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Imagined Cosmopolis

Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870s–1920s


Edited By Charlotte Ashby, Grace Brockington, Daniel Laqua and Sarah Victoria Turner

The period from the 1870s to the 1920s was marked by an interplay between nationalisms and internationalisms, culminating in the First World War, on the one hand, and the creation of the League of Nations, on the other. The arts were central to this debate, contributing both to the creation of national traditions and to the emergence of ideas, objects and networks that forged connections between nations or that enabled internationalists to imagine a different world order altogether. The essays presented here explore the ways in which the arts operated internationally during this crucial period of nation-making, and how they helped to challenge national conceptions of citizenship, society, homeland and native tongue. The collection arises from the AHRC-funded research network Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870–1920 (ICE; 2009–2014) and its enquiry into the histories of cultural internationalism and their historiographical implications.

This collection has been edited by members of the ICE network convened by Grace Brockington and Sarah Victoria Turner.

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6. Introduction: Cultural Networks and Connections (Charlotte Ashby)


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6   Introduction: Cultural Networks and Connections

Community is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a ‘body of people or things viewed collectively’. Commonality is stressed, for example, in the sub-definition a ‘body of people who live in the same place, usually sharing a common cultural or ethnic identity. Hence: a place where a particular body of people lives.’ Other examples given refer to national, religious or other ideological communities, but there is one sub-definition of particular relevance here: ‘A group of people who share the same interests, pursuits, or occupation, esp. when distinct from those of the society in which they live.’ Here the examples indicate a definition of community based on shared knowledge, the possession of such knowledge being sufficient to constitute a separate shared identity: scientific community, literary community, theatre community.1

This points us towards the flexible nature of the concept of community, its ability to transcend geography and the different foundations for this perceived quality of commonality between individuals. It is, first and foremost, something that is discursively and socially produced. The proliferation of multiple community identities is linked to the processes of modernization. From a more limited and fixed pre-modern roster of possible community identities, population growth and mobility created an increasing degree of mutability and multiplicity. The city and urbanization in particular are seen to have changed the nature of human interaction from ← 131 | 132 → one revolving around kinship and feudal ties...

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