European Cosmopolitanism: Colonial Histories and Postcolonial Societies, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

European Cosmopolitanism

Colonial Histories and Postcolonial Societies, 1st Edition

Edited by Gurminder K. Bhambra, John Narayan


188 pages

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This book provides a fresh examination of the cosmopolitan project of post-war Europe from a variety of perspectives. It explores the ways in which European cosmopolitanism can be theorized differently if we take into account histories which have rarely been at the forefront of such understandings. It also uses neglected historical resources to draw out new and unexpected entanglements and connections between understandings of European cosmopolitanism both in Europe and elsewhere. The final part of the book places European cosmopolitanism in tension with contemporary postcolonial configurations around diaspora, migration, and austerity. Overall, it seeks to draw attention to the ways in which Europe’s posited others have always been very much a part of Europe’s colonial histories and its postcolonial present.


In sharp contrast to the anti-historical, methodological Eurocentrism that has permeated the greater part of scholarly work on ‘Cosmopolitan Europe’, this book applies a rare, let’s call it, methodological cosmopolitanism to its subject matter. In so doing, it not only successfully challenges numerous assumptions and claims concerning the cosmopolitanism in and of Europe (and vice versa). As the book’s contributions amply testify, it also opens the door to a new, highly enlightening and thus utterly central empirical terrain for the field. This book is an achievement that should define the context for future research and intellectual debate.

Peo Hansen, Professor of Political Science at REMESO, Linköping University

At a time when the EU political project has been called into question as never before in its history, Bhambra and Narayan’s edited collection offers an insightful exploration of the hidden histories that have shaped cosmopolitan Europe, but are largely omitted by its historical canon. By recovering silenced histories, the book provides us with a novel perspective as well as expanded resources with which to address the challenges of our contemporary society.

Nando Sigona, Birmingham Fellow, Senior Lecturer and Deputy Director of IRiS, Univeristy of Birmingham

This book makes a bold and crucial intervention. It simultaneously challenges the complacencies of elite European self-understandings, whereby an official ideology of European cosmopolitanism in fact reinstates postcolonial historical denial and Eurocentric insularity and excavates the richly cosmopolitan histories of imperial Europe’s inseparability from anti-colonial cosmopolitanisms, that go beyond ‘Europe’. The critical insight and rigor of this collection is indispensable for any serious reflection on the questions of ‘Europe’ and cosmopolitanism.

Nicholas De Genova, Reader in Human Geography, King’s College London

Whether as idea or ideology, cosmopolitanism has often been seen as the ethical rationale of the trade in goods and meanings. This book presents a far more interesting case for cosmopolitanism. Through intriguing historical narratives, incisive political analysis and sophisticated argument, the authors show that Europe – if there ever was one – is cosmopolitan at its origins. This not because of some ideational kernel of European thought, but because of the presence and practice of subjected and colonized peoples, on whom Europe’s imperial states always relied for its development and prosperity, yet whose part in Europe continues to be unrecognized. This is indispensable reading: a first truly cosmopolitan approach to the history and theory of cosmopolitanism.

Stefan Jonsson, Professor at the Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society, Linköping University

This is an insightful, rigorous and well-timed book, highlighting the historical legacies behind the present migration crisis or the mourning for an enchanted multiculturalism by looking beyond Eurocentric self-reference. In the vast land of forgotten and silenced histories, the authors have found alternative narratives of cosmopolitanism that can help us to understand present European condition and the complex historical intertwinements that constitute it, offering an unconventional analysis of European cosmopolitanism’s sources and ambivalences.

Paola Rebughini, Professor of Sociology and Intercultural Communication, University of Milan

Table of Contents


1. Colonial Histories and the Postcolonial Present of European Cosmopolitanism , (Gurminder K Bhambra and John Narayan)

Part I: Theorizing European Cosmopolitanism Otherwise

2. Cosmopolitan Europe: Memory, Apology and Mourning, (Meyda Yeğenoğlu)

3. Ah, We Have Not Forgotten Ethiopia: Anti-Colonial Sentiments for Spain in a Fascist Era, (Robbie Shilliam)

4. Communist Cosmopolitanism, (William Outhwaite and Larry Ray)

Part II: Alternative Historical Groundings of Cosmopolitanisms in Europe

5. Always Already Cosmopolitan – Indigenous Peoples and Swedish Modernity, (Gunlög Fur)

6. The Early Modern Spanish Monarchy and European Cosmopolitanism, (M. J. Rodriguez-Salgado)

7. The Cosmopolitan Caribbean Spirit and Europe, (Shantelle George)

Part III: Contemporary Postcolonial Cosmopolitanisms

8. Rethinking Cosmopolitanism, Multiculturalism and Diaspora via the Diasporic Cosmopolitanism of Europe’s Kurds, (Ipek Demir)

9. Europe is over! Afro-European Mobilities, Former Colonial Metropoles, and New Cosmopolitanisms, (Sarah Demart)

10. Fanon’s Decolonized Europe: The Double Promise of Coloured Cosmopolitanism in the Age of Austerity, (John Narayan)  

11. EPILOGUE: A New Vision of Europe: Learning from the South, (Boaventura de Sousa Santos)

About the Editors

Gurminder K. Bhambra is Professor and Research Director of Sociology at the University of Warwick and Guest Professor of Sociology and History at the Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies, Linnaeus University, Sweden. She is author of Rethinking Modernity: Postcolonialism and the Sociological Imagination, which won the 2008 Philip Abrams Memorial Prize for best first book in Sociology, and Connected Sociologies.

John Narayan is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick. His research interests are in the fields of globalisation, pragmatism and post-colonialism. He is the author of John Dewey: The Global Public and its Problems.

About the Series

International Library of Sociology

The International Library of Sociology (ILS) is the most important series of books on sociology ever published. Founded in the 1940s by Karl Mannheim, the series became the forum for pioneering research and theory, marked by comparative approaches and the identification of new directions in sociology, publishing major figures in Anglo-American and European sociology, from Durkheim and Weber to Parsons and Gouldner, and from Ossowski and Klein to Jasanoff and Walby.

Its new editors, John Holmwood (University of Nottingham, UK) and Vineeta Sinha (National University of Singapore), plan to develop the series as a truly global project, reflecting new directions and contributions outside its traditional centres, and connecting with the original aim of the series to produce sociological knowledge that addresses pressing global social problems and supports democratic debate.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General