Cosmopolitanism, racism and the urban experience

Recent years have seen a wave of research concerned with experiences and encounters in what are often described as ‘super diverse’ cities (Hall, 2015; Meissner and Vertovec, 2015; Wessendorf, 2014; Vertovec, 2012, 2007). Whilst some accounts of these cosmopolitan experiences present a positive image of encounters across ethnic and cultural differences, others note the paradoxes and ambivalences of experiences in the cosmopolitan city (Karner and Parker, 2011; Skrbis and Woodward, 2007; Tyler, 2016). Much work has focused upon the street culture of large Western cities (Anderson, 2011; Hall, 2012), and others the suburbs of such cities (Watson and Saha, 2013; Tyler, 2016), whereas there seem to be few studies of this kind outside of Europe and North America (Noble, 2013, Plage et. al., 2017). Furthermore, studies have also examined inter-ethnic interactions in locales such as public parks, semi-public commercial cafes and traditional retail markets (Jones, et. al., 2015; Hiebert, et. al. 2015; Watson, 2009; Neal et. al., 2015). This work constitutes a powerful counter-narrative to official discourses which focus on segregation and integration (Casey, 2016). Despite the emphasis on ideas such as the cosmopolitan habitus or inclusive openness in urban  public places,  expressions and experiences of racism both routinely and at times of political crisis in the wake of terrorist attacks (Hussain and Bagguley, 2012; 2013) or electoral victories prompting public expressions of ‘celebratory racism’ (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/29/frenzy-hatred-brexit-racism-abuse-referendum-celebratory-lasting-damage) How do we account for these contradictions of urban cosmopolitan conviviality alongside the rise of an explicitly racist far right authoritarian populism into the political mainstream? How do we reconcile the research findings of conviviality in contemporary cities with the current political drift towards far right nationalism?  Is cosmopolitan conviviality merely a public ‘front-stage’ performance that masks an underlying racism? We encourage papers on these themes as well as studies of conviviality, the cosmopolitan experience and racist performances and experiences in urban public and semi-public spaces from streets, through parks, traditional retail markets, commercial spaces, etc.

Dr Paul Bagguley, University of Leeds p.bagguley@leeds.ac.uk