ASA06: Cosmopolitanism and Anthropology

Panel 11

Religious and Moral Frameworks for Cosmopolitan Relations – Keith Hart and Huon Wardle

Room: CBA 0.001x41

Panel abstract

The session will explore religion, memory, narratives and subjectivity in a social space that is no longer conceived of as being confined to the national or the local. Our particular focus is on how notions of cosmopolitan accountability shape cultural conversation in local and translocal social situations. This should be related to larger structural changes taking place as a result of imperialism, neo-liberalism, regional federations and transnational networks. We envisage a set of papers that would take in the geopolitical, the local and the personal -- in the process establishing new ways of writing ethnography.

If people are entering into these heterogeneous relations, the widest term for which is 'cosmopolitanism', what kind of moral accountability does that push to the fore? What are the moral and religious frameworks of contemporary politics? What sorts of conversations, narratives and ideals become salient? This gives some room for ethnography, but also for broader readings of our moment in political and economic history.


Keith Hart, Goldsmiths College

Huon Wardle, University of St. Andrews


Cosmopolitanism and the Diversity of Modernity

Huon Wardle, University of St. Andrews

An essential work of social anthropology is to explore the remit of universals through the density of ethnographic particulars. This is as true of ‘cosmopolitanism’ as of other universalising terms. I offer a commentary on ‘cosmopolitanism’ derived from my Ethnography of Cosmopolitanism in Kingston, Jamaica (2000). My suggestion there was that Kant’s formulation of cosmopolitanism is more analogous with the situation of people on the periphery of modernity than with those who live in its metropolitan centres. His was a dialectic between a universal subjectivity and arbitrary power that had its roots in late Eighteenth Century radical Protestantism. His formulation of the problem of self and world has far greater religious-political resonance for West Indians who, since slave emancipation have continued to live out a similarly radical relationship between self and geo-political system.

Establishing an analogy between Kant and the lives of latterday Jamaicans, therefore, yields more than do relatively empty invocations of the philosopher’s work as a grounding in itself. Ethnographically, the term cosmopolitanism is useful precisely because of the agency it gives to the subject in contrast to terms such as ‘deterritorialisation’ or ‘glocalisation’. Decentring Kant; placing him in the periphery; showing the Kantian view to be contextually distinct to current Euro-American assumptions: these strategies allow us to think about why anthropologists are currently interested in cosmopolitanism and what the differences are between this anthropological cosmopolitanism and the cosmopolitanism of Jamaicans like Aunt Erica, narratives of whose life in New York and London I discuss here.

The Ghosts of War and the Spirit of Cosmopolitanism

Dr. Heonik Kwon, University of Edinburgh

Domestic death-commemorative rituals in southern Vietnam consist of two sides which represent different milieus of memory. The side of 'ancestors' used to be an exclusive shrine for the heritage of heroic revolutionary war death and is now changing to a more open place politically, allowing the identities from the opposite side of the politico-military conflict (notably the soldiers of former South Vietnam) to enter it. The side of 'ghosts' relates to diverse traces of death in the locale (displaced from their original home) including those of foreign combatants from the Vietnam war. This paper will discuss issues of communal solidarity and cosmopolitan ethics as these are manifested in the two-way ritual practice, and will explore the possibility to conceive of cosmopolitan ethos as part of traditional moral practice.

Money and God in the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God

Dr. Roger Sansi-Roca, Goldsmith's College, London

The Brazilian Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) is notorious among anthropologists because of its overt ritual use of money and its successful international expansion throughout the world (including North London). Anthropological accounts usually describe the UCKG as a religion of neo-liberalism, worshiping money and looking for a quick profit. This paper gives a more nuanced interpretation of the use of money in the UCKG. More than worshiping neo-liberalism, its strategy is to offer reassurance against the pitfalls of neo-liberalism. In the face of money's dematerialization and its unstable transnational value, they offer a stable standard of value: God.

Athonian Economy

Michelangelo Paganopoulos (doctoral candidate), Goldsmiths College, London

Christian monastic life is often portrayed in terms of ‘confession, self-accusation, struggle against temptation, renunciation, (and) spiritual combat’ (Foucault), while the monks themselves represent monastic life to the visitors and outsiders of their monastery as ideally ‘disconnected’ from the latter’s ‘cosmopolitan’ world, since the monks separate the ‘Holy’ Republic of Athos from the rest of the world in both geographical and spiritual terms, in the Durkheimian moral sense of the ‘sacred’ as separated from the ‘profane’. By briefly looking at the historical connection of the monasteries of Athos to the Byzantine Empire, and in particular to its cosmopolitan capitol of the time, Constantinople, this paper examines the position and relevance of contemporary monasticism to World Society arguing that the monks are not irrelevant to the material world, but rather, they are historically ‘cosmopolites’ (Vertovec and Cohen), and nowadays, citizens of our increasingly unified world.

In illustrating my argument, I will be looking at two different understandings and practices of the moral value of ‘economy of passions’ in two monasteries of the ‘Holy’ Republic from three perspectives: as the inner economy of each individual monk, as a social value for the whole community that guarantees its social and moral order, and in terms of ‘economy of qualities’ (Callon, Meadel, and Rabeharisoa) of a ‘cultural economy’ (Du Gay and Pryke) for the monastery as a religious institution in the world, which on the one hand, guarantees its economic and demographic survival in time, while on the other, makes contemporary monasticism relevant to World Society. My aim is to argue that in a world facing the prospect of economic and technological democracy, a value such as the ‘economy of passions’, even if it is interpreted in totally different ways from one monastery to the other, re-asserts the individual’s place in the world, his quality of life and freedom of choice, because it springs out from inside the self, and always in relation and co-ordination with others, instead of being imposed from outside political and economic pressures that suffocate the individual in vague ideals of ‘community’. It is the inner value of economy through which we might finally achieve realizing a state of being for all individuals who respect each other no matter where they are from, or where they are going to, in order for each one of us to feel ‘at home in the world’ (Hart); and Athos certainly offers a model for such a healthy social living.


Cosmopolitan Kinship

Dr. Peter Parkes, University of Kent

This paper builds on a series of historical surveys of fosterage and adoptive kinship in western Eurasia (published in Comparative Studies in Society and History and in Social Anthropology over the past five years). I show that the social practice and ideology of cosmopolitanism inherent to colonial rule depended upon deployments of adoptive and elective kinship -- such as wet-nursing, fosterage, and spiritual kinship -- in normal preference to intermarriage. The politics and moral ambivalence of adoptive kinship is examined in relation to its pre-modern precedents in Europe and to its colonial and post-colonial forms.

‘I would rather become a Turk’: Cosmopolitan Values in the Age of the Clash of Civilizations

Professor Cesare Poppi, University of Bologna

In 1630 Algiers the population of Christian rinnegati (‘renegades’) in Tunis reached the number of 11,000: thousand more were to be found in Algiers and other Muslim cities of the Mediterranean. These were not only prisoners of war ‘making it good’ by opting to be converted, but, also, free individuals who migrated to Islamic countries in search of opportunities and individual freedom. A long-standing undercurrent of quasi-millenarian thinking amongst the underclasses of Southern Italy – and namely Calabria – held that in Islam birth-rights meant less than they did at home: the Muslims ‘had no aristocracy’, and individual chances in life depended on the individual’s own virtues and capabilities.

This ‘belief’ (somewhat corresponding to the situation in the field) was elaborated into political theory by the lowly-born Calabrese Dominican theologian Tommaso Campanella (1568-1639), author of the celebrated classic Utopian treatise La Città del Sole. A life-long conspirator, heretic and revolutionary, he was to spend the best part of his life in Neapolitan and Roman jails beginning with his attempt actively to promote a Calabrian-sponsored Turkish invasion of Southern Italy to free it from the oppressive Spanish regime. His main philosophical argument was that the Turks and Islam were more respectful of truly universal Christian values than Christian kings, and therefore deserved to rule.

The paper will finally elaborate upon the relationship between historical cosmopolitanism and modernity qua articulation of ‘cross-cultural’ religious values, social history and the underbelly of ‘Western Values’ as understood by the underclasses.

Prestige, Alterity and Pain on the Global Tattooing Scene

Cyril Siorat (doctoral candidate), Goldsmiths College London

I look at the relationships at play during the cosmopolitan gatherings that tattoo conventions and festivals have become. It is a story of exchanges between Polynesian and European tattooing artists in delocalised contemporary settings. I examine in particular the parallel, yet intertwined, rise of the European ‘neo-tribal’ tattooing styles and Polynesian ‘neo-traditional’ tattooing movements since the 1980’s. Through positive engagement with the pain and suffering that tattooing entails, practitioners share a particular form of spiritual values rooted in alternative perceptions of the past.

Discussant: Professor Aram Yengoyan, University of California Davis

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