Conference 2014

Cosmopolitan Cinema
Arts and Politics in the Second Modernity

International Conference
organised by Prof. Dr. Matthias Christen & Dr. Kathrin Rothemund

3.-5. April 2014 at the University of Bayreuth/Germany

The conference program can be downloaded here.

Moving unfettered between nations, markets and identities in a globalized world, the cosmopolitan has become a key trope of contemporary identity formation. Being all in one an anthropological assertion, a moral ideal and a political agenda, cosmopolitanism has proven itself to be an intellectually highly prolific concept across disciplinary boundaries. It offers a new take on the flows of people, money and ideas, circulating between nations and continents, as well as on the negotiation of cultural difference. Taking up the notion of a world society as sketched out in the Age of Enlightenment, current debates on cosmopolitanism stress the moral and political obligations towards Others. It positions groups and individuals, rather than nation states, as agents to the fore of cultural and political reasoning. Inspired by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant the idea of a world history aimed at the establishment of a concordant world society implies a utopian stance by providing a counter-offer to real world hegemonic structures in times of globalization. However, while legal, political and civic varieties of cosmopolitanism have been discussed intensively over the last years, a province, being particularly prone to utopianism, still plays a rather marginal role: the arts in general and cinema in particular.
We argue that the utopian vision engrained in cosmopolitism provides a formative framework for cultural production. Literature, art, theater, dance, cinema and other media offer creative and challenging perspectives on cosmopolitanism otherwise primarily conceived of in moral, legal or political terms. By creating a cosmopolitan imaginary, the arts, and cinema especially, offer a third space and can be considered as probing societal forms within an aesthetical realm: relating spaces and places, narrating interconnections of agents, objects and layers, creating fictional and artificial worlds.
The conference will situate cinema within this cosmopolitan imaginary of a second modernity. Cinema can become – or has always been – a cosmopolitan agent in the global network, which comprises flows of movement, expansion and progression. In this sense, a cosmopolitan cinema can be understood as a political cinema that enables difference and perforates national boundaries. Within cinema and media studies such a perforation of nationality has lead to a diversity of terminologies. Our concept of cosmopolitan cinema takes on established discourses of film studies such as third cinema, world cinema, accented cinema, postcolonial cinema, transnational cinema or various forms of the cinema of migration. At the same time it distances itself from these concepts by tapping into cosmopolitanism’s long-standing tradition within European philosophy.
By establishing the notion of a cosmopolitan cinema we want to open up new perspectives on some of film studies’ key categories such as œuvre or authorship as well as on theoretical reflections of specific films usually discussed in that context. We want to embrace this task by turning our attention towards films arising outside of the major cinematographies as well as pointing out fractures and instability within hegemonic discourses on Hollywood or European art house-cinema. We also want to challenge classical film-theoretical approaches concerning their political-aesthetical notion of cosmopolitanism. In order to do so we want to allocate theoretical debates, which have been rarely adopted within film studies – in spite of, or due to the fact, that they enable or necessitate a new perception of and new approaches to film. This will allow us to reevaluate film history and film theory with regard to film as a means of projecting and probing model worlds as well as to incorporate approaches of other research areas – such as theories of networks, creolization and globalization as well as discourses on a second modernity. 
The conference’s task will be to broaden the discussions on films produced in and depicting a globalized world. We would therefore welcome a dialogue about the cultural impact of cosmopolitanism on the arts as well as in-depth inquiries into specific (filmic) examples.

Conference Structure

A.    Cosmopolitanism – Theoretical contexts

We want to encourage a debate on terminology concerning cosmopolitanism. Whether global, transnational, international, accented, migratory, third or other cinema – each concept offers a different perspective on cinema. Whether the above-mentioned terms are self-attributed or academic categories grasping global film movements – each signifies a specific relation between cinema and society. Positioning cosmopolitan cinema within this terminological set and discussing it in relation to further concepts such as a second modernity or utopianism provides the initial challenges of the conference.

B.    Cosmopolitan Cinema

The second part focuses more specifically on cosmopolitanism in and of cinema.
The main research areas for the conference will be:
  • cosmopolitan space and place (e.g. relations between periphery and center; transgressing and rebuilding borders; outer, inner and confined spaces; performative spaces of film festivals, etc.)
  • cosmopolitan agents (e.g. authors, directors, cinematographers, actors; fictional characters such as travelers, terrorists, soldiers, migrants, refugees)
  • cosmopolitan institutions (e.g. film funding institutions, film festivals, distributors; institutions as feature characters)
  • film form and stylistic features (e.g. genre, sound, mise-en-scène, montage)
  • cosmopolitan (hi)stories (e.g. narrative aspects; film historical perspective)


Any questions concerning the conference can be directed to the conference’s email address: cosmopolitan.cinema[at]


See Ulrich Beck: The Cosmopolitan Vision. Cambridge: Polity Press 2006; Kwame Anthony Appiah: Cosmopolitanism. Ethics in a World of Strangers. New York: Norton 2006; Rebecca L. Walkowitz: Cosmopolitan Style. Modernism Beyond the Nation. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006; Ulrich Beck, E. Grande: Cosmopolitan Europe. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007; Mica Nava: Visceral Cosmopolitanism. Gender, Culture and the Normalisation of Difference. Oxford: Berg 2007; Garrett Wallace Brown, David Held: The Cosmopolitan Reader. New York: Wiley 2010; Maria Rovisco, Magdalena Nowicka: The Ashgate Research Companian to Cosmopolitanism. Surrey: Ashgate 2011; Nikos Papastergiadis: Cosmopolitanism and Culture. Cambridge: Polity 2012; Zlatko Skrbiš, Ian Woodward: Cosmopolitanism. Uses of the Idea. Los Angeles: Sage 2013.