The precarious ecologies of cosmopolitanism

Marsha Meskimmon

loughborough University


Meskimmon contends that cosmopolitanism might be described as a precarious ecology, a state of dynamic exchange between selves and others, and a corporeal interplay between subjects, objects and ideas in the world. In this sense, cosmopolitanism is not a finished product, but rather a delicate balance reached during the mutual making of subjects and worlds, when that making welcomes difference and encourages ethical encounters with others. Turning to specific works by the artists Joan Brassil, Catherine Bertola and Johanna Hallsten, Meskimmon suggests that one of the ways that contemporary art can play a role in the creation of the precarious ecologies of cosmopolitanism is through its ability to evoke in viewers a state of wonder. Meskimmon explores wonder as a precarious, and precious, affective state that enmeshes us, imaginatively and sensually, with/in the world, and through each of these very different instances she demonstrates how artwork can participate in the production of a tenuous and attenuated moment of balance, a precarious ecology, that has the potential to align us through our shared wonder at the open generosity of the world.

Full text (PDF, 886KB)

Keywords: Wonder, precarious, cosmopolitanism, Joan Brassil, Catherine Bertola, Johanna Hallsten

DOI: 10.5456/issn.5050-3679/2013s03mm

Biographical note
Marsha Meskimmon is Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art History at Loughborough University. Her research focuses on contemporary art, feminist theories of subjectivity and the affective dimensions of ethics. She is the author of Women Making Art: History, Subjectivity, Aesthetics (2003) and Contemporary Art and the Cosmopolitan Imagination (2010).