Exploring contradictions and challenges in performances of openness in tense cosmopolitan encounters

Stefanie Plage, Indigo Willing, Ian Woodward, Zlatko Skrbis

Research output: Contribution to conference without publisher/journalPaperResearch


This paper explores cosmopolitanism in encounters between individuals from different cultural backgrounds. Encounters with difference are increasingly a feature of everyday life and a deeper understanding of the cultural, ethical and identity work people engage in to negotiate diversity is required. This is particularly pertinent in situations beyond voluntary cosmopolitan pursuits, such as sampling diverse cuisines and ‘staged’ experiences of diversity. Employing the concept of ‘cosmopolitan encounters’, we examine the strategies people use to work through situations where socially constructed forms of diversity, such as racial to religious differences, cause friction rather than easy pleasures. We argue that cosmopolitan dispositions and practices assist individuals in diffusing potential escalations. Drawing on a qualitative dataset, we reveal the contradictions in what individuals profess and how they act to examine cosmopolitan practices in the context of everyday settings against the background of their attitudes, actions and self-perceptions towards diversity. Our findings show that the moral dimensions and ethical dispositions people draw upon in encounters are foundational to their achieving more reflexive forms of openness. However, we also illustrate how the moral and ethical dimensions of cosmopolitanism are far from neutral and are shaped by factors including people’s reflexivity and various social hierarchies. In doing so, we add to studies where actually existing cosmopolitanism is observed as being grounded in the messiness of social life, and as an ethical and reflexive process that allows for forms of social rapport to be achieved.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date25. Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 25. Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes
Event12th Conference of the European Sociological Association: Differences, Inequalities and Sociological Imagination - University of Prague, Prague, Czech Republic
Duration: 25. Aug 201528. Aug 2015
Conference number: 12


Conference12th Conference of the European Sociological Association
LocationUniversity of Prague
Country/TerritoryCzech Republic


  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Social encounters
  • Globalisation
  • Social diversity


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