Early Modern Cosmopolitanisms: Europe and South Asia
"Early Modern Cosmopolitanisms: Europe and South Asia” constitutes the sequel of the Conference "Cosmopolitanismes de la première modernité: Le cas de l’Asie du Sud (XVI-XVIIIè siècles). Sources, itinéraires, languages”, which took place in Paris, May 2012. Western participation in South Asian cosmopolitanisms was then considered, but the Florence conference seeks to give centre stage to early modern Europe, through comparison with South Asia as well as through the study of the multiple connections between the two geographical and cultural zones. However, this "return” to Europe does not imply the acceptance of an essentially Western genealogy of cosmopolitanism, which knew significant developments during the Enlightenment. More than the eighteenth-century European debates concerning the word and the concept, which mostly led to current discussions on Cosmopolitanism among social scientists, the Florence conference favours the earlier centuries and instead underlines the importance of practices at the crossroads of Europe and South Asia.
The Paris conference focused on themes such as religion and science, voyages and circulation, knowledge and information, languages and literary cultures. While these topics will continue to be discussed, we now intend to broaden the set of questions at stake in order to include issues such as merchants and trading practices, go-betweens and other potentially cosmopolitan social actors, objects and cultural exchanges. One will look at "consciously cosmopolitan” people and attitudes, but expressions of "negative cosmopolitanism” (resistance, reluctance, rupture) are equally relevant. We therefore seek to promote a grounded approach, placing the different and multiple possibilities of being cosmopolitan between Europe and South Asia in the early modern at the core of our discussions.
From the European end of this "story”, and as far as political culture and social textures are concerned, we are particularly interested in approaching the tension between identitarian stability and identitarian volatility, between political order and cultural mobility. The identitarian stability, both individual (the rise of the individual) and territorial (border and community definition, mobility control) in nature, tended to clash with the identitarian volatility, which was largely shaped by the social impacts of the European overseas empires (intensive mobility, hybrid identities, cultural intermediacy).
We believe that the early modern era represents a key moment to study and rethink the diverse possible meanings of "Cosmopolitanism”, and we welcome proposals that approach the subject in innovative ways, considering the multiple traces "Cosmopolitans” left not only in written documents but also in visual and material objects.
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