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Session Overview
RN07_07b: Sociology of Culture: Cosmopolitanism and heritage
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: David Inglis, University of Helsinki
Location: GM.335
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road

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Practices of Cosmopolitanism and new Forms of Political Participation: Individualization and Belonging

Ilenya Camozzi1, Carmen Leccardi2

1University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy; 2University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy

Belonging within globalized societies is a key issue of sociological debate. Scholars deal with both the effect of the weakness of Nation-States on citizens’ sense of belonging, and the impacts of cultural phenomena – for instance, the increase of consumption, the spread of ethno-diversity, and the expansion of ICTs – on social actors’ identities. Scholars are also interested in belonging with respect to the strength of social ties in times of individualized biographies and everyday practices. Research on these topics, however, commonly assumes an inverse relationship between globalization and individualization processes on the one hand, and the strength of social ties on the other.

Moving towards a non-dualistic perspective, our paper suggests that the relationship between individualization and social ties is not necessarily conflictual. On the contrary, we contend that they are complementary. Our hypothesis is informed by research conceptualising practices of cosmopolitanism and political participation in recent social movements as new forms of belonging in contemporary societies. In our view, cosmopolitanism instead of being considered either an individual inclination to difference or a source of belonging, can represent both. Analogously, political participation can be conceptualised as an adoption of new tools and repertories for political action based on an individualistic approach, too. Thus, we contend that practices of cosmopolitanism and new practices of political participation can be also understood simultaneously as new forms of individualism and belonging.

Finally, we will argue that these two kinds of practices – cosmopolitanism and contemporary participation in social movements - can be considered two forms of subjectification within which belonging and individualization coexist.

‘Citizen of Nowhere’: Cosmopolitan Belonging and the Accusation of Rootlessness

Irene Skovgaard-Smith

Anglia Ruskin University, United Kingdom

The sociology of cultural cosmopolitanism has long emphasised that cosmopolitan and national identities are not mutually exclusive. Cosmopolitanism is ‘rooted’ as Appiah (1997) argued in his attempt to answer the charge against cosmopolitans as parasitic and rootless. However, this emphasis on countering the accusation of rootlessness means that exploration of the discourse of cosmopolitans as deviant has been neglected. Historically the ‘rootless cosmopolitan’ label was used to derogate those supposedly lacking national allegiance and attachment to a particular land, for instance in the totalitarianisms of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Stalinism. In the wake of the Brexit vote in 2016, the British prime minister Theresa May drew on a similar discourse as she proclaimed: ‘If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere’. The cultural conservatism of political commentator David Goodhart similarly brands so-called ‘anywheres’ as lacking rootedness, community and solidarity. It is this contemporary mobilisation of the ‘rootless cosmopolitan’ discourse and it’s counter reactions that I explore in this paper. May’s ‘citizen of nowhere’ statement for instance caused widespread controversy and has since inspired cultural and political debate, theatre productions, blogs, twitter hashtags (#citizenofnowhere), badges, t-shirts by independent artists etc. The aim of the paper is to contribute to the sociology of cultural cosmopolitanism by exploring the ‘rootless cosmopolitan’ discourse and the role it plays in current identity politics and in the construction of cosmopolitan forms of belonging.

Re-defining Heritage and Making Sense of Brexit in the European City of Culture

Anton Popov

Aston University, United Kingdom

In 2017, Coventry has won its bit for the European City of Culture 2021. This victory has ultimately raised a profile of the city in the UK and internationally. It also came at the time when the very meanings of Europe (as a political and cultural project) and Britain were contested. In the 2016 EU membership referendum, people of Coventry voted ‘leave’. What does it mean to be a European city of culture in the context of Brexit? The question of cultural identity is ultimately about how the local history and cultural heritage are re-defined to project a vision of the city as a community in the future. While the bid’s campaign acknowledging the city’s industrial heritage, as a cradle of British manufacturing, and its post-WWII history of being symbol of peace and reconciliation in Europe, it puts forward the image of Coventry as a culturally vibrant and divers place. Set against the background of the UK cultural policy, the paper draws on ethnographic research in the city’s two culture and heritage institutions representing an established mainstream museum and an innovative performance theatre. In particular, the paper focuses on how by embedding migration and cultural diversity into representation of Coventry’s identity, heritage practitioners in those institutions make sense of complex social, cultural, economic and political processes that led to support of Brexit in the city and nationally. The paper is based on research conducted as part of the Horizon 2020 Cultural Heritage and Identity of Europe’s Future (CHIEF) project.

'Cosmopolitan Memory' Revisited: Examining the Boundaries of the Utilization of Memory in Political Rhetoric

Tracy Adams

Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Is the memory of the Holocaust articulated as an occurrence within an ongoing course of events, or is it formulated as a single, isolated memory? This project attempts to answer this question as part of the overarching query of the boundaries of memories and the utilization of past events in political rhetoric.

Qualitatively analyzing ongoing, everyday, non-commemorative political speeches of heads of state in Israel, Germany, and the United States over seven decades, this project not only examines the utilization of the memory over time and across nations, but also the coupling of the memory of the Holocaust, its relationship and relativity (entanglement) with other national and foreign past events to sociologically unpack Levy and Sznaider’s (2002) concept of ‘cosmopolitan memory’.

This project shows that although limited by natural and cultural borders, not to mention having to confront the danger of being reduced to a symbolic and iconic ‘essence’ or a global icon, this memory has managed to remain at the forefront of political discourse, not only by means of analogy and metaphor but by embodying the very values that guide and govern each of the chosen countries in their everyday communications. Thus, returning to Levy and Sznaider and their claim of universality, this research shows that the nuanced utilization of the memory of the Holocaust transcends that of a global and homogenous mnemonic trope and instead enhances the prismatic and heterogeneous national-oriented understanding and perception of the past.

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