Working with difference: Cognitive schemas, ethical cosmopolitanism, and negotiating cultural diversity

Nina Høy-Petersen, Ian Woodward

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This article empirically explores the types and limits of ethical varieties of cosmopolitan openness by analysing in-depth interviews with a sample of professionals and volunteers (N = 20) in culturally heterogeneous workplaces that are characterised by interpersonal interactions requiring intercultural competencies. It analyses the way people relax and harden the borders of openness around people, objects and practices they see as unfamiliar and different. Within the context of two primary schemes for deliberating the principles and schemas for acting in ways that are open to valuing difference, the article finds that the interviewees use flexible and contextually shifting categorisations of otherness and sameness that serve apparently conflicting agendas of ethical openness, self-protection, instrumentalism and parochialism. Exploring the schemas associated with these forms of everyday ethical understandings, the results show their cosmopolitan ethical practice to be performative and contextual, entangled with a variety of potentially conflicting schemas of evaluation and judgement.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Sociology
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)655-673
Publication statusPublished - 1. Nov 2018


  • Cosmopolitanism
  • helping relations
  • Intercultural competence
  • cultural diversity
  • ethics
  • cognitive schemas
  • cosmopolitanism
  • ethical cosmopolitanism
  • Cognitive schemas


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