Appiah's advocacy of cosmopolitan identity serves as a starting point for a genealogy of the idea of cosmopolitanism (Diogenes Laertius, Kant, Nussbaum, Derrida), and for a critical examination of the notion of identity. As a concept, identity seems to oscillate between three meanings: (I) individuality or personality, (II) “belonging” in the sense of identity as ontologically substantive, and (III) integrity and persistence of self. Under the sway of economic reason and managerial politics, identity seems to mean today belonging to a particular segmented interest group. In spite of the disjuncture between North American and European positions in the topical debate, we are witnessing the emergence of a “new cosmopolitanism” in response to increasing globalisation. Although Comparative Literature has always been open to cultural manifestations beyond the borders of one particular language and literature, it ought to take on board “critical cosmopolitanism” in so far as it posits an ethics in relation to encounters with alterity, the stranger in our midst.
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