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The fragility of cosmopolitanism: a biographical approach



In this paper I concentrate on cosmopolitanism's ‘protean quality’ (Hannerz), its elusiveness and flexibility both as analytical tool and as experience. I explore the life of Agata González, a Gitano (Gypsy/Roma) woman from Madrid, tracing the emergence of a cosmopolitan subjectivity. In this ethnographic context, cosmopolitanism appears and disappears from view; changes in character, intensity and effect; and is at some times an ideal, even a day-dream, and at others an unavoidable and fully practical way of dealing with the world. The paper demonstrates the potential fragility of cosmopolitan orientations and argues the need to acknowledge the anti-heroic qualities of emergent cosmopolitan subjectivities.