Cosmopolitan Dispositions As Meaning-Making Narratives in Transnational Situations

Friday, 20 July 2018: 09:00
Oral Presentation
Matthew HAYES, St. Thomas University, Canada
This paper takes up cosmopolitan narratives as cultural codes that justify and give meaning to transnational experiences. It is intended as a critique and corrective of many empirical approaches that operationalize cosmopolitanism as a form of cultural capital. The paper is based on the experiences narrated by French European (France, Belgium, Switzerland) and Italian migrants who have relocated transnationally to Morocco, a French colonial protectorate between 1912 and 1956. These ‘lifestyle migrants,’ most relocating to build a new or better lifestyle in a different culture, recognize their relative privilege in postcolonial space, and develop practices and dispositions that attempt to mediate the cultural and economic differences so as to optimize their reception in the receiving community. Cosmopolitan openness, a specific type of moral disposition towards the receiving community, helps migrants narrate their transnationalism in terms that emphasize their acquisition of appropriate, cosmopolitan cultural dispositions, as opposed to others, who do it wrong. Yet, nearly all respondents use these codes, which are organized in binary ways and discipline the 'expat' community. Data is drawn from 22 qualitative interviews conducted in French (n=16) and Italian (n=6) with lifestyle migrants in Marrakesh and Essaouira, conducted in the winter of 2017. This fieldwork illustrates the importance that European lifestyle migrants place on openness to cultural difference and of avoiding ethnocentric comportment as ways of making sense of and justifying their transnational relocations. Yet, these narratives contrast with other dispositions and narratives that present important continuities with colonial emplacement, and that contradict stated cosmopolitan aims.