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Visuality, mobility and the cosmopolitan: inhabiting the world from afar.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date03/2006
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Journal number1
Volume57
Number of pages20
Pages113-132
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

In earlier publications based on the research discussed in this article (e.g. Szerszynski and Urry 2002), we argued that an emergent culture of cosmopolitanism, refracted into different forms amongst different social groups, was being nurtured by a widespread 'banal globalism'– a proliferation of global symbols and narratives made available through the media and popular culture. In the current article we draw on this and other empirical research to explore the relationship between visuality, mobility and cosmopolitanism. First we describe the multiple forms of mobility that expand people's awareness of the wider world and their capacity to compare different places. We then chart the changing role that visuality has played in citizenship throughout history, noting that citizenship also involves a transformation of vision, an absenting from particular contexts and interests. We explore one particular version of that transformation – seeing the world from afar, especially in the form of images of the earth seen from space – noting how such images conventionally connote both power and alienation. We then draw on another research project, on place and vision, to argue that the shift to a cosmopolitan relationship with place means that humans increasingly inhabit their world only at a distance.