Cosmopolitanism: Provincializing a Eurocentric Concept & Bringing Norms Back

‘But today, too many people in positions of power behave as though they have more in common with international elites than with the people down the road, the people they employ, the people they pass in the street. But if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word “citizenship” means.’

Theresa May’s anti-cosmopolitan statement in defence of Brexit in October 2016 stands in stark contrast to one of her great predecessor’s declaration, Winston Churchill, who in May 1948 pronounced in Amsterdam: ‘We hope to see a Europe where men of every country will think as much of being a European as belonging to their native land, and that without losing any part of their love and loyalty to their birthplace. We hope wherever they go in this wide domain, to which we set no limits in the European continent, they will truly feel “Here I am at home. I am a citizen of this country too”.’

May’s attack on world citizenship rejects Enlightenment values going back to the German philosopher Immanuel Kant who propagated the ideal as a means to achieve peace and famously propagated hospitality as a right of world citizenship. As Jeremy Adler pointed out in the Guardian the pejorative sense of cosmopolitanism adopted by the Prime Minister echoes the stigmatizing accusation of rootlessness that marked German, and later Soviet, anti-semitic discourse. In the 19th century the ‘rootless Jew’ was seen as a ‘cosmopolitan’ citizen from ‘nowhere’. Continue reading

Europe Across Borders

The blog Europe Across Borders is a forum for historical research on Europe across borders from around 1500 to the present. It advances historical knowledge in present scholarly and public debates.

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The blog posts cross and reflect boundaries not merely between nation states or cultures but also between social, economic, religious, ethnic, gender, and other entities. The blog thus fosters research on the dynamics in Europe from the early modern period into the twentieth century and the immediate past. The blog is open to a broad variety of topics, both with regard to methodological approaches and fields of research. Methodologically, it brings together approaches such as comparative studies, the study of transfer processes and entanglements, the histoire croisée, or international, imperial and global history. Beyond that, the blog takes up all fields of cultural, political, social, economic, environmental and intellectual history throughout Europe in the modern period. It is especially interested in providing a fresh picture on Europe’s place in a globalising world. Continue reading