The Rooted Cosmopolitan
Benedict Anderson (Photo:CULCOM)
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The capital’s literary cognoscenti turned up in large numbers at the India Habitat Centre last month to attend a lecture by the noted intellectual Benedict Anderson, best known for his book ‘Imagined Communities’. Introduced by none other than the famed historian and academic Prof Sanjay Subrahmanyam of UCLA (
Anderson, who is Professor Emeritus of International Studies at Cornell University, and considered a major authority on Indonesian history, highlighted a model of the cosmopolitan that had little to do with the popular image of an actively traveling businessman, and more to do with a stationary, intellectual form of global thought. “The cosmopolitan,” he states, “is an intellectual, not a businessman; he does not need to move around much,” – advocating the idea of staying put while thinking internationally.
Anderson went on to add that this cosmopolitanism derives from a multi-lingual status as opposed to the globe trotter figure who still insists on reading translations of other nation’s literary works without making the effort of reading them in their own languages; and thereby remaining shuttered to the outside world.
Multi-lingual societies, he proposed, serve as a mirror to other nations. This is explained in how the rooted cosmopolitan sees everything as “coming to him” while he in turn functions as a mirror to other nations; showing them “who and what they are.”
This structural model of a mirror fulfills a two-pronged purpose: of being both identity-maker and identity-giver, acting as a reflection to all other ideological communities.
Throughout his lecture,
Nationalism and cosmopolitanism are therefore, the way