Bibliography | 07 January 2014, by Martin Saxer

Notes on Gidwani's Subaltern Cosmopolitanism


Gidwani, Vinay. 2006. Subaltern Cosmopolitanism As Politics. Antipode 38 (1): 7-21.

Gidwani’s piece in Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography starts with the story of Connie, the author’s “domestic” (as she calls herself). Connie is an Irisch woman in her 50s; she is leftist, lives a very modest life and her concerns for global issues are very cosmopolitan. But how does the subaltern go together with the cosmopolitan?

Gidwani intends to provoke with the term “subaltern cosmopolitanism”, a term that sounds like an oxymoron. But rather than being both subaltern and cosmopolitan, subaltern cosmopolitans are neither of both in “in any final or identitarian sense”, Gidwani argues. What he means with the term is outlined in the final paragraph of the article:

Instead, it names practices of thinking, border crossing, and connecting that are transgressive of the established order and that shame and expose its hermetic and de-politicized grids of Difference as political relations of difference. Rejecting the sacred and secular motifs of tolerance and multiculturalism, it views participation in the affairs of society neither as rights-borne privilege nor as charity, but as irrevocable claim. {Gidwani 2006@19}

This resonates very much with what I see as cosmopolitan in remote valleys of northern Nepal (see, for example, this post).