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Cosmopolitans and locals in world culture

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Hannerz, Ulf (1990) “Cosmopolitans and Locals in World Culture”. Theory, Culture and Society Vol. 7, pp. 237-251 (also reprinted in Featherstone) World culture is marked by an organization of diversity rather than by a replication of uniformity. (237) The world has become one network of social relationships. (237) People can relate in different ways to global interconnected diversity. For one thing, there are cosmopolitans, and there are locals. What was cosmopolitan in the early 1940s may be counted a moderate form of localism now. (237) In this article, Hannzer explores cosmopolitanism as a perspective, a state of mind, or a mode of meaning. (238) Historically we have been used to thinking of cultures as distinctive structures of meaning and meaningful form closely linked with territories (usually). And we have thought of individuals as self-evidently linked to particular cultures. The underlying assumption here is that culture flows mostly in face-to-face relationships, and that people do not move around much. (238) This assumption serves to delineate the local as an ideal type. Yes as collective phenomena, cultures are by definition linked primarily to interactions and social relationships, and only indirectly and without logical necessity to particular areas in physical space. We can contrast those cultures which are territorially defined (in terms of nations, regions or localities) with those which are carried as collective structures of meaning by networks more extended in space, transnational or even global. (239) “The perspective of the cosmopolitan must entail relationships to a plurality of cultures understood as distinctive entities. ” (239) Cosmopolitanism in a stricted sense includes a stance toward diversity itself, toward the coexistence of cultures in the individual experience. A more genuine cosmopolitanism is first of all an orientation, a willingness to engage with the Other. It is an intellectual and aesthetic stance of openness toward divergent cultural experiences, a search for contrasts rather than uniformity. (239) Cosmopolitanism can be a matter of competence. “There is the aspect of a state of readiness, a personal ability to make one’s way into other cultures, through listening, looking, intuiting and reflecting. ” (239) this I have to problematise: There is cultural competence in the stricted sense of the term, a built-up skill in manoeuvring more or less expertly with a particular system of meanings and meaningful forms. I look at processes of meaning-making, but on a different level (jfr Boltanski’s two levels of spectatorship.) In its concer with the Other, cosmopolitanism thus becomes a matter of varieties and levels. Cosmopolitans can be dilettantes as well as connoisseurs, and are often both, at different times. (239) Cosmopolitanism often has a narcissistic streak: the self is constructed in the space where cultures mirror one another. (240) “One’s understandings have expanded, a little more of the world is somehow under control. ” The cosmopolitan may embrace an alien culture, but he does not become committed to it. Being on the move is not enough to turn one into a cosmopolitan. (241) Tourists are not participants; tourism is largely a spectator sport. (242) Jmfr realist and naturalist techniques. Now and then exiles can be cosmopolitan, but most of them are not. Most ordinary labour migrants do not become cosmopolitans either. The concept of the expatriate may be that which we will most readily associate with cosmopolitanism. Expatriates are people who have chosen to live abroad for some period, and who know when they are there that they can go home when it suits them. These are people who can afford to experiment, who do not stand to lose a treasured but threatened, uprooted sense of self. (243) A large number of people are nowadays systematically and directly involved with more than one culture. (244) Western Europeans and North Americans can encapsulate themselves culturally and remain metropolitan locals instead of becoming cosmopolitans. (245) The real significance of the growth of transnational cultures is often not the new cultural experience that they can offer people, but their mediating possibilities. “The transnational cultures are bridgeheads for entry into other territorial cultures. Instead of remaining within them, one can use the mobility connected with them to make contact with the meanings of other rounds of life, and gradually incorporate this experience into one’s personal perspective. ” (245) It may be worth considering the possibility that there is some kind of affinity between cosmopolitanism and the culture of intellectuals. (246) What intellectuals carry is not just special knowledge, but also that overall orientation toward structures of meaning to which the notion of the ’culture of critical discourse’ refers. This orientation is reflexive, problematizing, concerned with metacommunication. (246) Think about this for the focus groups! Much of the time, even cosmopolitans are actually at home. (247) “Perhaps real cosmopolitans, after they have taken out membership in that categroy, are never quite at home again, in the way real locals can be. Home is taken-for-grantedness, but after their perspectives have been irreversibly affected by the experience of the alien and the distant, cosmopolitans may not view either the seasons of the year or the minor rituals of everyday life as absolutely natural, obvious, and necessary. […] Or perhaps the cosmopolitan makes ’home’ as well one of his several sources of personal meaning, not so different from theothers which are further away” (1990: 248). Home is not necessarily a place where cosmopolitanism is in exile. It is natural that in the contemporary world many local settings are increasingly characterized by cultural diversity. Those of cosmopolitan inclinations may make selective use of their habitats to maintain their expansive orientation toward the wider world. Apart from face-to-face encounters, there are the media — both those intended for local consumption, although they speak of what is distant, and those which are really part of other cultures (like foreign books or films). “one may in the end ask whether it is now even possible to become a cosmopolitan without going away at all” (249) All the variously distributed structures of meaning and expression are becoming interrelated. People like the cosmopolitans have a special part in bringing about a degree of coherence. If there were only locals in the world, world culture would be no more than the sum of its separate parts. Jfr the Kärrtorp pensioners (the Boxholm pensioners were local): As things are now, it is no longer so easy to conform to the ideal type of a local. (249) Today’s cosmopolitans and locals have common interests in the survival of cultural diversity. (249-50) For cosmopolitans, there is value in diversity as such, but they are not likely to get it unless other people are allowed to carve out special niches for their cultures, and keep them. In other words: there can be no cosmopolitans without locals. (250)

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