Co-sponsored by the Department of Sociology, the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy, the Offices of the President, Provost, Dean of Faculty, and Dean of the College, South House, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity, and the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning.
The “cosmopolitan canopy,” a concept introduced by Professor Elijah Anderson in his 2011 book, refers to an island of civility located in a sea of segregated living, where diverse people come together and, with the aid of “social gloss” – being polite and on occasion politically correct – typically get along. The “canopy” is a metaphor for civil society and, as such, can contribute to our understanding of race relations in public spaces in our increasingly diverse society. A college campus can be thought of as a cosmopolitan canopy — a diverse place of civility, unlike urban ghettos, suburbs, and ethnic enclaves where segregation is more often the norm.
Under the canopy, there exist essentially two types of people: the cosmopolitan (“cosmos”) and the ethnocentric (“ethnos”), and either type comes in all races, ethnicities, and genders. Of course, everyone is ethnocentric or cosmopolitan to some degree, and these attributes may manifest more or less at any time.
Professor Anderson discusses what happens when cosmos and ethnos encounter one another under the canopy, how each feels and functions in the canopy – or between canopies, and what challenges they face and either adapt to or hide from by applying a social gloss. He explores the resilience of the canopy, and how the canopy can teach and edify, and thereby help to reinforce and spread tolerance through contact, reflection, and mutual understanding.
• The cosmopolitan canopy and its resiliency
• Tensions between cosmopolitanism and ethnocentrism that lead to moments of acute disrespect
• The role of social gloss
Elijah Anderson is one of the leading urban ethnographers in the United States. His early books—A Place on the Corner (1978), Streetwise (1990), and Code of the Street (1999)—are important works in the sociological canon, which offer rich insight into the meaning of being black and poor in inner-city America. His most recent book, The Cosmopolitan Canopy (2011), takes an innovative turn, evaluating the potential for transformative inter-ethnic interaction in everyday public settings. He introduces the idea of the “cosmopolitan canopy”—an urban island of civility that exists amidst the ghettos, suburbs, and ethnic enclaves where segregation is the norm. Under the cosmopolitan canopy, diverse peoples come together and, for the most part, practice getting along.