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.