Two members of  the University of Witwatersrand African Centre for Migration and Society asked how foreign migrants to South Africa cope with hostility sometimes amounting to xenophobia. In this short version of a longer journal article, they come up with the answer -- tactical cosmopolitanism -- and offer a list of its characteristics. As I read this and started ticking them off as personally relevant, I realised that I have always been a tactical cosmopolitan, but didn't know it! Maybe that is why for most of my adult life I have shadowned the African diaspora and learned about the world through their movement. Check it out and let me know how you score on the TC Index.


ly that sometimes amounts to xenophobia. They came up in this article, a summary of a longer jounral article, with the concept of

Views: 191


You need to be a member of Open Anthropology Cooperative to add comments!

Comment by John McCreery on December 1, 2011 at 8:25am

First, migrants maintain strong multi-sited connections that allow them to hover above the spaces in which they live, dipping in to extract what they need while maintaining social and economic relations elsewhere....

Second, migrants develop a counter-idiom of self-exclusion and superiority that distances them from unwelcoming locals...

Third, migrants draw on a varied mix of Pan-Africanism and other liberation philosophies in order to legitimise their presence in South Africa.....

Fourth, tactical cosmopolitanism manifests in the constantly shifting organisational forms evident amongst Johannesburg’s migrants. In many instances in our research, even people from the same country carefully avoided close association with other ‘exiles’, or clung to multiple points of loyalty that allowed them to shift within multiple networks...

Variations of all these tactics can be found among foreigners, including myself, who live in Japan. Maintaining multi-sited connections "back home" or in other places where expats find friends of similar status and experience. Definitely yes. Me, too. Self-exclusion and superiority? Sure. Clubs, bars, churches, clinics...all become organizational settings in which the "old hands" reproduce a sense of who "we" are as opposed to the more or less benighted locals bound to more onerous lives by local rules and institutions. "Pan-Africanism and liberation"? No. But globalization and free trade, seen as justifications for working and living wherever we like? Absolutely. Organizational forms? Clubs, bars, churches, international schools, clinics.....the expat world is full or organizations that sustain a separate identity while also framing interaction with locals who embrace internationalism. 

What is particularly interesting to me is the way these classic tactical-cosmopolitan characteristics are affected by ethnic and economic considerations. I think of how a now-deceased friend described "gaijin"/expat society in Japan. She likened it to an old-fashioned donut. There are those, she said, who live in the sugar; sprinkled on from the outside, they don't last very long. There are those, "like us" she said, who live in the cake, having found sustainable niches in the local economy. And, finally, there are those who live in the hole. Newcomers willing to do the dirty, dangerous, difficult jobs that locals have, with growing prosperity, learned to despise. The discrimination they face is more overt and their treatment by police and other authorities more abrupt, even brutal.

As foreigners, we may all display tactical-cosmopolitan features in our attitudes and behavior. How well our tactics serve us may vary considerably.


Comment by Huon Wardle on November 28, 2011 at 2:59pm

I like the idea of a 'subterranean ethics'.


OAC Press



© 2019   Created by Keith Hart.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service