Thingly Cosmopolitanism: Caring for the Other by Design

Cameron Tonkinwise

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The following is a slightly modified version of the opening keynote to a conference entitled: “Cosmopolitanism and Place: Designs of Resistance”, University of Technology, Sydney, October 2005. As will become apparent, much the paper is a renegotiation of this title, but also the predominance of architecture over non-architectural design at the conference. It also needs to be noted that the presentation was accompanied by images of a range of backpack designs.

Cosmopolitanism is many things. (I will say nothing else by the way, if the emphasis falls on things and their many ways of being with us, for us, of being us.)

A) It is an increasingly globalised society of spectacle, a superficial exposure to the differences all presented in the same way. Lets call this consumerism.

B) It is a sensitivity to difference that comes from living in diversity, a liberal tolerance for others so long as their otherness does not impinge. Let’s call this multiculturalism.

C) It is a faith in universal values policed by international institutions, a hope that a meta-framework can arbitrate on differences. Let’s call this internationalism.

D) It is an obligation that exceeds current social institutional possibilities, a necessary impossible whose practical failure on each occasion remotivates pursuit of the ideal. Let’s call this cosmopolitanist ethics.

These are perhaps in reverse chronological order, with (post-)postmodern sociology lying between A and B, Kant between B and C and the Stoics between C and D. However D is for Derrida.[1] The conference title — with its antinomy of cosmopolitanism and place — to my mind foregrounds a Stoic version of Derrida’s cosmopolitanist ethics.

In this version, cosmopolitanism is the attempt to institute a dual allegiance, an allegiance to ones city and all that makes it function as ‘this particular place’, and yet also an allegiance to something greater than the city, a cosmos beyond the specificity of this place...

ISSUE 0 | July 2006 | 10/10 | Past Radical Propositions