Sunday, July 12, 2009

Thirty Days of Cosmopolitanism

I entered my graduate program abroad in Global Peace and Conflict Studies with an unrealistic belief that world peace was a final destination...that we would gradually and collectively arrive there and let out a huge sigh of relief. Through the course of my studies and afterward, I realized that this utopia I envisioned at the end of the jarring ride on the peace bus was kind of bullshit. Students at the University were from myriad countries and brought divergent worldviews and fierce loyalties to nation, religion, tradition...these all seemed to get in the way of creating a single definition of peace. I discovered that even I, the less-than patriotic United States citizen who denounced everything President Bush-related, was defensive about my way of life and the values I held as an American. If I let go completely of my American identity, I felt like I was floating in a cultural void. Shedding this identity was tempting, however, because being an American abroad carries a certain shame. Without the American context though, what was my context?

My anchor came in the form of Cosmopolitanism. A concept introduced by one of my professors, it was the frame of reference I was looking for to provide an identity that encompassed many layers. As an idea, it embraced the conflicts that I was feeling and allowed for ambiguities. Cosmopolitanism recognizes that humanity shares a single, world community. So, for those (like myself) who get stuck in nationalistic thinking, it's like looking at the globe as a state. If we need a flag for this state, we could perhaps use the photo of earth from space taken from the Apollo 8 mission.

Cosmopolitanism recognizes that achieving peace is a constant challenge. Within the idea, there is the recognition of our common humanity and that we have obligations to each other as human beings. At the same time, Cosmopolitanism knows that people are different and can learn from each other. The concept embraces the awkward balance of universal concern for people while encouraging difference and diversity.

Over the next thirty days (or so...depending on thee ol' work schedule), I will highlight cosmopolitanism in the world news and see how the idea is used. Is it being used to promote a global project of peace? Is it seen as threatening to those who wish to retain a separateness of identity? I welcome your comments and your ideas.


  1. I truly enjoyed your article, very insightful, and I share your feelings.

  2. I look forward to reading how Cosmopolitanism plays a part in our world we live in today and your views on it. Great introduction to your blog. People really need to understand diversity and realize we all are different and that it's a good thing. Imagine a world full of Newps. We'd be in bigger trouble I think. THank you for taking time from your super busy life to share your thoughts on this topic.