I-Witnessing; Reflections on Cosmopolitanism in Kigali

Hilary Yerbury


Starting from the classic view of cosmopolitanism, this paper uses personal experiences gained during a six-week stay in Rwanda with a family affected by the genocide to explore the disjuncts which emerge in trying to understand the concept. In this process of exploration, it considers conceptions of the guest, the stranger and what Geertz terms the ‘cosmopolite’. Taking a reflexive position, it explores what it means to be a witness to events in someone else’s life, with a focus on post-genocide reconciliation that took place in the family in January and February 2011. In this context, it introduces the notions of cosmopolitan curiosity (Appiah) and cosmopolitan tolerance (Beck) and finds each of them affected by structural imbalances which render them potentially inadequate in practice. The paper concludes that, from a reflexive point of view, an understanding of cosmopolitanism is a work in progress, and that it is much more difficult to sustain as a lived reality than it is as an abstraction.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5130/ccs.v3i3.2230

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