought to develop such a conception of
cosmopolitanism, to address questions relating to the contemporary dynamics of
global connectivity. Some have sought to revive Stoic and Kantian ideas, located
within debates in traditional moral theory. However, a more implicit view of
cosmopolitanism has also emerged, and has perhaps become hegemonic. It is
associated with an ideology that sees the world as a single global sphere of free trade
and economic exchange. It assumes cosmopolitanism to be a natural outcome of
market economy in which national borders inevitably become less significant, and in
which individual freedom has the potential not only to produce greater mobility and
innovation but also result in greater cultural tolerance. This corporatist view of
cosmopolitanism is based on a social imaginary that brings together, under a very
broad conceptual umbrella, a range of economic, political, and cultural ideas, that
are widely referred to as ‘neoliberal’.
Fundamental to these ideas is an emphasis on individual freedom. In economic
terms, neoliberalism implies the promotion of the instrumental values of free trade,
competition and economic efficiency. As Peck and Tickle (2002, p. 394) argue, as a
constellation of ideas, neoliberalism promotes and normalizes a ‘growth-first
approach’ to economic policy, relegating social concerns as secondary. It rests on
a pervasive naturalization of market logics, justifying them on the grounds of
efficiency, and even ‘fairness’. It highlights the importance of global trade and modes
of production, unconstrained by national regulatory regimes. Politically, neoliberalism involves an emphasis on the idea of a minimalist state, underscoring notions of
‘lean’ government, privatization and deregulation. These economic and political
ideas are, however, also supported by a moral vocabulary based on the idea of
individual choice, enabling people to pursue their own interests, unconstrained by
the dictates of the state, as well as of national borders.
The idea of cosmopolitanism based on these neoliberal premises thus suggests
that the market, as a single global sphere of free trade, has the potential to promote
greater intercultural understanding and peace. Such a view assumes the selfregulative capacity of the market and takes all human beings as equal potential
trading partners. Its ideals are couched in terms of ‘natural human rights’, expressed
in terms of property rather than personal rights (Bowles & Gintis, 1985). Since the
fall of the Soviet Union, this view has been widely celebrated, not only by many
governments but also political scientists such as Francis Fukuyama (1992), who
wrote of ‘end of history’ to mark what he saw as the inevitable triumph of capitalism
and liberal democracy over socialists and nationalist regimes. In his highly optimistic
view, he predicted the people of the world coming together, overcoming the
structural barriers that prevented inter-cultural understanding. Fukuyama argued
that the global portability of ideas, people and finance would inevitably lead to the
development of cosmopolitan sensibilities, within a global potpourri of cultural
forms and practices.
Bruce Robbins (1998, p. 3) refers to this as ‘actual existing cosmopolitanism’, a
view that suggests that transnational economic and cultural flows have produced an
emergent cosmopolitanism, by virtue of the facts of ‘the detachment from the bonds,
commitments, and affiliations that constrain ordinary nation-bound lives’. The new
cosmopolitans, he suggests, are indifferent to where they live, viewing themselves to
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either have multiple attachments or be habitants of the whole world. Their
calculations about sense of belonging are often strategic and de-centering. They
view themselves as worldly, exhibiting a culturally open disposition and an interest in
continually engaging in diversity. In another paper, I (Rizvi, 2005) have shown how
the contemporary market-based practices of international education are based
within this logic, and how the cosmopolitanism of many international students
consists in their participation in an economic exchange, in which they are less
concerned with the moral and political dimensions of global connectivity than with
education’s strategic economic possibilities. As a result, their cosmopolitan outlook
is framed by the role they believe international education to play in better
positioning them within the changing structures of the global economy, which
increasingly prizes the skills of intercultural experiences and a cosmopolitan
Aihwa Ong (1999) has similarly sought to understand the cultural aspects of this
global world-view. She argues that, in the era of globalization, mobile individuals are
able to develop flexible notions of citizenship as strategies to accumulate capital and
power. The contemporary logic of capital accumulation is to ‘induce subjects to
respond fluidly and opportunistically to changing political-economic conditions’
(Ong, 1999, p. 21). Powerful incentives exist for individuals to emphasize practices
that favor ‘flexibility, mobility and repositioning in relation to markets, governments
and cultural regimes’. She illustrates her general thesis by referring to Hong Kong
Chinese immigrants to the USA, who ‘seem to display an e´ lan for thriving in
conditions of political insecurity, as well as in the turbulence of global trade’ (Ong,
1999, p. 24).
What this discussion indicates is that globalization does not only describe a new
global economic and political architecture, but more significantly implies the
development of a new form of subjectivity. It valorizes cosmopolitan subjects who
are culturally flexible and adaptable who are able to take advantage of the global
processes that paradoxically are portrayed as objective and historically inevitable.
But that these processes are neither objective nor historically inevitable can be
demonstrated by showing how they privilege a particular interpretation of global
connectivity, designed to steer the subjective or phenomenological awareness of
people. It not only encourages a particular ‘reading’ of recent changes in the global
economy but also presupposes a set of values attached to that ‘reading’, which
directs us towards a consciousness of the world as a single space constituted through
a set of economic configurations and social networks. As Cohen and Kennedy argue,
such an account is associated with a set of value preferences ‘changes associated
with globalization so that they are now incorporated into our emotions and our ways
of thinking about everyday life’ (2000, p. 58).
The corporatist view of cosmopolitanism is arguably based on this ‘reading’ of
global connectivity. It celebrates individuals who are able to take advantage of global
mobility, negotiate linguistic and cultural diversity, and have the class-consciousness
of the transnational elite (Sklair, 2000). It encourages values that are associated with
global economic exchange, social entrepreneurialism and cultural adaptability. Freed
from the constraints of national regulations, it views economic exchange as flexible
and dynamic. It considers cultural exchange as necessarily productive of new hybrid
forms that are increasingly global in character. They are facilitated by the unifying
potential of global telecommunications and digital information systems to drive a
Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education
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new global culture of consumption. This approach to cosmopolitanism thus
underscores the positive, socio-culturally and politically transformative meanings
of the term (Zachary, 2000).
Beyond corporatism and universalism
However, the promise of this transformation is inherently contradictory, since it pulls
people in the direction of cultural flexibility, on the one hand, and cultural
uncertainty and confusion, on the other. The corporate cosmopolitanism of the
global elite moreover masks the various contradictions of new capitalism, for while it
involves a genuinely de-centering move that recognizes multiple identities working
across complex and diverse experiences, it fails to show how the complex tensions
and interactions between nationalist and global forces in the contemporary period
might be resolved and how new forms of transnational solidarity might be forged.
Corporate cosmopolitanism’s faith in globalization opening up new emancipatory
possibilities seems hopelessly unrealistic in view of the overwhelming evidence of
persistent, even growing inequalities (Ray, 2007).
As Craig Calhoun (2002) puts it, this new cosmopolitanism the cosmopolitanism of the ‘frequent travelers’ is inevitably contradictory in its articulation of the
possibilities of solidarity across cultural and national differences. At a time when
identity politics has seemingly put an end to the possibility for genuine global
solidarity, corporate cosmopolitanism promises a democratic means of dealing with
politics of difference and of resolving cultural conflict. But such an approach seems
unaware of its own potential collusion with global capitalism. It assumes global
markets to provide the mechanism for cultural integration, but appears to overlook
the fact that markets do not operate in a politically neutral space. On the contrary,
with capital flows becoming more and more global, transnational corporations
acquire an inordinate amount of power, creating conditions in which the subaltern
groups of people are further marginalized. In this way, corporate cosmopolitanism
serves only to extend the power of the transnational elite, reproducing asymmetries
of power, both within and across national boundaries.
In the contemporary context of globalization, other views of cosmopolitanism,
based, for example, on Kant’s moral theory are equally hard to sustain, not least
because they are based on a universalism that neither acknowledges cultural diversity
as a permanent feature of modern life nor seriously addresses the historically
inherited inequalities in power relations. Kant’s view of cosmopolitanism is built
upon the Stoic ethical sensibilities, guiding them into the domain of actual political
process and juridical organization (Hayden, 2005, p. 22). However, common to both
the Stoics and Kant is a universalism that assumes a set of moral convictions that
emerge out of a metaphysic of common humanity. They embody a humanism that
presupposes that all cultural groups share similar moral outlooks. Accordingly, each
of these views imply the need for the state to be neutral with respect to the
particularities of any culture, except in preserving the rights of individuals associated
with humanity.
However, as Stuart Hall (2002) asks, whether this universalistic framework is the
only and the best possible shell for understanding cosmopolitan modernity.
Practically, he notes, there are all kinds of problems associated with the actual
operations of such a system in guaranteeing either freedom or equality to all the
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citizens regardless of their background. Conceptually, Hall notes, a cosmopolitanism
based on universal principles assumes a fixed notion of moral tradition as already
constituted in authority, as well as a view of culture as static, and not as something
that is continuously changing, responding to the new circumstances in which it is
embedded and encountered.
Such a universalism also assumes a world that is segmented in terms of specific,
well-bounded, tightly knit, organic communities, now having to interact with others
as never before. But, as Hall insists, this is not the world we live in anymore. In the
current context of globalization, groups, while they are culturally marked, are not
entirely separated from each other, and are constantly re-shaped by cross-cultural
encounters. While cultural traditions might be important to them in terms of their
self-understanding, most groups have wider lateral connections that are not only
located within nation-states but potentially span the globe.
Hall suggests that the globally ‘open’ spaces in which we now live require a kind
of ‘vernacular cosmopolitanism’ that
is aware of the limitations of any one culture or any one identity and that is radically
aware of its insufficiency in governing a wider society, but which nevertheless is prepared
to rescind its claims to the traces of difference, which make its life important. (2002, p. 30)
What this suggests is that local and national attachments remain important in the
new era, but in ways that are crucially dynamic, articulated in new ways, against
conditions in which our problems and their solutions are inter-connected and
transcend national boundaries. In this context, the nature of the polity within which
moral claims are best addressed is itself open to question and political elaboration.
A philosopher who has sought to develop a view of cosmopolitanism consistent
with these requirements is Kwame Anthony Appiah (2006). Appiah rejects both
corporatist and universalist conceptions of cosmopolitanism. Properly conceived, he
argues, cosmopolitanism does not contradict patriotism, but nor does it assume
global connectivity can be described in some absolutist terms a universalism in
disguise. Appiah stresses that while individuals and communities can be different,
and have their foibles that shape interests and values, they can also learn. In his view,
it is possible to genuinely engage with ways of other societies without approving, let
alone adopting them. Appiah suggests that if people with vastly different religious,
sexual, and political attachments are to live together without violence they must
master the arts of conversation. Ultimately, Appiah believes that cosmopolitanism is
best conceived as an ethical attitude towards global connectedness.
This attitude is different from the currently hegemonic view which views
globalization as ‘a pre-given thing, existing outside of thought’ (Smith, 2001,
p. 21) with its own developmental logic. To assume that it is the case is to pay little
attention to the subjectivities of people, how these are formed, and how various
discursive communities develop their own sense of global connectivity and
interdependence. It is to ignore the salience of political agency, and to the fact
that global processes are ever-changing products of human practices, and that they
cannot be interpreted simply as expressions of the deeper logic of economic
imperatives. It is to fail to come to terms with the ‘situatedness’ of people,
communities and nations alike. Time-space compression, for example, does not
occur independently of the ways people experience their social location and relations,
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and cannot therefore be treated simply as a product of some deeper structural
If the facts of global connectivity are thus neither self-evident nor politically
neutral then we cannot develop an ethical understanding of globalization, without
reference to the actual actors who are shaping its hegemonic forms, on the one hand,
and those who are contesting them, on the other, as well as the moral traditions
within which they are located. In developing such an understanding, education has a
major role to play in helping students to realize that each experience of connectivity
has a specific history from which it has emerged, and that global connectivity is a
dynamic phenomenon, politically and historically changing and that it is not only
experienced differently, but is also interpreted differently in different contexts. Such
an education involves a critical hermeneutical politics, a particular way of learning
about cultural encounters and about sources of conflict and to imagine alternative
Cosmopolitan learning
In such a context, the relationship between cosmopolitanism and education needs to
be re-thought. If the views of cosmopolitanism based on universalism, on the one
hand, and on the actual existing practices of globalization, on the other, are both
flawed and inadequate, then we need an alternative, which while it recognizes the
facts of global connectivity and interdependence does not assume the inevitability of
the ways in which they are structured. I believe that cosmopolitanism can be a
worthy goal, but only if it is historically informed and open to the diversity of moral
and political traditions that are now inevitably involved in cross-cultural encounters.
Cosmopolitanism is only worth pursuing if we are able to use it as an instrument
of critical understanding and moral improvement. In this way, issues surrounding the
cosmopolitan possibilities of education are at once empirical and normative.
Empirically, they relate to the need for greater clarity over how global transformations are re-shaping our lives. Normatively, we need to ask how we should work with
these transformations, creatively and in ways that are potentially progressive. And if
indeed these transformations affect everyone, albeit in ways that are highly
differentiated and unequal, then the question arises as to how education should
respond to these shifts so that globalization does not further reproduce social
inequalities. In other words, how should education be framed so that it provides
students both an empirical understanding of global transformations, but also an
ethical orientation towards them?
At a practical level, attempts to realize the cosmopolitan possibilities of
education face the highly entrenched traditions of educational policies and practices
that remain largely locally defined, even if they are influenced by many external
sources. The immediate issues we have to deal with are invariably local. If this is so,
then, I believe that our approach to teaching about global connectivity should begin
with the local, but must move quickly to address issues of how our local communities
are becoming socially transformed through their links with communities around the
world and with what consequences. In this way, I want to stress the relationalities that
lie at the heart of any thinking about the dynamics of change. I believe that our focus
ought to be on understanding the nature, scope and consequences of global
transformations, rather than on some generalized principles of cosmopolitanism,
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F. Rizvi
global citizenship, or indeed the skills required in the global economy. In this way,
learning about connectivity itself needs to become cosmopolitan.
In developing this view of cosmopolitan learning, I draw heavily on both Appiah
(2006) and Said (1994, 2004), especially Said’s insistence upon the importance of
contingency in both theoretical and political deliberations and his rejection of
dualisms such as universalism and particularism, global and local, and empirical and
normative. Said argues that a particular conception of humanism is essential in
realizing cosmopolitan possibilities, but insists on viewing it as provisional.
Responding to his critics (e.g., Clifford, 1997), Said maintains that: ‘it should be
possible to be critical of humanism in the name of humanism’ (2004, p. 10). Said
refuses to view social theory in its narrow sense, but insists that it needs to be
grounded within a political struggle that is spatially and historically specific. For
him, intellectual work must always be viewed as tentative and strategic, working
against the illusions of dualities and certainties.
The same applies to learning, especially in relation to understanding the
emerging conditions of global connectivity. I want to propose therefore a view of
cosmopolitanism that defines it as a particular way of learning about our own social
identities and cultural trajectories, but always in ways that underscore their
connectivity with the rest of the world. In this way, I want to emphasize the
dynamic nature of our identities and cultures, now changing more rapidly and
intensely than ever before, mostly as a result of their interactions with identities and
cultures that potentially span the world. Unlike multiculturalism that highlighted
learning about other cultures within the nation-state, I want to argue that the sources
of cosmopolitan learning are more diverse and extensive, and can no longer be
contained within the borders of the nation-state.
If learning about global connectivity is to become cosmopolitan then it must have
the potential to help students come to terms with their situatedness in the world
situatedness of their knowledge and of their cultural practices, as well as their
positionality in relation to the social networks, political institutions and social
relations that are no longer confined to particular communities and nations, but
potentially connect up with the rest of the world (Said, 1983). Much of the
traditional learning about other cultures and cultural interactions has been
nationally defined. Cosmopolitan learning, in contrast, represents an aspiration
that seeks to develop a different perspective on knowing and interacting with others
within the changing context of the cultural exchanges produced by global flows and
It is based on a different view of culture as dynamic and creative, viewed as
always in the state of becoming as a result of interactions of various kinds, rather
than something that is entirely inherited within clearly definable boundaries and
norms. It envisages cosmopolitan learning not in terms of an abstract universal
moral law, but in efforts to develop in students a set of epistemic virtues with which to
both understand current discourses and practices of global connectivity and to
develop alternatives to them. I use the term epistemic virtues deliberately (as
opposed to values) to highlight those habitual practices of learning that regard
knowing as always tentative involving critical exploration and imagination, an openended exercise in cross-cultural deliberation designed to understand relationalities
and imagine alternatives, but always from a position that is reflexive of its epistemic
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Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education
Such epistemic virtues are, of course, best developed collectively, in transcultural
collaborations, in which local problems can be examined comparatively, linked to
global processes. But even when such collective learning is be possible, it is
nonetheless possible to help students to interrogate how things are done differently
in different places, how they might express particular histories of intercultural
encounters. Such interrogation is clearly necessary if we are going to help students to
develop a different social imaginary about their lives and life options in the
materiality of their collective and interlinked circumstances that is, if we wish to
help them to consider how things could be otherwise. With greater access to the new
media, it is now possible to do this kind of pedagogic work through networks, both
formal and informal, bringing together students from different backgrounds, with
the objective of encouraging them to think outside their own parochial boundaries
and cultural assumptions, helping them to reflect on how global processes affect
communities differentially and to examine the sources of these differentiations and
inequalities and what could be done about them.
Thus, instead of learning about cultures in an abstract manner, cosmopolitan
learning involves pedagogic tasks that help students explore the criss-crossing of
transnational circuits of communication, the flows of global capital and the crosscutting of local, translocal and transnational social practices. Such learning
encourages students to consider the contested politics of place making, the social
constructions of power differentials and the dynamic processes relating to the
formation of individual, group, national and transnational identities, and their
corresponding fields of difference.
It should be noted that this kind of learning is impossible within an emphasis on
criticality. This is so because cosmopolitan learning necessarily challenges the
prevailing orthodoxies both about education and about cultural formations. Moreover, it contests the hegemonic social imaginaries of globalization and is implicitly
directed towards the goal of global relations that are more just, democratic and
humane. Current attempts at the internationalization of curriculum highlight the
importance of intercultural experiences, through such programs as study abroad, but
do not seriously address how such pedagogies might produce a critical understanding of the new global configurations of economic and cultural exchange.
Cosmopolitan learning of the kind I have in mind, in contrast, encourages
students to examine the political meaning of intercultural experiences, seeking to
locate them within the transnational networks that have become so much part of the
contemporary era of globalization. It is not enough to state that globalization drives
cultures towards mutual interaction; it is perhaps more important to examine how
cultures are transformed by these interactions, and how our social imagination plays
a central role in these transformational processes. If this is so, then, one of the major
goals of cosmopolitan learning should be the development of a critical global
imagination, based on a recognition that we all have ‘elaborate interests and
capabilities in constructing world pictures whose very interaction affects global
processes’ (Appadurai, 1996, p. 11).
Such an approach clearly demands the de-parochialization of the processes of
learning and teaching, highlighting the importance of ‘grassroots’ global networks
capable of interrogating dominant social imaginaries that are no longer adequate for
negotiating the complex global realities we now confront. In this sense, cosmopolitan
learning is not so much concerned with imparting knowledge and developing
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F. Rizvi
attitudes and skills for understanding other cultures per se, but with helping students
examine the ways in which global processes are creating conditions of economic and
cultural exchange that are transforming our identities and communities; and that,
unreflexively, we may be contributing to the production and reproduction of those
conditions, through our uncritical acceptance of the dominant ways of thinking
about global connectivity.
Indeed, it should be in our collective power to develop an alternative imaginary
of global connectivity, one which is informed not by the universalizing logic of the
market, or by the romanticized notions of global citizenship, but by our
determination to develop a different conception of global relations, which views
all of the world’s diverse people and communities as part of the same moral universe.
Such an imaginary requires the development of a sense of moral responsibility
among students directed not only towards their families and nations, but also
towards humanity as a whole.
Cosmopolitan learning, thus, demands a new way of learning about other
cultures and intercultural exchange. It requires the development of intellectual skills
to examine the ways in which we create knowledge about others and use it to engage
with them. In this way, it highlights both the cognitive and ethical dimensions of
intercultural learning. It suggests that learning about others requires learning about
ourselves. It implies a dialectical mode of thinking, which conceives cultural
differences as neither absolute nor necessarily antagonistic, but deeply interconnected and relationally defined. It underscores the importance of understanding
others both in their terms as well as ours, as a way of comprehending how both our
representations are socially constituted.
This suggests the importance of understanding intercultural exchange historically, in ways that show how no cultural tradition no set of cultural values and
practices can be understood without reference to the historical interactions that
produced it. This has always been the case, but in a world in which social networks of
money, technologies, people and ideas increasingly shape life options and chances,
thinking historically about global connectivity is indispensable. This is so because
networks too have histories, without an understanding of which we cannot fully
comprehend how people’s sense of their collectivity as solidarity in its positive
manifestations and as marginalization in its negative is forged within power
configurations that are often asymmetrical. The past is linked to the present and
plays an important role in imagining the future. As Edward Said (1993) pointed out,
it is only through this realization that we recognize that our identities are forged in
histories of contact between groups of people, where knowledge and resources are
traded, borrowed, improved upon, fought over and passed on to others.
The notion of a pure culture, located within its own territory, has always been a
myth because all cultures result from their encounters with others. If this is so, then,
relationality must be regarded as crucial for any attempt to internationalize
curriculum through cosmopolitan learning. If we cannot learn about cultures in
their pristine and authentic form, then, our focus must shift to the ways in which
cultural practices become separated from their ‘homes’ and are converted into new
forms in their new contexts, and on how this transforms both the places people leave
and the places they come to inhabit. In a world in which flows of information, media
symbols and images, and political and cultural ideas are constant and relentless, new
cultural formations are inevitable, and can only be relationally comprehended.
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Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education
Therefore, this focus on relationality must replace approaches that treat ‘other’
cultures as entirely separable from our own. Cultural formations can only be
understood in relation to each other, politically forged, historically constituted and
globally interconnected through processes of mobility, exchange and hybridization.
A relational understanding of global connectivity also points to the importance
of another element of cosmopolitan learning: reflexivity. Reflexivity (Beck, 2000)
requires people to become self-conscious and knowledgeable about their own
perspective and how it is subject to transformation as a result of its engagement
with other cultural trajectories. Reflexive individuals are able to challenge their own
taken-for-granted assumptions that are often linked to official and popular
discourses of cultural difference. They are able to reflect upon the politics of their
own representations of others, and point to the ways in which this politics is
historically constituted. Such reflexivity cannot then be achieved without a critical
recognition of our own cultural and political presuppositions, and the epistemic
position from which we speak and negotiate difference. This must involve realizing
that knowledge about cultures is never neutral and that our efforts to learn about
and engage with others take place within asymmetrical configurations of power. This
realization, however, needs not prevent us from continuing to explore, engage and
learn from other cultural trajectories in an effort to transform our own.
In the contemporary era, the volume and speed of intercultural exchange has
increased at an unprecedented rate, creating greater possibilities of trade, transfers of
technology, cultural cooperation and skirmishes, and even war, than ever before.
Never before has there been a greater need of intercultural understanding and
communication. But if this understanding is predicated on essentialist conceptions of
culture, rather than within a pedagogically open framework that explores the
dynamics of cultural interactions in an on-going fashion, then no amount of
intercultural education is likely to be helpful. New ways of thinking about economic
and cultural exchange are clearly necessary in which conceptions of others and
ourselves are defined relationally, as complex and inherently dynamic products of a
range of historical processes and the contemporary cultural economies of global
connectivity. Epistemologically, all cultural understanding is comparative because no
understanding of others is possible without self-understanding. If this is so, then, not
only is it important to emphasize historicity, criticality and relationality, but also
reflexivity in all our attempts to imagine and work towards better futures.
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