Friday, March 22, 2024

"Cosmopolitan Elites"

New from Oxford University Press: Cosmopolitan Elites: Indian Diplomats and the Social Hierarchies of Global Order by Kira Huju.

About the book, from the publisher:

Cosmopolitan Elites narrates the birth, everyday life, and fracturing of a Western-dominated global order from its margins. It offers a critical sociological examination of the elite Indian Foreign Service and its members, many of whom were present at the founding of this order. Kira Huju explores how these diplomats set out to remake the service in the name of a radically anti-colonial global subaltern, but often ended up seeking status within its hierarchies through social mimicry of its most powerful actors. This is a book about the struggles of belonging: it revisits what it takes to be a recognized member of international society and asks what the experience of historically marginalized actors inside the diplomatic club can tell us about the evident woes of global order today. In interrogating how Indian diplomats learned to live under a Westernized world order, it also offers a sociologically grounded reading of what might happen in spaces like India as the world transitions past Western domination.

An awkward balancing act animates the order-making of India's cosmopolitan diplomats: despite a genuine desire to strive toward a postcolonial world founded on diversity, difference, and the symbolic representation of a global subaltern, there is a strong sense of a lingering caricature-like notion of a white, European-dominated homogenous club, to which Indian diplomats feel a deep-rooted and colonially embedded desire to belong. Cosmopolitanism operates inside this balancing act not as an international ethic upholding an equal, tolerant, or liberal global order, but rather as an elite aesthetic which presumes cultural compliance, diplomatic accommodation, and social assimilation into Western mores.

Based on 85 interviews with Indian diplomats, politicians, and foreign policy experts, as well as archival work in New Delhi, the book asks what the experience of historically marginalized actors inside the diplomatic club tells us about the social hierarchies of race, class, religion, gender, and caste under global order.
Visit Kira Huju's website.

--Marshal Zeringue