Conference: A Cosmopolitan Anthropology?

15.9.-16.9.09 University of St Andrews (Scotland)

The purpose of this conference is to assess the place of cosmopolitanism within anthropology, both as an analytical concept and as a political and moral programme. Cosmopolitanism has long been a part of philosophical and political debate, but in recent years recognition of its possible applicability has spread: cosmopolitanism has entered debates on globalisation, transnationalism, diaspora and multiculturalism. Anthropology’s specialism as a study of social relations in global perspective makes it an appropriate venue for an examination of notions of the ‘cosmopolitan’ and their relevance.

The 2006 ASA conference (Association of Social Anthropologists of the Commonwealth) took cosmopolitanism as its central theme, as did the 2007 CASCA conference (Canadian Anthropology Society). A number of edited volumes have recently been published (Vertovec and Cohen 2000, Robinson 2007, Werbner 2008), and new research centres opened. Are these significant developments? Does ‘cosmopolitanism’ offer something original, distinct from conceptualisations of ‘multiculturalism’, ‘globalism’, ‘diaspora’, ‘transnationalism’, ‘hybridity’, ‘pluralism’, ‘ecumenism’ or ‘civil society’?

‘Cosmopolitanism’ provides an umbrella for an array of conceptual, methodological and empirical insights which do not necessarily sit comfortably together: can these distinct perspectives be explored in dialogue without the creation of entrenched intellectual camps? The conference to be held in St. Andrews in September 2009 will take stock and deliver a verdict in the form of a collected volume of papers.

The intuition of the conference organizers is that cosmopolitanism does indeed usefully identify a new anthropological agenda. One does not intend a master-trope or panacea, but the concept is workable for claiming a particular history of inscribing the human, and a future project (Hannerz 2006; Rapport 2007a, 2007b). More than this, cosmopolitanism offers a significant perspective on matters of social policy: on integration in modern society, on the bearers of human rights, on the balance between community memberships and tradition on the one hand and the capability of individuals to be singular authors of their own ongoing identities.

More information: http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~centrecs/conferences.html

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