Is cosmopolitanism compatible with religion? This essay explores what it might mean to cultivate a sensibility of religious cosmopolitanism through the study of narrative literature. I begin by analyzing the intersection of these terms—the religious and the cosmopolitan—across their longue durée. The resulting history helps to clarify how and why cosmopolitanism, conceived and theorized in opposition to political boundaries, has come to conceive religion—religious practices, convictions, and communities—as its theopolitical limit while becoming increasingly compatible with nationalism. To travel smoothly among the flows of global culture and public reason, one need not abandon the nation, but one must, in the dominant account, be willing to shed the parochial trappings of religion—or at least relegate such attachments to one's private life. In a time of Twitter revolutions and constant connectivity, celebrants of globalization and its critics alike are prone to thin accounts that fall back on metaphors of a flat world and the short text. Against the perils of the short and the flat, this essay celebrates the long formats and sustained acts of imaginative investment fostered by narrative literature. Focusing on Orhan Pamuk's novel Snow, I analyze the ways in which worldly faith and parochial secularity unravel the religious/cosmopolitan agon. As Pamuk's novel underscores, because the most prominent boundaries of the modern world system are not territorial or political but religious, any cosmopolitanism worthy of the name must offer a model of inclusivity and universalism that both recognizes and reckons with the substantive differences that separate varieties of religious and secular experience.
Research Article|November 01 2011
Justin Neuman; Religious Cosmopolitanism?: Orhan Pamuk, the Headscarf Debate, and the Problem with Pluralism. the minnesota review 1 November 2011; 2011 (77): 143–161. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00265667-1422777
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