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Critique of Cosmopolitan Reason

Timing and Spacing the Concept of World Citizenship


Rebecka Lettevall and Kristian Petrov

Since the Enlightenment, the definition of terms such as humanity, citizenship and rights has fluctuated and these ideas continue to have relevance for contemporary discussions of globalization from a «cosmopolitan» perspective. This volume goes back to the conception of cosmopolitanism in Greek antiquity in order to trace it through history, resulting in an unmasking of its many myths. The concept is reconstructed with reference not only to well-known (and some lesser known) historical thinkers of cosmopolitanism, but also to noted «anti-cosmopolitans».
The first aim of the book is to display historical perspectives on a discourse which has been dominated by ahistorical presumptions. The second is to critically explore alternative paths beyond the Western imagination, redefining the Enlightenment legacy and the centre-periphery dichotomy. Most notably, Eastern Europe and the Arab world are integrated within the analysis of cosmopolitanism. Within a framework of conceptual history (Begriffsgeschichte), cosmopolitan reason is criticized from the viewpoints of comparative literature, psychoanalysis, phenomenology, postcolonialism and moral philosophy.
The book’s critical approach is an attempt to come to terms with the anachronism, essentialism, ethnocentrism and anthropocentrism that sometimes underlie contemporary theoretical and methodological uses of the term «cosmopolitanism». By adding historical and contextual depth to the problem of cosmopolitanism, a reflexive corrective is presented to enhance ongoing discussions of this topic within as well as outside academia.
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De-romanticizing Exile



This essay is prompted by the need to locate a methodological tool that could assist us in addressing the open wounds of transition; the ruptures and apertures of difference channelled through the experiences of border-crossing. Equally, I would like to talk about exile as creativity, not just suffering. On either occasion, however, my ultimate goal is to ask why exile came to be so firmly associated with these two experiential fields, different as they might be at first sight, and in order to see whether this lasting inscription in narratives of suffering and creativity is not hampering attempts to rethink the concept of exile, I will re-examine its use value for our age here. For my purposes, it is necessary to confine myself to “exile” and leave aside cognate designations, such as “refugee”, all the more so since within the pervasive twin discourse of suffering and creativity these two appellations have often been used synonymously.1 At the same time, I want to probe deeper into the resilient notion that exile somehow produces cosmopolitan attitudes. The problematic aspects of “enforced cosmopolitanism”, which I look at briefly in the final part, have been enshrined in the powerful liberal consensus that first came to prominence in the social sciences during the 1980s–1990s. According to this consensus, the cross-border experience of migrant workers, worshippers or writers is always a source of cultural enrichment and a display of personal energy and endurance that glosses over—or simply fails to see...

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