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Book Chapter

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De Gruyter Open Poland


Cosmopolitanism may be described as the philosophy of one who is “free from local, provincial, or national ideas, prejudices, or attachments; at home all over the world” (The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia). The conceptual content of the word presumes universality, a free-moving entity without any deterrent ethnic or cultural moorings, happy in an unquestioning sense of belonging to the world, a citizen of a world “ethically synchronous and politically symmetrical” (Pollock et al. 582). The historical realities of the twentieth century, however, have marked our world as one of almost constant movement and migration, both forced and elective. It has become almost completely deterritorialized, where varied definitions of cosmopolitanism are now needed to accommodate “refugees, peoples of the diaspora, and migrants and exiles [who] represent the spirit of the cosmopolitical community” (Pollock et al. 582)14. Cosmopolitics is proposed as an alternate term to accommodate this historical juncture, characterized by immigration bans, deportations, and refugee crises. Cosmopolitics recognizes cultural reconfigurations based on the contact between different cultures, understands the shared “diaspora experience and its narratives of displacement” (Hall 223), and recognizes the transitoriness of the modern world. This is the need of the day. Pheng Cheah advises, “[W]e ought to turn our critical focus to the mutating global field of political, economic, and cultural forces in which nationalism and cosmopolitanism are invoked as practical discourses. The cosmopolitical is an apposite term for this global force field of the politics” (31). Papastergiadis adds that movement and migration naturally bring culturally diverse people into contact with each other, and that migrants engaged in a perpetual process of negotiating culture often become “translated beings” who bring their past experiences to bear on their present. Mainstream definitions of cosmopolitanism clearly ignore these facts, and therefore fail to respond to the reality that as the migrants’ “conceptual boundaries are expanded,”

their “residual differences [need to be] respected” (Papastergiadis 131). As a possible antidote, Kwame Anthony Appiah suggests the idea of a “rooted cosmopolitanism,” one that speaks of a “common attachment to the constitutional institutions that allow people to center their lives on a variety of non-homogeneous cultures [and] yet enable them to participate in and actualize the political community that provides stability for this diversity” (García-Moreno and Pfeiffer xi). And though this seems an interesting remedial idea, it still remains a liberal revision of cosmopolitanism. Appiah’s idea is contested by Homi Bhabha. Bhabha’s scrutiny of “the underbelly of the new cosmopolitanism” reveals that it is comprised of dislocated masses from all over the world (García-Moreno and Pfeiffer xi). Bhabha calls this “minoritarian cosmopolitanism” or “vernacular cosmopolitanism,” one created by the struggles of everyday lived reality where the specificity of experience rewrites the all-embracing universal notion of cosmopolitanism. This chapter examines Kiran Desai’s Man Booker Prizewinning novel, The Inheritance of Loss, through the lens of Bhabha’s “minoritarian cosmopolitanism,” and builds on Bhabha’s concept by looking at the status of underprivileged migrants who are bound by the same (or nearly the same) history, space, and culture, that births a hybrid pastiche of discrepant narratives written by their individual personalities.15

Chapter of

New Cosmopolitanisms, Race, and Ethnicity: Cultural Perspectives


Ewa Barbara Luczak
Anna Pochmara
Samir Dayal


© 2018 Aparajita Nanda. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License.



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