Cosmopolitanism is hot. There is growing awareness that a cosmopolitan mindset is an essential component of globalization, and that a growing number of people can now claim to be ‘world citizens’.
As we emerge from the dark years which followed the terrorist attacks of September 2001, thinking in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’ is once again being questioned. Should we really attach so much importance to a person’s culture or religion? Is it not preferable to regard everyone as an individual with a unique identity? Are we right to fear Islam? Isn’t it time to enjoy an open world once more, with its rich diversity of religions, literature, music, habits, ideas and cuisine? And what can we do to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves?
Forty years ago, in 1968, it was students who led the demonstrations against various injustices in the world. Today, it is once again students who do so, albeit without banners and protest marches. Today, they travel extensively, learn languages, study in an international setting and are down to earth. They avoid judging others too rashly, they are optimistic about the future, and prepared to provide practical help wherever necessary.
In Cosmopolitans international students from Rwanda, Germany, Lithuania, the Philippines and Indonesia describe their ideals and their life as a ‘world citizen’. They talk about their longings, their occasional loneliness and their empathy for those in less privileged circumstances.
They are interviewed by Ralf Bodelier. He sets their accounts against the latest insights of cosmopolitan thinkers such as Kwame Anthony Appiah, Ian Buruma, Ulrich Beck, Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen.
Cosmopolitans is far more than a book about students and cosmopolitanism. It heralds the dawn of a new era.