Mica Nava on ‘vernacular cosmopolitanism’

In the special issue of Theory, Culture & Society on Cosmopolitanism – (19.1-2):

Cosmopolitan Modernity : Everyday Imaginaries and the Register of Difference

Mica Nava

Debates about cosmopolitanism in the spheres of political philosophy, sociology and postcolonial criticism have on the whole ignored specific histories of the cosmopolitan imagination and its vernacular expressions in everyday life. This article draws on aspects of the urban and often feminized worlds of entertainment, commerce, the arts and the emotions in metropolitan England during the first decades of the 20th century, in which an interest in abroad and cultural ‘others’ increasingly signalled an engagement with the new, in order to argue for a notion of cosmopolitan modernity. This should be understood not just as a reflexive stance of openness, but also as a dialogic formation – a counterculture – part of a psychic and often gendered revolt against the conservatism and xenophobia of the parental culture.

Keywords; allure of difference, counterculture, English modernity, vernacular cosmopolitanism, women

4 thoughts to “Mica Nava on ‘vernacular cosmopolitanism’”

  1. my students had a really hard time when i assigned this article, but i think that mostly had to do with having no exposure to a selfridge’s store, or english life. still, i really like the focus on the everyday vernacular, the granular detail that allows a reformulation of cosmopolitanism as lived experience, in all its messiness. by focussing on the dynamics of difference, on miscegenation and mongrelization, cosmopolitanism emerges as “more than” global citizenship (see bowden in same issue) and perhaps closer to what stevenson (same issue) refers to as civil society rather than the public sphere?

  2. Thanks – haven’t actually read it yet (piles upon piles upon piles of unread material on my desk already) but I was hoping I’d get something like what you describe out of it!

  3. Oh, and in regard to civil society vs. public sphere – i talk about ephemeral or ‘episodic’ micro-publics in relation to the cultural public sphere – and also about cultural citizenship as everyday practice, so yeah, a culturalised form of civil society is constituted that way, at least in this particular sociological imagination.

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