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CfH Lectures

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Postcolonial theory has helped us understand the ways in which imperial cultures have claimed cosmopolitanism as intrinsic to their civilizing missions. While the treatment of indigenous groups and the history of slavery have consistently critiqued such claims, less attention has been paid to the ways in other groups have been positioned in these dynamics, particularly in the settler colonies. For example, in Australian cultural debates, the cosmopolitanism linked to ‘European’ and ‘modernity’ is, on closer inspection, revealed to be peculiarly limited to the Anglo-Celtic vernacular. This perspective excludes the immigrant NESBs (those from non-English-speaking backgrounds) and their descendents, who are often from Europe. At the same time, the assumed limitations associated with the vernacular in terms such as ‘multicultural’ or ‘diasporic’ writings are often subtended by wider global histories and value systems to which the national culture remains willfully blind. My paper examines such contradictory dynamics through recent fictions that mediate ‘European cosmopolitanism’ in multiple ways that include the central and eastern margins of Europe: Christos Tsiolkas (Dead Europe), Dubravka Ugresic (Nobody’s Home), Rana Dasgupta (Solo).

This lecture was given within the framework of The Idea of Cosmopolitanism:Interdisciplinary Dialogues Conference, organized by the Centre for the Humanities at Utrecht University. The conference aims at presenting and debating a broad spectrum of issues involving cosmopolitanism in recent years. These range from a philosophical and legal perspective to radical contestations of equality and difference to media related interventions. Tying ideas of cosmopolitanism in with social theory and the processes of multidimensional globalisation demands a renewed and further understanding of cosmopolitanism itself.