Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dark thoughts from a coffeehead night owl

I like dark theories as much as I like dark coffee, and I'm having too much of both lately.

Last night, for instance, I was editing my chapter on what I call the hopelessly optimistic theoretical developments, which aim to revise the Eurocentric biases of social sciences in general and the concept of modernity in particular - the poor & misunderstood cosmopolitan outlook and the notion of multiple modernities (which is, hands down, the most misguided but popular concept from the last decade, perhaps next to its exact opposite, the clash of civilizations thesis.)

What's wrong with cosmopolitanism and transnational citizenship? What's in them that irritate us? What is it that make us all sullen and skeptical in the face of such happy thoughts and optimistic outlooks on perpetual peace? Wouldn't we all like to be cosmopolitan, travel around from one place to another, from one ideology or way of life or symbolic universe to another, without having our loyalties questioned?

At a very banal and everyday level, and abstracting myself from all academic training, I can see two kinds of cosmopolitanism in practice. First are the travelling bureaucrats, "flying professors," graduate students surviving on research grants, and various other kinds from the technocratic class on "official duty," who spend so much time in airports so as to lose their sense of place and time. This sort of cosmopolitanism is embodied in service passports, student visas, letters of invitation, and bursting schedules. 

The second are the carefree inter-railing, work & travelling, couch-surfing type. Their motto - the true cosmopolitan spirit is adventurous. Put a few hundred Euros in the pocket of an 18-year old with dreadlocks and watch as he covers half the face of the earth and befriends several hundred interesting people before you can decide what to do on your summer holiday. 

The first has been institutionalized from head to toe in order to become cosmopolitan, while you cannot find a single institutional fabric on the second. Interesting, however, to see that both are utterly, utterly elite. They're both extremely individualistic, without having to care for money (first is covered, the second doesn't care) or responsibilities other than personal ones.

Nice food for thought. I should read Around the World in 80 Days again.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...