Are cosmopolitans a small band of well-heeled elite nomads or are they rather the victims of modernity, globalization, capitalism? The cosmopolitan has been around since Greek antiquity and at root s:he is a ”citizen of the world”, rather than a member of a particular nation, nation-state, or culture. Cosmopolitanism can be considered a way of being: a mode of life, thought, and sensibility which develops at the intersection of multiple and overlapping commitments and loyalties. From the Stoics until today, the concept of cosmopolitanism has developed and proliferated considerably, remaining dynamic and malleable. The concept's influence and authority may have peaked with the birth of the modern nation-state and with Immanuel Kant’s ”Toward Perpetual Peace” (1795) because it (seemingly) provided answers on how to maintain world peace and promote transnational trade.
Working from the assumption that cosmopolitanism has been pluralized, that there are, in fact, many cosmopolitanisms, the lecture engages with different versions of cosmopolitanism and with the critiques that have been launched against them. From rooted to discrepant, from critical to vernacular, from indigenous to planetary, and from subaltern to postcolonial, cosmopolitanism has been inflected and modified in significant and meaningful ways. This lecture course explores several of the ways in which this concept has evolved and what some of its uses are today – not least in the context of literary and cultural studies.