Friday, May 16, 2008
"Diaspora and Cosmopolitanism," University of Wisconsin, Madison, June 20-21, 2008.
The term 'diaspora' designates the scattering of a given population like seeds (spore) on the wind through migration—conventionally often in the form of forced migration rather than its opposite. The term 'cosmopolitanism' refers to the politics and philosophy of inhabiting a polis or political community on the scale of the cosmos rather than the metropolis. Both paradigms thus constitute alternatives to models of community in which a society is organized around a single geographic space, with the metropole at its center. While diaspora studies are generally associated with the identities and claims of marginalized populations, cosmopolitanism has, in the words of Amanda Anderson, "close ties with universalism." Cosmopolitanism, Anderson notes, "endorses reflective distance from one´s own cultural affiliations, a broad understanding of other cultures and customs, and a belief in universal humanity." Recently, Anthony Appiah has suggested that cosmopolitanism in the wake of globalization is virtually inevitable through not only the cultivated praxis of reflective distance as a means of accommodating a world of difference, but also the quotidian praxis of mimetic acquisition of diverse cultural tastes, behaviors, and relationships in globalized societies. Yet histories of the non-integration of migrants, of the hostile co-existence of "hosts" and "guests" in the state framework, or of the explosion of national populations into new traumatic diaspora through economic, military, ecological, and cultural upheavals, provide challenges to political and philosophical models of cosmopolitanism. Diaspora and cosmopolitanism are mutually decentered, but along the contrasting metaphorical trajectories of the spore and the cosmos. The tension between these epistemological frames arguably opens a space for reconsideration of the new millennial politics of postcolonial identities. Diaspora studies have a clear affiliation with the study of the colonial and imperialist cultures responsible for many large scale forced migrations since Columbus. Cosmopolitan theory from Kant onward was instrumental in the conception of global political bodies and declarations of rights, and since the late twentieth century it has addressed the predicament of many postcolonial immigrant groups in former colonial metropoles (and less frequently, the predicament of postcolonies). In the 21st century, how do the models of diaspora and the cosmopolitical allow us to reflect on the undoing of former social and political geographies, and the formation of new ones? How do these models merge or overlap, and how do they contradict or undermine each other? . For general information, please visit: http://www.africa.wisc.edu/postcolonial/postcolonial-introduction.htm. Speakers are listed here: http://www.africa.wisc.edu/postcolonial/Speakers.html. Abstracts are here: http://www.africa.wisc.edu/postcolonial/abstracts.html.