Responding to Rooted Cosmopolitanism:
Patriots, Ethnics and the Public Good
Kwame Anthony Appiah ends his brilliantly insightful essays on postcolonial Africa and culture with his moving story of his father's funeral in Kumasi (Appiah 1992: 181–92). It is, surprisingly, a story of conflict, of putting the ties that bind to severe and very public test, to the point of damage, perhaps beyond repair. Appiah's father, Joe, was a rooted cosmopolitan and a man of high social rank, who apparently saw no conflict between his multiple, somewhat overlapping loyalties — to his matriclan, which he headed, to his church, to the Asanti people whose king was his brother-in-law, to Ghana, which he served as opposition leader and later government minister — and his final message of noblesse oblige to his family was, 'Remember that you are citizens of the world' (Appiah 2005: 213). Cosmopolitan patriotism is the phrase which the son Kwame uses for his father Joe's exemplary practice. Joe Appiah had, also, the maverick's capacity for being his own master; he was admired, his son Kwame recalls, for being fiercely tenacious in a matter of right but resolute, no less, in pursuit of the good reconciliation. Widely regarded as a founding father of his country, he led fearlessly, first, in the anti-colonial struggle, then, even in prison at the risk of his own life, in resistance to postcolonial tyranny under President Nkrumah. Later, in a gesture of personal reconciliation and national homage to his former good friend and comrade-in-arms, he brought Nkrumah's body home from exile.
What was surprising, even to those close to Joe Appiah, and remarkable for a rooted cosmopolitan is that the one who chose to make the test of conflict inevitable was Joe Appiah himself. He did so by adding a codicil to his will, virtually on his deathbed, against the matrilineal tradition of Asante and with his son's help. The unorthodox codicil removed control of his funeral from his matriclan and gave it to his church and his immediate family, and thus pitted both against his matriclan and even the Asante king, tested his son's determination