What Makes Humanity? Identities, Relationships, and a New Cosmopolitanism

10 December 2021 - 6 May 2022  10:00 - 11:30

Virtual Event | Organised by Center on Modernity in Transition | Held in United States in English
Contact details: [email protected]
Advancing respect for human rights
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This panel discussion relates directly to one of the sub-themes, Equity and Inclusion, under the Democracy Summit’s Advancing Respect for Human Rights thematic area. Identity is a critical issue in dealing with inclusion. The question of who is included, either formally or informally, as a full participant in democracy, including its various institutional and community elements, is frequently determined by who is “us” and who is “them” and how strongly these distinctions of identity are felt.

With the rise of various forms of tribalism and nationalism throughout the world, questions of collective identity and belonging have surged to prominence in recent years. Across numerous disciplines and discourses, a key dilemma has taken shape: how to reconcile the legitimate yearning for rootedness and locality, with the fluidity and porousness of an increasingly global age. On the one hand, prevailing responses to this dilemma, including those shaped by predominant forms of nationalism, liberalism, and globalism, are struggling to resolve the tension. On the other hand, a range of perspectives deriving from alternate sites of collective life and value—for example, indigenous communities, postcolonial and social justice movements, religion, environmental movements, and cosmopolitan networks—cast the dilemma in a different light. This panel discussion is the first in a series over the next several months (see here: https://comitresearch.org/speaker-series/identity-belonging-global-age/) that brings together leading thinkers from a variety of perspectives to examine and reframe the crises of identity that confront us in a rapidly changing global age, and to think deeply about how humanity might resolve them.


Craig Calhoun is University Professor of Social Sciences at Arizona State University. Previously, he was president of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the Social Science Research Council (SSRC). He is author of Neither Gods Nor Emperors: Students and the Struggle for Democracy in China (1997) and the forthcoming Cosmopolitanism and Belonging: From European Integration to Global Hopes and Fears.

Achille Mbembe is Research Professor of History and Politics at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research in Johannesburg, South Africa and Professor at the European Graduate School. He is author of On the Postcolony (2001), Critique of Black Reason (2016), Necropolitics (2019), and Out of the Dark Night: Essays on Decolonization (2020).

David Palmer is Professor jointly at the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences and in the Department of Sociology at the University of Hong Kong. He is co-author of The Religious Question in Modern China (2010) and Dream Trippers: Global Daoism and the Predicament of Modern Spirituality (2017), and author of Qigong Fever: Body, Science and Utopia in China (2007).