4 Pictures That Define Cosmopolitanism

For the past four weeks, I’ve been taking an online class called Culture & Identity in World Politics through my school, the University of Denver. Throughout the course, we’ve been reading about and discussing what makes up an identity, what makes us who we are, and how it applies to the rest of the world.

We’re concluding the course on cosmopolitanism, a school of thought that basically means you don’t identify with any one place or culture, but rather you consider yourself a citizen of the world.

Our final assignment is to compile a set of images that representing cosmopolitanism. Here are four photos that represent cosmopolitanism.

Every Shade Was Beautifully Made


The first image is by @kissedbyken on Instagram, a makeup artist. Kendra created this look titled “Every Shade Was Beautifully Made.”

For this assignment’s purposes, I thought this image was an excellent example of how national and global identity can come together in a beautiful way. In one of our readings this week, “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism” by Martha C. Nussbaum via The Boston Review. The US, at its core, is considered a “melting pot” of different cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds. But lately, it doesn’t seem to maintain this reputation. As Nussbaum described, we’ve allowed patriotic pride to block out the best part of patriotism: “the goal of national unity in devotion to worthy moral ideals of justice and equality” (1994).

Kendra’s piece is an optimistic glimmer of hope. It shows that despite our differences, America was founded on cosmopolitan ideas, that “all men are created equal.” All backgrounds from around the world fall under the American identity.

Christians join hands to protect Muslims as they pray during Cairo protests
Nevine Zaki

This photo, taken by Nevine Zaki as a part of this Daily Mail article, depicts an incredible image of solidarity. In 2011, in the thick of The Arab Spring, Cairo was a massive hub of protests, often leading to violence and heavy police brutality.

One quality that many people across cultures share: faith. Despite the differences between the Christians and the Muslims, the Christians in solidarity protected their Muslim brothers and sisters during the Call to Prayer, so they were able to practice their religion without fear of being marred by protest. I can think of few examples that demonstrate cosmopolitanism better than this one.

One of our assignments during the week was to watch a TED talk given by critically acclaimed feminist author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The talk, “The danger of a single story,” reminds us that our perception of another culture is often skewed by our own bias.

We often get a single story when it comes to Arabian cultures and Middle Eastern states. One filled with destruction, hate, and extremist-driven wars. This image challenged that single story by showing the brotherhood and humanity that we forget exists worldwide.

Tea for Two


“Tea for Two,” taken by conflict photographer Rafiq Maqbool, also challenges the single Middle Eastern story we’re given in the West. In the Nerkh District outside of Kabul, an Afghan man gives tea to a soldier on duty hunting down members of the Taliban. In an article on the Photo Concierge, blogger Kirthi Jayakumar stated that “Maqbool’s picture is a gentle nudge in the direction of deconstructing the dehumanization” of the Afghani people, average citizens who are no different that those of us in the West. They are kind and compassionate, even towards foreigners wielding heavy artillery.

Pele and Bobby Moore Swapping Jerseys

pele moore

During the 1970s World Cup, Brazil defeated the previous champion, England. English captain Bobby Moore and Brazilian soccer legend Pele swapped jerseys after the incredible match, showing deep respect towards one another and incredible appreciation for the heart of the game the whole world loves.

In one of our readings this week by Taso G. Lagos, “Global Citizenship – Towards a Definition,” we learned that it is incredibly difficult to pin down exactly what a global citizen is. I think, rather than try to find a written definition, we show this picture. Two legendary men, from virtually polar cultures and backgrounds, showing how truly alike they are.

Ideally, as citizens of the world and as cosmopolitans, we are all compassionate towards one another. We all respect one another. We are all human, with thoughts, feelings, and ideas. One we understand that, the world can truly become a more understanding place.

Note: none of the above images belong to me, all rights reserved towards their respective photographers. This piece was published for educative purposes as part of an assignment with the University of Denver.

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