IH 201: Cosmopolitanisms


Instructors: Nigel Hatton and Eli Jelly-Schapiro

In this course we will examine the history, theory, and lived expressions of the term “cosmopolitanism.” We will consider the philosophic origins of the concept, as well as engage its articulation in more recent theoretical conversations. Our inquiry will range across the humanistic tradition—from literature, history, and philosophy, to sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, and the arts. Locating the conceptual genealogy of cosmopolitanism within particular political and economic histories—the entwined histories of imperialism, capitalism and modernity—we will meditate, in a more general register, on the dialectic relationship between ideas and the social worlds they both reflect and shape.

We will pressure classical, modern and contemporary tensions of a cosmopolitan emergence, locating moments of affinity, fissure and contingency. How do we reconcile Gramsci’s distinction of a “bourgeois cosmopolitanism” vs. “proletarian internationalism” with Habermas’ notion of an “obligatory cosmopolitan solidarity” as the means for postnational societies? Are the preconditions and foundations of a cosmopolitan citizenship constitutive of elements that engender sameness and difference, justice and terror, unity and separation, forgiveness and disavowal?

Our exploration will necessarily involve a sustained encounter with the enduring philosophic problems of the universal and the particular, and debates surrounding the conception and idea of the human being. On the one hand, we will consider how, for example, discourses of universal humanism have coincided with—and enabled—forms of race or gender thinking and practice. On the other hand, we will address how the universal is constituted by the particular—how, to borrow one example from Frantz Fanon, “it is at the heart of national consciousness that international consciousness lives and grows. And this twofold emerging is ultimately the source of all culture.” 

Required Texts:


Brennan, Timothy. Borrowed Light. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2014.

Brown, Wendy. Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2006.

Buck-Morss, Susan. Thinking Past Terror: Islamism and Critical Theory on the Left. London; New York: Verso, 2006; 2003.

Cheah, Pheng. Inhuman Conditions: On Cosmopolitanism and Human Rights. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006.

Edwards, Brent Hayes. The Practice of Diaspora : Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Ghosh, Amitav. Sea of Poppies. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008; 2008.

Karatani, Kōjin, and Michael K. Bourdaghs. The Structure of World History: From Modes of Production to Modes of Exchange. Durham ; London: Duke University Press, 2014.

Mignolo, Walter. The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011.

Mishra, Pankaj. From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia. Fir American ed. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012.

Saldívar, José David. Trans-Americanity: Subaltern Modernities, Global Coloniality, and the Cultures of Greater Mexico. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012.

Tompkins, Kyla Wazana. Racial Indigestion: Eating Bodies in the Nineteenth Century. New York: New York University Press, 2012.


IH 201: Cosmopolitanisms