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Bruce Robbins, Paulo Lemos Horta, and Kwame Anthony Appiah

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781479829682

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479829682.001.0001

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Spectral Sovereignty, Vernacular Cosmopolitans, and Cosmopolitan Memories

Spectral Sovereignty, Vernacular Cosmopolitans, and Cosmopolitan Memories

(p.141) 11 Spectral Sovereignty, Vernacular Cosmopolitans, and Cosmopolitan Memories

Homi K. Bhabha

NYU Press

Homi Bhabha provides snapshots of what he calls spectral sovereignty, vernacular cosmopolitanism, and cosmopolitan memory. The nation-state persists in spectral or compromised form, Bhabha argues, long after it has been declared dead. It remains an object of desire for those who don’t have it, like the Kashmiris, the Palestinians, and many indigenous peoples. It is not a holdover from the past but absolutely contemporary, part of any properly cosmopolitan aspiration in the digital era. Like migrants, they need to settle somewhere. But settlement is not the affirmation of an authentic, already-existing identity. The vernacular cosmopolitanism that accompanies the desire introduces into their identity a primordial indefiniteness—one might say, a refusal to be pinned down by the question, “Where are you from?” For Bhabha, this indefiniteness parallels the role of dignity in the discourse of human rights: it is the proper basis for a cosmopolitan ethics.

Keywords:   spectral sovereignty, vernacular cosmopolitanism, cosmopolitan memory, nation-state, migration, identity

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