Cosmopolitanisms in Muslim Contexts: Perspectives from the Past

Cosmopolitanisms in Muslim Contexts: Perspectives from the Past

Cosmopolitanisms in Muslim Contexts: Perspectives from the Past

Cosmopolitanisms in Muslim Contexts: Perspectives from the Past


This collection of 9 essays focuses on instances in world history when cosmopolitan ideas and actions pervaded specific Muslim societies and cultures. The contributors explore the tensions between regional cultures, isolated enclaves and modern nation-states.

Cosmopolitanism is a key concept in social and political thought, standing in opposition to closed human group ideologies such as tribalism, nationalism and fundamentalism. Recent discussions of it have been situated within Western self-perceptions. Now, this volume explores it from Muslim perspectives.


Derryl N. Maclean

This volume of essays is based on a conference held in Vancouver, British Columbia, and sponsored by the Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies and Cultures (Simon Fraser University, Canada) and the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (Aga Khan University, United Kingdom). the orientation of the essays is on the typologies and contexts of Muslim or Islamicate cosmopolitanisms in the past and the possible tensions or conjunctions of these cosmopolitanisms with regional cultures, isolated enclaves, empires or modern nation-states. the perspectives of the past chosen for comparison are sought not in the classical cosmopolitan venues (‘Abbasids or Fatimids), but in the modern period, primarily in different sub-disciplines of history, and clustered around diverse geographic areas: the Swahili coast, Ottoman, Arab, Persianate, and Indo-Pakistan. the expectation of the editors is that the data will permit the comparison of specific cosmopolitan instances within Muslim contexts in the past and hence larger reflections on commonalities and differences. in particular, this book seeks to ask the question, is the concept of cosmopolitanism useful for the study of Muslim societies and cultures of the past?

“Cosmopolitanism”, while a term of considerable antiquity referring to a “citizen of the world”, has more recently become a key concept for the reconsideration of an array of philosophical, political, cultural, and social issues. As Steven Vertovec and Robin Cohen suggest, the new cosmopolitan theory has focused on six different but related perspectives: a global condition of sociocultural interpenetrations, a Kantian philosophy of the universal citizen, a political project founded on transnational institutions such as civil society, a political project founded on the notion of citizens with multiple identities, an internalised orientation towards global engagement and a kind of multicultural . . .

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