ASA06: Cosmopolitanism and Anthropology

Panel 12

Diasporas and Cosmopolitanisms – Andre Levy

Room: 1 -CBA 0.005x32

Panel abstract

If ethnographic locations have always been a source of theoretical insight in anthropology, then the space(s) of diasporas may offer important theoretical keys to comprehending cosmopolitanism from fresh and original perspectives. In particular, the study of diasporas can challenge the charge that cosmopolitanism is always the privilege of elites and the upper classes. If cosmopolitanism embodies an aesthetic and poetic attempt to transcend the localisms, parochialisms, and particularisms constituted by the nation state, the study of diasporas discloses more complex and ambivalent stances: on the one hand, diasporas evoke notions of localism (such as be/longing and group identity); on the other hand, they manifest an apparently everlasting aspiration to transcend locality and, as diasporic people (even if this may be an unrealisable, utopian stance) to be elsewhere. Likewise, while cosmopolitanism accentuates movement, diasporas embody both movement and rootedness. Hence, the inherent tensions within diasporas can reveal some of ambiguities and ambivalences contained in contemporary debates on cosmopolitanism.


Andre Levy
Dept. of Behavioral Sciences
Ben-Gurion University, POB 653
Beer-Sheva 84105, Israel


A transnational pig: Generating cosmopolitan subjectivities within the indigenous Filipino diaspora

Deirdre McKay, Research Fellow, Department of Human Geography, Australian National University, Australia

This paper explores the Filipino diaspora and the ‘culture of circulation’ (Lee and LiPuma, 2002) that links indigenous Ifugao communities in the Philippines and ‘their’ Ifugao contract migrants in Hong Kong. Circulation is more than simply the movement of people, ideas and commodities from one culture to another. Instead, Lee and Li Puma approach circulation as constitutive of particular cultural fields. All cultural fields of circulation feature distinctive practices of evaluation, constraint, consociality and resubjectivation. In the Ifugao culture of circulation I examine, the diasporic cultural field is generating new cosmopolitan subjectivities.

In Ifugao, a long history of regional migration has created tensions of place and identity for respondents who then attempt to resolve local conflicts by engaging the support of Hong Kong sojourners. These efforts instantiate new practices of long-distance consociality and exchange - practices that link multiple sites of Ifugao diaspora. Circulation within the diaspora integrates both symbolic and material aspects of interaction, uniting distinct places, items and actors in a single field of interplay. I illustrate this situation in a case study of a sacrificial pig requested for a family healing ritual – a ritual that forms a key part of traditional Ifugao exchange-based cultural economy. The request attempts to reterritorialise Ifugao locality in Hong Kong but Hong Kong-based respondents are constrained by the dictates of their new church - the Iglesia ni Cristo –which forbids them to support ‘paganism.’ They will only provide the pig if no ‘prayers’ accompany the sacrifice, but are then chastised for their ‘close-minded’ attitude by their Roman Catholic Ifugao consociates in Hong Kong. The resulting conflict, played out across multiple sites of diaspora in the Philippines and Hong Kong by text message and voice calls, is one that recreates locality as translocal (Appadurai, 1995, 1996) while simultaneously requiring respondents to adopt a novel openness to local pluralities now being considered at a global scale. Circulation here contains both efforts to extend local tradition and to reshape or transcend locality through participation in new global religious affiliations. Such transnational tensions resubjectivate both migrants and ‘locals’, giving rise to new cosmopolitan orientations within a cultural field.

Hyderabadis Abroad: Comparative Cosmopolitanisms

Karen Leonard, Professor of Anthropology and Asian American Studies, University of California, Irvine, USA

The paper looks comparatively at Hyderabadi diasporas in the late twentieth century, particularly at the narratives about the old princely state developed by emigrants from Hyderabad, India, settling in Pakistan, the UK, Australia, and the US. It argues against the application of a transnational analysis, partly on the basis of the importance of national projects in shaping new diasporic narratives and partly on the basis of differences between the first and second generations abroad.

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Cosmopolitanism in the Black Sea: from imperial Russia to the Stalinist deportations and the post-Soviet diasporas

Eleni Sideri, Ph.D. candidate in Social Anthropology, SOAS-Univ. of London, UK

The lack of statehood for the Greeks living dispersed in Europe after the sacking of Constantinople (1453) was transformed under the influence of the European nationalisms in the 19th century into a “Cause”: the formation of an independent Greek statehood. When the “Cause” was met, the communities, especially those living in the Eastern part of the Aegean and the Black Sea, which did not belong to the state borders, had to be, at least “Hellenized”, if not gradually included in latter. In fact, this project was deployed, although the communities thrived in the framework of the modernisation of Tsarist Russia and the Ottoman Empire. The goal was crushed during the Greek/Turkish War of 19922/23 leading these communities to another dispersion. After the exile from the Black Sea, they moved to the Caucasus, where during the Russian Empire had developed economic and cultural ties. However, the rise of Stalinism saw in these “stateless cosmopolitans” an enemy, who had to be persecuted, resulting in the deportation of a number of Greeks in Central Asia. The fall of the Soviet Union led to the emergence of a discourse regarding “global Hellenism” based on the “rediscovery” of the “Greek diasporas". From appraisal to punishment, and later to state policies, cosmopolitanism seems to take different meanings and entail different practices for the Greeks of the Black Sea. My paper will examine the shifts of the term looking at personal narratives and historical and political discourses.


Disappearing diaspora: Contemporary Moroccan Jews and cosmopolitanism

André Levy, Dept. of Behavioural Sciences, Ben Gurion University, Israel

In this talk I propose a few critical thoughts regarding the rhetorical and political use of two allegedly contrasting concepts: "cosmopolitanism" and "diasporas". Apparently, cosmopolitanism is often constructed as embodying political, aesthetic and poetic attempts to transcend localisms, while diasporas are structured as the epitome of yearning to a (utopian) locale. I discuss the epistemological and political constraints embedded in the theoretical employment of these concepts by focusing on the tiny and diminishing Jewish community of Morocco. I will show that both concepts, constituted as binary opposition in the Modern era by Nation-State rhetoric, fail to assist in comprehending life experiences of a group such as Casablanca Jews, typically considered as a "diaspora". Besides probing the assumed opposition between the two concepts I will also question their opposition to the Nation State.

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