The Young Cosmopolitans: Silence and Speech in Cross-Cultural Encounters

Friday, 20 July 2018: 09:30
Oral Presentation
Elisabeth RONDINELLI, York University, Canada
Everyday or ‘ordinary’ cosmopolitanism is an important tool for examining the capacities people develop for living with difference. In education systems, cosmopolitan principles are making their way into the student profile, where students are called upon to practice openness to difference and to be curious and conscientious in the interaction. Drawing on fieldwork with young students ages 16-20 who are enrolled in an international school in Europe that accepts students from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, I argue that students use speech and silence, attention and tactful inattention, to enact an ethos of openness. Using the literature in cultural sociology and interactionism, I track the ways in which silence and speech are resources and strategies students use in the everyday negotiation of three particular challenges of cross-cultural encounters: competency, accommodation, and avoiding offence. I further examine how inequalities manifest in the subtle decisions of when to speak or remain silent, revealing the complex realities that characterize the cosmopolitanism of the young.