We the cosmopolitans: Moral & existential conditions of being humans by Lisette Josephides & Alexandra Hall, eds.

Author:Woods, Laura
Position:Book review

Josephides, Lisette, and Alexandra Hall, eds. We the Cosmopolitans: Moral and Existential Conditions of Being Human. New York: Berghahn, 2014. viii + 186 pages. Hardcover, $80.00.

We the Cosmopolitans is a selection of six vignettes dealing with cosmopolitanism as a sociological, political, and anthropological multidisciplinary field, integrating moral, religious, and humanitarian concepts into an ethical foundation of behavior for the universal human subject. It demonstrates how we are fundamentally and deeply linked to humankind and shows that we can preserve a moral allegiance to this community while retaining both our worldly citizenship and our local identities. To the term cosmopolitanism, the editors, both anthropologists with research interests in politics and culture, attach characteristics of kindness, tolerance, and hospitality, adding that it implies an attitude of altruistic, progressive civility. To this point, social anthropologist Thomas Hylland Eriksen points out that "while some speak of cosmopolitans as individuals who are open to diversity and tolerant of difference, or ... as a disembedded elite with a transnational class habitus, others see cosmopolitanism as a world-view competing with, and possibly replacing, nationalism" (p.136).

In his evaluation of the aporetics of cosmopolitanism, Ronald Slade, a peace and conflict studies specialist, describes the evolution of the concept from its origins in ancient Greece to its emergence as an element of Enlightenment thought. While the original goal of cosmopolitanism was privileged in nature and concerned the relationship between the self and the world, later anthropological interpretations would shift the focus to the relationship between the self and other. According to Kant, we have the right to global mobility, what he calls "the right to the surface," within the framework of peaceful relationships, as well as the expectation of hospitality, association, and asylum. Property, on the other hand, is a social relationship and not a right. "Confinement" (i.e., lack of mobility) and cosmopolitanism are not mutually exclusive. Kant's "right to the surface" is tempered with the practical realities of national and geopolitical restrictions.

Anthropologist Nigel Rapport, in his essay on accommodating the universal human subject, considers moral social relations, in which others honor the sovereignty of one's symbolic space. Rapport uses the British Constance Hospital as a case...

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