Cosmopolitanism and Education
- Amy StornaiuoloAmy StornaiuoloUniversity of Pennsylvania
- and T. Philip NicholsT. Philip NicholsBaylor University
In the opening decades of the 21st century, educators have turned toward cosmopolitanism to theorize teaching and learning in light of increasingly globalized relationships and responsibilities. While subject to extensive debates in disciplines like political science, philosophy, anthropology, and sociology, cosmopolitanism in education has primarily been explored as a moral framework resonant with educators’ efforts to cultivate people’s openness to new ideas, mutual understanding through respectful dialogue, and awareness of relationships to distant and unknown others. Scholars have recently called for more critical cosmopolitan approaches to education, in which the framing of cosmopolitanism as a neutral, essentializing form of global togetherness is subject to critique and includes analysis of systems of power, privilege, and oppression. However, while scholarly efforts to articulate critical cosmopolitanisms (in the plural) are still in nascent form in terms of educational practice, recent work in other disciplines offer promise for forwarding such a critical agenda. In sociology, for example, a focus on cosmopolitics foregrounds the labor of creating a shared world through ongoing, often conflictual negotiations that take into account the historical and contemporary political exigencies that shape that process. A framework of cosmopolitics for educators, particularly as a counterpoint to liberal understandings of cosmopolitanism as a form of ethical universalism, will be explored. Such a critical approach to educational cosmopolitanism not only foregrounds the local, everyday actions needed to build connections with others and create common worlds—but also acknowledges the historical and sociomaterial conditions under which such actions take place. A cosmopolitical approach to educational practice thus recognizes multiplicity and contingency—the mobility that locates people and ideas in new relations can just as easily lead to prejudice and bias as tolerance and solidarity—but does so in an effort to understand how social, political, and economic structures produce inequality, both in the present moment and as legacies from the past.