Friday, April 13, 2007

April 20 Debating Cosmopolitanism

Shail Mayaram

Professor and Senior Fellow
Centre for the Study of Developing Societies
Debating Cosmopolitanism

Friday, April 20, 20074.00pmCL Room 501

The talk examines language-based efforts to pluralise the concept of cosmopolitanism. Its focuses specifically on landmark contributions by Sheldon Pollock and Muzaffar Alam, who elaborate a perspective grounded in the literary cultures of Sanskrit and Persian. The talk extends their analysis to other civilizations such as the Arab and Chinese and includes perspectives from the vernacular. Contemporary theories of cosmopolitanism (Martha Nussbaum, Homi Bhabha’s notion of vernacular cosmopolitanism and Craig Calhoun’s emphasis on nationalism and the nation-state as the site of cosmopolitanism) are discussed in relation to Kant’s vision of perpetual peace achieved through global commerce and the universalism of political institutions and global citizenship. What both liberal and post-liberal positions fail to yield is a theory of selfhood that goes beyond the duality of self and other. There are however, alternative conceptions of this duality in the work of theorists like George Herbert Mead and in Asian philosophies such as those of Confucius and Gandhi, which take us beyond mere toleration.

Shail Mayaram is a member of the Subaltern Studies collective and has co-edited vol. xii, Muslims, Dalits, and the Fabrications of History (2005). Her books include Against History, Against State: Counterperspectives from the Margins (2003); Resisting Regimes: Myth, Memory and the Shaping of a Muslim Identity (1997); and (coauthored ) Creating a Nationality: The Ramjanmabhumi Movement and the Fear of Self (1995). Her current interest is in inter-ethnic relations in cities. Currently Dr. Mayaram is researching the idea of the sacred city (a study of the Indo-Islamic city of Ajmer), the city as imperium and the mega-city (Delhi). Her work will appear in the forthcoming anthology The Other Global City: Living Together in Asia.

Sponsored by: boundary 2, Cultural Studies, Asian Studies, Departments of English and Anthropology

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