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Amy Stornaiuolo and T. Philip Nichols

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.


Cosmopolitanism is an ancient idea with a wide theoretical and critical history. Scholars across the humanities and social sciences have been examining the meaning and trajectories of this concept, showing how it spotlights ways in which people can move beyond mutual understanding and cooperation. However, cosmopolitanism does not have to refer to a transcendental ideal but rather to the material and real condition of global interdependencies. Cosmopolitanism has been connected to the philosophical concept of “becoming-world,” which develops this idea in the context of plural and ecological societies. Under this approach, cosmopolitanism turns into cosmo-politics, which fuses notions of educational and cultural creativity. From the philosophy of education and artistic education in particular, cosmopolitics seeks to outline the advances of new creative educational theories, which center on globalization, hospitality ethics, politics of inclusion, and the ecological connection between human beings and ecosystems; overall, this concept reveals the possibilities for moral, political, and social growth in the encounter with the other (human and natural). Cosmopolitics is, therefore, associated with the idea of educating with creativity, even proposing the elaboration of new pedagogical methods. Here, cosmopolitics has arisen as a crucial artistic educational orientation toward reimagining, appreciating, and learning from our common world.