CfP Special Issue URBAN ART AND COSMOPOLITANISM, Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal


Ching Lin Pang & Felicitas Hillmann (Eds.)


In this special issue on urban art and cosmopolitanism we aim to explore emergent inquiry and explorations into the role of arts, artists and the reception of arts in the urban public space as cosmopolitan articulations, interventions and methodologies. Given the complexity of the concept of cosmopolitanism, manifesting in multiple forms of imaginaries, dispositions and practices (McFarlane 2006) while entailing various semantic layers including contesting meanings - the cosmopolitan project versus critical or grassroot cosmopolitanism (Mignolo 2000) it should not be conceived as a fixity but rather as a continuum ranging from de-cosmopolitanism (Appadurai 2000) to cosmopolitanism to post-cosmopolitanism (Humprhey & Skvirskaja 2012). Since the onset of globalization and neoliberalism from the 1990s until the present art and artists have been subject to changes that resemble a roller coaster. In the euphoric decade of the 1990s until the financial crisis in the US and Europe s/he morphed from a poor artist as brotloser Künstler to a creative worker, embracing self-reliance, high risk and the promise of fame and recognition while downplaying the risk of financial destitution, lack of social safety mechanism and self-exploitation. The analytical perspective on this new stratum of creative people, the neo-bohemia oscillates between seeing them as pioneers of urban regeneration (Zukin 2009; 2010) or a re-marginalized group within flexible capitalism (Boltanski and Chiappello 2005) both in the North as in the South. We conceive the urban public space consisting of different sides and identities with conflicting interests and positionalities oscillating between the neoliberal and the vernacular, private capital versus public resources, the familiar and the unfamiliar, the local and the global, thick versus superficial ties, vertical versus horizontal integration and – as the black live matters movement has revealed – in highly racialized urban contexts and mixed neighborhoods. We see art not as an “individual and private affair of a white middle class-a minority that still believes it is the majority” (Gielen & Otte 2018:277) but more as practices, interventions and performances (Bax, Gielen & Ieven 2015). These interventions are locally embedded, often located at the margins or in urban “borderlands” while simultaneously reaching out to a wider audience through the process of hypermediazation, encompassing the interdependent relationship between actual and virtual forms of urban performances in the cities of the North and South. Given the hybrid and super-diverse nature of cities these performances more often than not interact with migrant communities in multiethnic mixed neighborhoods by interrogating racism and discrimination as in the practice of ‘urban fallism’ (Frank & Ristic 2020) as a form of political iconoclasm targeting the destruction of monuments of oppression with a view to transform the public space into a more inclusive urban memorial landscape with commemorative art and architecture. Everyday aesthetics (Saito 2016) is another channel to foster alternative imaginations and thinking of diversity. It has the power to contribute to the ongoing project of world-making. In so doing everyday aesthetic cosmopolitanism has the possibility to act as a node linking the material and symbolic dimension of worldliness. At the same time in order to avoid cosmopolitan naïveté we need to critically review the regimes of cosmopolitanism or seeking a balance between the potentials and limitations of the current state of ‘throwntogetherness’ (Thor 2015 in Christensen & Thor 2017) in contemporary global cities. Marginal groups otherwise silenced in the mainstream art world should have the space and opportunity to resist mainstream frames by adopting a ‘disobedient act of seeing’ (Butler 2007: 952) such as refugee artists, representing the own experience of displacement and homing practices (Catalani 2019). Even more problematic is the dangerous conflation of humanitarianism and neoliberal logics of governing migration with security-oriented policies as in the case of IOM (International Office of Migration) (Bartels 2017) using street art in migration-prevention campaigns. This brings us back to the macro level of the encroaching power of neoliberalism that has been subject to incisive critique and giving rise to radical counter-movements such as Commonism (Dockx & Gielen 2018), a movement that opposes the growing privatization of the public space by advancing the view that the city belongs to all its inhabitants and not only to the 0.1% super-wealthy. Finally, we also seek contributions applying methodological cosmopolitanism (Beck 2010; Block & Selchow 2020) in the analysis of arts and artists in the urban public space beyond national units of analysis. We have outlined a wide range of new concepts, approaches and theories related to the importance and ever-changing and fluid roles of arts and artists in the urban space accelerated by macro, median and micro events. As the transforming process is ongoing we are seeking for innovative and critical contributions –both empirical studies grounded in theoretical reflections and ruminations that touch on one or more of the discussed concepts and/or methodologies.

We call for papers addressing the themes covered above. There will be a two-level review process, review of the abstract and review of the full paper. Acceptance of the abstract does not guarantee acceptance of the full paper.

Abstract submission: 30 August 2021; Notification of outcome: 30 September 2021.

Full paper submission: 15 December 2021. Notification of review outcome: March 15 2022. Anticipated publication: July 2022.

Abstracts should be submitted to:, with Subject line: URBAN ART.

Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal is concerned with developing a better understanding of social change and cultural cohesion in cosmopolitan societies. It is an open access journal, published through the ePress of the University of Technology Sydney, and is widely indexed.

ISSN: 1837-5391