The term cosmopolitanism, literally “citizen of the cosmos,” was first employed by the Cynics in the fourth century BC and was later taken up by the Stoics of Rome. The notion was resuscitated in the eighteenth century — Immanuel Kant understood it as both hospitality and the universal extension of reason and freedom. Today, the concept is explored in political philosophy, cultural studies, and ethics, often proving critical to new and more complex analyses of modernity, coloniality, patriotism, and human rights. Yet there is little consensus on the limits or possibilities of cosmopolitanism: Does it designate all points of communication between the local and global? Does vantage point matter? Debated and disputed, the precariously built conceptual frame — like the equally shaky idea of globalization — nevertheless endures.

The latest book by art historian María Fernández opens with a lucid summary of...

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