Cosmopolitan Perspectives on Suffering

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Springer, Dordrecht


This chapter illuminates the use of cosmopolitan identity frames in response to suffering caused by the 9/11/01 attacks in the U.S. Drawing on empirical data from Brazilian, French, and American digital discourse spaces, the analysis reveals the use of cosmopolitan and transnational identity frames to identify with those suffering. To do so, individuals redefine and expand identity boundaries to include those suffering through discourses bridging the distance between observer and sufferer. The most universalistic form of cosmopolitanism comes from those participants on the Brazilian forum who embrace all of humanity as worthy of empathy. In the French forum, individuals are more likely to adopt more circumscribed versions of cosmopolitanism based on perceived transnational similarities. In the American forum, we see nationalism, transnational cosmopolitanism, and universalistic cosmopolitanism side by side, albeit produced by different constituencies. While all cosmopolitans erase boundaries between themselves and those suffering, the Brazilian case offers the most vibrant example of universalistic cosmopolitan identity work. The Brazilians show how empathy may be extended to those suffering as members of humanity regardless of any other identity category. Finally, the case studies of cosmopolitan identity work presented point to the potential of inclusionary identity work in which the suffering of others is shared by strangers. As the Brazilian case shows, when such thinking predominates, humanity becomes the primary identity category of importance.

Chapter of

World Suffering and Quality of Life

Part of

Social Indicators Research Series


Ronald E. Anderson