Rescaled Citizenships and Vernacular Cosmopolitanism in Sydney, Australia

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 4:42 PM
Room: F202
Oral Presentation
Rebecca WILLIAMSON , University of Sydney, Australia
In the Australian context, notions of cosmopolitanism have had less airtime than the nationally sponsored program of multiculturalism. Cosmopolitanism has emerged in academic theories of living together with difference, as well as in the realm of urban governance, where it is strategically employed as a place marketing technique, for example, in marketing Sydney as a multi-ethnic, globally competitive city. Academic theories of vernacular cosmopolitanism have been used to analyse forms of quotidian engagement across ethnic difference in Australian society, and are usually synonymous with notions of ‘everyday multiculturalism’ (Velayutham and Wise, 2009). However, these theories have been less explicit about how such everyday, intercultural exchange might be part of a rescaling of belonging for migrant residents, and how this might impact on the nation-state (Kay, 2000). In this regard, I suggest drawing on notions of urban citizenship (Holston and Appadurai, 1996) as a form of post-national or sub-national belonging to scale up the potential implicit in quotidian modes of cosmopolitanism. Urban citizenship – as a set of substantive rights relating to inhabitance in the city – enables a more explicit framework for thinking about how everyday practices of urban dwelling might complicate the dominant scaling of belonging at the level of the nation-state. The paper draws on qualitative research in two multi-ethnic neighbourhoods in Sydney, Australia to explore localized belonging amongst migrant communities and emergent forms of urban citizenship that destabilize dominant narratives of national belonging. The paper argues that urban citizenship as a form of post-nationalism can complement and augment the potency of everyday cosmopolitanism – which is easily appropriated by the state and commercial interests. Also, arguments about emergent urban citizenship should draw on ethnographic understanding of ordinary cosmopolitanism to better understand the multiple ways migrants negotiate identity and socio-spatial belonging in urban settings.