Noting that the world is increasingly on the move has become routine. Arguably, however, we still lack the concepts we need to understand this mobile reality. Recent discussions across the humanities and social sciences have turned to the figure of the cosmopolitan to examine the relationship between consciousness and a sense of global connectedness related to travel, migration and space/time compression. This seminar recognizes that debates about “cosmopolitanism” have led scholars to adopt a more “cosmopolitan perspective” (Beck 2006). Nevertheless, the the idea of “cosmopolitanism” has not led to clearer concepts or methods for understanding the subjective-global interplay. Reimagining one’s research and the meaning of one’s work against the background of the “cosmos” does not necessarily lead to developing concepts appropriate to the way we live now.
This seminar would consider the issue from the perspective of the person on the move. Studying the degree to which a migrant may acquire new linguistic skills, for example, and whether he or she is nomadic, attached or detached from his or her new community or part of an expatriate community, enables us to create a more accurate social theory of mobility. Furthermore, moving away from the study of specific migrant communities can provide useful comparative studies. For example, studying migrant laborers working in California and how their move affects the social worlds and economic flows between the US, Mexico and Central America may find resonance with studies on migrants working within the global markets of the Middle East and Asia. Similarly, the ways in which literary and artistic works navigate between the Middle East, Central Asia, Europe and North America suggest common, shared challenges and opportunities that are less dependent on place of origin and more dependent on the type of movement that is made. The seminar would take advantage of the number of scholars and students at UCR in the fields of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Peace and Conflict Studies, Mediterranean Studies, social history and economic theory, all of which are fields that are redefining how we think of migration, immigration and our local-global world.