Paulo Lemos Horta, Nadine Roth
December 12, 2015
New York University Abu Dhabi was inaugurated in 2010 with the express aim of producing global citizens, adept at crossing ethnic, national, and religious borders and exemplifying a certain kind of cosmopolitan ethic. This mission was tightly bound with the brand of cosmopolitanism articulated by Anthony Appiah and reflected most clearly in a core curriculum that emphasized cross-cultural and global inquiry. The desire to escape national paradigms was equally apparent in the distinctive curriculum of the history program, which was organized according to ocean systems and global patterns of transnational connection. Studied within this historical context, cities offer particular cognitive gains for students and researchers. As nodes of both imperial power and cosmopolitan ideals, cities complicate simple narratives of cross-cultural empathy and translatability. Despite its global connections, the contemporary city is confronted in its materiality as a sequence of boundaries and barriers. Within NYUAD as an institution, however, resistance to the core curriculum has emerged from other disciplines. The desire of the natural and social sciences for a “global” that is “universal” fits uneasily with the dream of a cosmopolitanism that leads to self-reflexivity in regard to one’s own values. And students themselves wonder, who is the cosmopolitan here?