Thomas Hylland Eriksen: Cosmopolitanism is like respecting the ban on smoking in the public
Thomas Hylland Eriksen didn't make it to the conference Cosmopolitanism and Anthropology (delayed plane), but his paper is now available online. It's called "The cartoon controversy and the possibility of cosmopolitanism". Cosmopolitanism, he explains, is like respecting the ban on smoking in the public:
Let us suppose that secularised Danes were to take the religiosity of Muslims seriously and treat it with respect, much as they treat their old parents with respect. In that case, they would easily know how to maneuvre in order not to offend them. Not even trying to maneuvre indicates a strong inclination not to live in the same society even if one lives next door to each other. The kind of cosmopolitan attitude leading to restraint can be compared to the underlying reasoning behind the ban on smoking in public, which is these days being implemented in many parts of the world (...).
The point is, however, that supposing I smoke and you do not, and we are in a room together, I might just tell you that if I smoke and you don’t, we both enjoy our liberal freedom. This is the problem of the cartoon controversy and the simplistic liberal responses to the offended reactions among Muslims. Muhammad cartoons to them are like tobacco smoke to an asthmatic.
What's the point of anthropology conferences? (general summary of the conference Cosmopolitanism and Anthropology)