Cosmopolitanism as critical and creative practice: an introduction

Eleanor Byrne, Berthold Schoene



Has cosmopolitanism become uncontroversial? As a concept it seems endlessly flexible and suits almost everybody while offending no one in particular. If we are all citizens of the world already, and nobody would seriously want to contest this, then is there still a need to plead for a cosmopolitan outlook, a cosmopolitan inflection to political decisions taken at national and international levels, or by international bodies? Clearly, for peoples yet to access even national recognition in an international arena, the injunctions of a cosmopolitan commitment in a globalised world are urgent and risky in equal measure. Numerous examples might demonstrate this point. For instance, on 29 November 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voted to upgrade the status of the Palestinians to that of a ‘non-member observer state’. This followed a bid to join the international body as a full member state in 2011, which failed, due to a lack of support in the UN Security Council. The long-term effects of this decision are as yet unknowable. Palestinians may now participate in General Assembly debates, and their chances of joining UN agencies and the International Criminal Court have improved. But conversely the Israeli response to the vote has been to withhold $120 million worth of funds from Palestine and initiate aggressive settlement projects in East Jerusalem. Importantly, cosmopolitanism advocates that we have conversations across borders, and that in these conversations the rights of both parties to speak are universally regarded as self-evident.

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DOI: 10.5456/issn.2050-3679/2013s01ebbs