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Postcolonial Cosmopolitanism (Gurminder Bhambra)

Cosmopolitanism is one of the ways in which social theorists have sought to understand the global, as constituted through contemporary international migrations, and the work of Ulrich Beck has been central to this development. In this session, we address Beck’s understanding of (elite) cosmopolitanism and contrast it with
other understandings from other locations – for example, the idea of ‘cosmopolitanisms’, ‘ordinary cosmopolitanism’ and ‘provincialised cosmopolitanism’. We address the question of whether cosmopolitanism can be provincialised such that it becomes a useful concept for the discussion of contemporary social diversity seen to arise from both historical and more recent migrations of peoples.



  1. How global or international is the reach of Beck’s theory of cosmopolitanism?
  2. What does Lamont and Aksartova’s understanding of ‘ordinary’ cosmopolitanism add to our understanding of the concept?
  3. How does ‘critical’ cosmopolitanism or the idea of the cosmopolitan canopy help us understand issues of social diversity in the context of histories of migration?
  4. Is there a difference between the ‘global cosmopolitan’ and the ‘cosmopolitan global’?
  5. How do different understandings of (the histories of) migration have an impact on our understandings of cosmopolitanism?



Beck, Ulrich 2005. ‘The Cosmopolitan Perspective: Sociology of the Second Age of Modernity’, British Journal of Sociology 51(1): 79-106.

Bhambra, G. K. 2011. ‘Cosmopolitanism and Postcolonial Critique’ in M. Rovisco and M. Nowicka (eds) The Ashgate Companion to Cosmopolitanism. Ashgate: Farnham

Lamont, M. and Aksartova, S. 2002. ‘Ordinary Cosmopolitanisms: Strategies for Bridging Racial Boundaries among Working-Class Men,’ Theory, Culture and Society 19 (4), 1-25


Anderson, Elijah 2011. The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life. W. W. Norton: New York (choose any chapter from this book)

Mignolo, W. D. 2000. ‘The Many Faces of Cosmo-Polis: Border Thinking and Critical Cosmopolitanism,’ Public Culture 12 (3), 721-48

Pollock, Sheldon, Homi K. Bhabha, Carol A. Breckenbridge and Dipesh Chakrabarty 2000. 'Cosmopolitanisms', Public Culture 12 (3): 577-89.