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Dakar by Night: Engaging with a Cosmopolitanism by Contrast

Abstract : This study aims to bring to light some ways of being-in-town that organize desires for being-in-the-world. Drawing on 20 years of anthropological fieldwork in Dakar, it relies on a simple yet substantial premise: a very large number of urban Senegalese youths express a strong desire to move North, or West, while only a small minority will be able to do so. My questioning focuses on those who stay but whose modes of sticking around are deeply influenced by their longing for a larger world (Fouquet 2008). Ethnographically, and in view of contemporary expressions of "cityness" (Sassen 2010), this can be made visible by peculiar uses of the city with social and cultural mobilities tending to compensate for an unreachable geographical one. More broadly, such configurations can be understood in terms of the concrete urban cosmopolitan experiences they convey-that is, a cosmopolitanism that emerges in the wake of constant non-travelers' paths into the city as compared to the ability of "frequent travelers" to move around the world (Calhoun 2002). This can seem counterintuitive as the individual potential for mobility has long been positioned as the most important criterion in defining (admittedly in its elitist version) the cosmopolitan condition. In my work in Dakar, mobility remains a key issue, but rather on the level of an intentionality closely mediated by a "globalization of dreams" (Geschiere and Rowlands 1996), thus introducing a discussion of the cultural and socioeconomical perimeters of cosmopolitanism itself. My ambition here is to define cosmopolitanism not so much as the convenient reflection of (privileged) social status but rather in inherently relational terms-that is, "being cosmopolitanism rather than," "citizen of the world rather than," "member of the world society rather than," "well aware of global cultural trends rather than," and so on.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, January 5, 2022 - 11:36:43 AM
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Thomas Fouquet. Dakar by Night: Engaging with a Cosmopolitanism by Contrast. Migration, Urbanity and Cosmopolitanism in a Globalized World, pp.41 - 53, 2021, ⟨10.1007/978-3-030-67365-9_4⟩. ⟨halshs-03512097⟩

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