Topical Introduction

The term “cosmopolitanism,” which derives from Greek (i.e. Κόσμος + πολίτης), means “world citizenry.” In recent years, disciplines in the humanities and the social sciences have seen a revival of interest in this idea. There are, in a general sense, three distinct – though related – strands in these discussions. First, as a political ideal, cosmopolitanism proposes that, despite differences in terms of political affiliation, all human beings belong to a single community. Second, as a moral ideal, cosmopolitanism requires us to care for, understand and respect other people, even if they are not related to us by ties of family or a shared citizenship, and uphold values which we do not share. Third, as a cultural phenomenon, cosmopolitanism bespeaks of how, because of the mutual influence of diverse cultures, cultures themselves – and hence our cultural identity – are constantly changing. In this course, we will be reading, discussing and writing about discourses on the second and third meanings of cosmopolitanism. We will, in particular, examine the second and the third meanings in relation to colonialism.


Organization of the Module

The module is divided into three units. In the first unit, we will read and contrast two sets of theoretical texts: Appiah’s well-known Cosmopolitanism, and the 1947 Statement of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). In the second unit, we will make use of an actual case study (i.e. female genital mutilation) to test the validity of theories proposed by Appiah and the AAA. In the third unit, we will explore cosmopolitanism as a cultural phenomenon, as well as its relation to cultural imperialism.

Skill Objectives

The primary objective of this course is to develop our skills in writing academic arguments. A good academic argument, however, very often begins with a careful reading of and exciting intellectual exchanges about source texts. Hence, we will make use of a variety of source texts as our starting point. Students are required to do the readings in advance, and actively engage in class discussions about them. In addition to enabling us to understand source texts, class discussions give us the opportunity to practice the skills that we need in argumentative writing, for example, skills in formulating and defending an interesting thesis, critically analyzing passages, effectively addressing counter-arguments, and logically structuring multiple strands of argument. Students will also be required to peer-review one another’s written work, so that they will in turn improve in diagnosing problems in their own essays and in coming up with fixes for those problems.