The Center for Writing Studies

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Rafters and skylights in the English Building

Colloquium Archive

Xiaoye You

Name: Xiaoye You, Pennsylvania State University

Presentation Title: Cosmopolitan English and the Arts of Dwelling Places

Date: April 18, 2013


In writing studies, research and pedagogy dealing with differences and diversity have been framed primarily within theories of multiculturalism. Much of the multiculturalist approach to differences is entrenched in the nationalist project, trying to guard cultural and ethnic sovereignty within the nation-state. The transnational flows of people, capital, and cultural products make the sovereignty-anchored approach hardly adequate for dealing with differences in research and teaching. Writing studies needs alternative frames and approaches that both acknowledge the usefulness of boundaries and at the same time interrogate and break them down. A candidate for this purpose is cosmopolitanism. Of its various formulations across time and geographical space, cosmopolitanism carries a fundamental meaning: while one may be defined by kindred relations, ethnicity, race, nation, gender, sexuality, or class, one also has moral obligations to those outside his or her groupings due to shared humanity; further, he or she has the agency to develop and sustain new allegiances across cultures, communities, and languages. In writing studies, this perspective enables us to perceive human-connectedness as being deeply underpinned in the various accents and uses of English in everyday life and literary culture. Linguistic, cultural, and ethnic differences are not things to be contained but matters to be respected and appreciated, and to be explored to recover and protect the multifaceted, intricate human connections severed by various artificial borders. In my talk, I will first propose a cosmopolitan perspective to understand English and then illustrate the importance of this perspective by examining the arts of building an online community by Japanese users of English.