Conceptualizing otherness: An exploration of the cosmopolitan schema

Lyn Calcutt, Ian Woodward, Zlatko Skrbis

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48 Citations (Scopus)


The Australian cosmopolitan is an important symbolic figure in popular discourse and the political landscape. Regardless of the actual scope and scale of cosmopolitanness in Australia, the spectre of cosmopolitanism, and its close relatives such as tolerance of diversity or openness to difference, is a powerful figure in contemporary culture. The cosmopolitan willingness to accommodate otherness is perceived as a betrayal of Australian culture, yet continuing high levels of immigration from diverse sources demand cosmopolitan tolerance. Sociologists know that cosmopolitan people can accommodate diversity, but how this is achieved is the subject of much theoretical debate. It is reasonable to assume that cosmopolitans conceptualize otherness in ways that reduce or eliminate a sense of threat, but how can we reliably access individual conceptualizations? Informed by a cultural sociology approach, this project utilized the concept of cognitive schemas from psychology, and formal semantics from linguistics, to access cosmopolitan conceptualizations. Analysis of focus group data concluded that cosmopolitan schemas are constructed using a repertoire of strategies which compartmentalize categories of otherness into manageable portions. It is argued that, from the cosmopolitan perspective, Australian cultural integrity remains the intact and dominant host of smaller, harmless or manageable cultural fragments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169 - 186
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Sociology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

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