Meridiana. 89. Cosmopolitismi

Testata: Meridiana • Anno di pubblicazione: 2017
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pp. 240, ISBN: 9788867289288
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In questo numero di «Meridiana» proviamo a raccontare l’emergere, nell’ultimo ventennio, di una chiave di lettura per le scienze sociali di molti fenomeni, raccolti sotto l’etichetta di «cosmopolitismo», cercando di capire le ragioni di una vera esplosione bibliografica e il senso che si racchiude sotto un termine-chiave evidentemente troppo amplio per poter essere uniforme nella sua applicazione. Si tratta di un concetto la sua cui poliedrica ambiguità possiamo attribuire a conglomerati concettuali anche molto distanti. C’è chi ha dato del cosmopolitismo una lettura emi- nentemente politica e normativa, vale a dire l’ingresso in un quadro globale di governance planetaria. Altri hanno visto nel cosmopolitismo il riemergere all’attenzione analitica del vecchio quadro cinico-stoico del «cittadino del mondo», vale a dire una prospettiva sostanzialmente individuale ed esistenziale. Qualcuno ha puntato più decisamente sulla novità del fenomeno, individuando nel cosmopolitismo il quadro che rende possibili nuove configurazioni transnazionali soprattutto tra movimenti sociali, per cui è cosmopolita l’approccio delle comunità virtuali o del movimento no global. Sempre dentro questa attenzione per la contemporaneità, altri infine hanno usato il cosmopolitismo come una categoria descrittiva, per associarla a nuove forme di movimento nello spazio di persone, beni e segni. I casi di studio presentati nei saggi sono molteplici e indagati secondo la prospettiva dell’antropologia culturale, spaziando dai faqir su pakistani ai rifugiati eritrei ed etiopi; dai tamil profughi a Parigi ai giovani panjabi di diversa estrazione sociale migrati in Europa; dai padri bangladesi tra Roma e Londra agli stranieri che vivono nei quartieri spontanei dei centri urbani ghanesi. Al di là delle divergenze interpretative, un punto emerge chiaro. Il cosmopolitismo non può mai essere, costitutivamente, monologico, vettoriale in un’unica direzione, quello semmai si chiama nazionalismo, espansionismo, colonizzazione, annessione, al limite «progresso». Il cosmopolitismo necessariamente dialogico di cui in questo numero proviamo a tracciare i contorni morali è un rapporto almeno bidirezionale, una richiesta e un riconoscimento, un’interpellazione e una risposta, un chiedere e un dare. Dentro questa logica ci saranno forme vernacolari, occidentaliste, strategiche e per no parassitarie di cosmo- politismo, specchietti per le allodole, adeguamenti di necessità fino a forme utilitaristiche massimizzanti, ma nondimeno il gioco sarà aperto, la partita dell’interazione umana sarà stabilita nei limiti del campo di gioco. Il cosmopolitismo è invece finito quando uno dei due si chiama fuori, quando la richiesta di ospitalità è respinta al mittente, quando chiedere non è più consentito e quando prestare soccorso a chi ha bisogno viene per- cepito come illegittimo o addirittura illegale. A quel punto non serve più chiedersi se il cosmopolitismo abbia una sua radice storica inevitabile nell’Occidente o se invece possa essere sorto autonomamente in altre porzioni dell’umano. A quel punto, quando è stato negato, il cosmopolitismo è stato sradicato, si è spento, non ha più senso parlarne o cercarne la storia.

Le ragioni plurali del cosmopolitismo
Piero Vereni

This introductory essay sets the theoretical frame for the special issue Cosmopolitanisms of «Meridiana. Rivista di storia e scienze sociali». Is cosmopolitanism – the will to trespass borders – a worldwide attitude of humans irrespective of local context or should we always identify the specific indigenous conditions of its existence? While Kosmos (the idea of the world as a Whole) and Politèia (the notion of Humans living in Society) are possibly universal concepts, we do not know whether, to what extent, and in which particular contexts they overlap to the point that men and women can project their lives on the backdrop of a truly universal World, or the local forces of cultural gravity push them towards smaller (non-cosmopolitan) notions of their selves. Besides the necessary analytical perspectives of history and political science, the anthropological project and mostly its insistence on ethnographic theorization are invaluable tools to fulfil this research assignment, namely investigating the empirical conditions according to which humans do or do not pursue a cosmopolitan way of living, feeling, acting, and interacting.

Keywords: Cosmopolitanism; Ethnography; Universalism; Human identity.


Via dall’orientalismo. Verso un’etica cosmopolita localizzata
Pnina Werbner

The present paper questions the validity of Wendy Brown’s apparently self-evident assertion in Regulating Aversion that «Tolerance as a political practice is always conferred by the dominant, it is always a certain expression of domination even as it offers protection or incorporation to the less powerful». Thus, tolerance, she argues, marks what is «civilised», «conferring superiority on the West» (2008: 178). If ethical cosmopolitanism is defined by tolerance, toleration and reaching out to an Other or stranger, may we conclude, with Brown and other cosmosceptics, that cosmopolitanism is necessarily western and elitist, a discursive strategy that disguises and depoliticises relations of dominance? And if so, what room is there for a non-elitist, demotic, vernacular cosmopolitanism that is nevertheless moral and ethical? Can it be that the people anthropologists study beyond the West are incapable of being cosmopolitan? Against that view I argue in this paper that the habits and capacities associated with routine boundary crossings, both physical, ethnic or religious, alongside the customary habits of hospitality and social exchange among strangers, are markers of vernacular cosmopolitanism. So too are ways to settle disputes, provide safe havens or make peace across borders, and of vernacular participatory cosmopolitanism by trade unionists in developing countries, who are cosmopolitan despite their inferior class positioning.

Keywords: Ethics; Vernacular Cosmopolitanism; Strangerhood; Popular culture.


Vite di frontiera. Riflessioni sulla produzione di soggettività degli esiliati, tra violenza e cosmopolitismo
Giacomo Mantovan

This article provides a reflection on the production of subjectivity on the part of exiles in a «cosmopolitan condition» (Agier 2013): the experience of creating a new life and identity created in a liminal space. It tells the story of two Sri Lankan men, Suresh and his son, who lived in a marginal condition because they belonged to a dalit caste within the Tamil minority. They spent their whole lives fighting for social justice: in the 1980s, Suresh was a leading figure in a Marxist revolutionary movement and, after having fled to Paris in the 1990s, he and his son were active in the nationalist organisation of the Tamil Tigers. Their life story is an interesting case study because it correlates marginality with the appropriation of political doctrines (Marxism, nationalism) and values (equality, secularism, social justice) that circulate on a global scale as a means to struggle against oppression on a local scale. This paper highlights the fact that boundaries are spaces of individual and collective social change. Indeed, new identities and «modes of existence» (Deleuze 1990) are produced through the combined influence of living on the margins, experiencing the violence of the Tamil caste system and repression from the Sri Lankan government, appropriating global values and political doctrines, and engaging in an armed movement.

Keywords: Subjectivity; Revolution; Boundaries; Exile.


Aspirazioni cosmopolite. Immagini dell’altro e dell’altrove nella traiettoria migratoria di un rifugiato eritreo in Etiopia
Aurora Massa

The article intends to adapt the theoretical framework of cosmopolitanism to subjects whose migration towards the global North is hampered by obstacles to mobility, and to a context where differences do not represent resources but reasons for conflicts. Based on an ethnographic research conducted in northern Ethiopia, at the border with Eritrea, the paper analyses the biographical and migratory trajectory of a young Eritrean refugee, and examines his cosmopolitan aspirations by putting them in relation with his desires for elsewhere and with the ambivalent historical relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea. His condition of spatial im/ mobility and the consequences of the recent Ethiopian-Eritrean war on his intimate spheres, depict a scenario where the cosmopolitan practices, values, and ideas are both aspirated and precluded. By combining the study of the cosmopolitan «from below» with a perspective focused on the historical construction of otherness, on social boundaries, and on the current unequal border regimes, the paper aims to reflect on the limits of the concept of cosmopolitanism and on its analytical relevance.

Keywords: Cosmopolitan aspirations; Social boundary; Border regimes; Horn of Africa.


Soggettività cosmopolite della giovane diaspora indiana in Europa
Sara Bonfanti

Once discarded as a relic of Western Enlightenment, «cosmopolitanism» seems revamped by social scientists in the face of swelling mobility flows. The paper presents ethnographic evidence on contemporary lived forms of «migrant cosmopolitanism», arguing to what extent these might merge with its traditional hazy paradigm. This piece grounds on the multisite research I conducted between Italy and India with Punjabi diasporans in 2012-2014. Addressing two life stories of Indian youth in Europe, I consider the cosmopolitan habitus and imaginations expressed by a young man and woman of Punjabi origin (born to different families with regard to caste, class and faith), who are moving across the EU with equally sundry global prospects. Their words reveal that mobility does not exactly overlaps with cosmopolitanism, although verbalized and enacted as a desirable lifeway. According to my interlocutors, being cosmopolitan entails several values, behaviors and affections, which turn out to be culture, class and gender specific, contingent and ambivalent yet not necessarily related to movement. Debating insights from social anthropology and cultural studies, my results give voice to uneven diaspora cosmopolitan subjectivities, stretching the limits of a postcolonial critique of cosmopolitanism itself.

Keywords: Indian diaspora; Cosmopolitan subjectivities; Life stories; critical ethnography.


Cosmopolitismo per antropologi
Lisette Josephides

This essay approaches cosmopolitanism from a perspective that stresses the moral and existential conditions of being human. Two quintessential qualities of being human are identified: kindness and forgiveness. The quality of kindness and the ability to forgive are at the root of the distinction between the personal or individual (as possessing these qualities) and the political (which can use or abuse them for pragmatic or practical ends). The essay opens with an eclectic historical contextualisation of the concept of cosmopolitanism and a brief overview of the aspects of existentialism that define the human as discussed here. Then it tackles the two perspectives on the sort of «human being» at issue: a transcendent being and a political person, arguing that sympathy as recognition of a fellow human being runs counter to ideas about nationalism and the practices of capitalist democracies based on policies of inclusion and exclusion determined by citizenship status. In opposition to Carl Schmitt, who maintained that to diminish the political was to diminish humanity, the essay considers the realm of humanity to be beyond politics. The power of political institutions is often expressed as the power to dehumanise. Drawing on the work of Agamben, it eventually asks how «bare life» devoid of the accoutrements of political status can be sufficient to maintain a moral concept of humanity.

Keywords: Cosmopolitanism; Self; Philosophical anthropology; Existentialism.


Uomini di strada. Rappresentazioni cosmopolite della violenza maschile nelle strade di Londra, Dacca e Roma
Piero Vereni

Drawing on the debate on cosmopolitanism in sociological literature, the article aims at describing strategies of performing Bangaldeshi masculinity in three different historical and cultural contexts, namely East End of London in 1980s, urban Bangladesh in recent times, and the city of Rome in the last twenty years. The analysis points at these cosmopolitan strategies as reactions to multidimensional stigma and specific outcomes of the interaction between an ancient colonial gaze, governmental technologies of States, rhetoric of human rights, globalization of Islam, and neoliberalism. The overall goal of the article is the exposure of «Bangladeshi masculine subjectivity» as a «contextual multifarious structure», deriving from a cosmopolitan intersection, which is not only «strategic» or «tactical», but rests deeply in the fundamentals of identity.

Keywords: Bangladeshi migration; Tactical cosmopolitanism; Masculinity; Street violence.


Mobilità, accoglienza e identità in Africa occidentale. Riflessioni su un cosmopolitismo «dal basso»
Giulia Casentini

This paper provides an analysis of the concept of vernacular cosmopolitanism as proposed by Pnina Werbner, through an ethnography of a West African system of trade and mobility. The Zongo system in Ghana is present since precolonial and colonial times, depending on the case, and is historically connected with the presence of Muslim trade communities in market areas of various urban settlements. I argue that the actual role of these transnational communities in the Ghanaian sociopolitical landscape goes beyond this common definition. Zongo people elaborate their socio-political position and their historical memory in peculiar ways, revealing both an inherent mode of producing a common group identity and a conscious strategy of inclusion in the contemporary political dynamics of Ghana.

Keywords: Mobility; Identity; Political representation, West Africa.


Titolari e riservisti. L’inclusione differenziale di lavoratori immigrati nella viticultura del Sud Piemonte
Davide Donatiello e Valentina Moiso

The article is focused on seasonal immigration related to the harvest period and to the productive cycle of the wine farms in some areas of Southern Piedmont, paying special attention to the city of Canelli. Here the employment of foreign labour, mostly from Macedonia, has been accompanied by a general deterioration of working conditions in the vineyards and to a spread of exploitation. Many agricultural cooperatives - almost all run by immigrants - operate as intermediaries for the placement of foreign labour. These cooperatives often disregard law devices and charge the cost of labour at the lowest price, satisfying the demand from local companies and penalizing foreign workers. The exploitation of these immigrants is analysed by authors taking into account the progressive differentiation between Macedonians established permanently on the territory in the last years and migrant workers who arrive according to the seasonal nature of agricultural activities. Secondly, the conditions of employment and stay of seasonal workers are read according to the specific local regulation of socio-economic relations, which is influenced by the wine production specifications, the persistence of tradition and other recent changes occurred in the local context. Finally, a last analysis concerns actions, interests, and reactions of the main players of the place, primarily administrators and economic operators of Canelli.

Keywords: Seasonal migration; Migrant agricultural labour; Differential inclusion; Macedonian immigrants; Wine production chain.


La politica e i ri uti. Effetti perversi e contraddizioni
Daniele Fortini

Waste has always been a problem for hygiene, health and environment but, in recent years, it has also become a source of social and political conflicts. The NIMBY syndrome is only the most obvious part of these conflicts, but many others, more submerged, are described with thousands of players in the continuous search for balance between conflicting interests. Waste-problem or waste-resource? Responsibility for the industrial system or voluntary service of citizens? Reason of State or people’s protagonism? In answering these questions, we often fail to identify how and where they create wealth and how this wealth will be distributed. The business generated by municipal waste management in Italy in 2016 exceeded 11 billion euro. In this great deal, new inequalities between the North and South of our Country, between citizens and the industrial system are added, while public institutions have lingered in the diatribes of which often do not understand the reason. In this exploration, we aim to highlight some aspects of latent conflicts, trying to detect the trends and how to settle themselves.

Keywords: Waste; Inequalities; Conflict; Politics.