Being and Becoming Cosmopolitan: Higher Education and the Cosmopolitan Self

Marianna Papastephanou


Much higher education (and teacher education in particular) aims to cultivate and promote cosmopolitan identity either through direct modular provisions or through student exchanges and other cultural encounters. The aim is to help students become cosmopolitan by organizing education in a way that is conducive to a specific conception of what counts as ‘cosmopolitan’. However, the declarative element that is often present in such discourses and becomes most evident in one’s relevant self-proclamation, i.e. ‘I am a cosmopolitan’ or ‘we, cosmopolitans’ has, justifiably and very pertinently, invited some important criticisms (e.g. by David Hansen). In this paper, I discuss those criticisms and register a possible way out of centripetal approaches to cosmopolitanism. To do so, I first explore the declarative element and its operations in Diogenes, M. Nussbaum, J. Waldron and K. A. Appiah’s texts. Then, I turn to an alternative (and more ancient than the Diogenic) formulation of the cosmopolitan that allows, or so I hope, to escape the implications of self-indulgence, complacency and narrowness that are associated with fashionable self-idealizations of who the cosmopolitan might be.

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International Journal of Higher Education
ISSN 1927-6044 (Print) ISSN 1927-6052 (Online) Email:

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