I have decided to set up a new weblog in order to publicise my research activities and personal research themes and projects. I hope to create a network of interest around my activities, make myself known, and get acquainted with other academic research activities on the same field or topic. This blog is also egoistically intended for personal use as a track keeper of my achievements or procrastinations.
I am currently giving the last hand on my Master’s thesis entitled ‘Element of an Archaeology of Cosmopolitanism in Western Political Thought’. I am waiting for some final comments from my academic supervisor. My MA thesis is combining Foucault’s archaeological “tool” of research with the ‘Cambridge school’ of contextualist history. I felt that the two branches of method in the history of ideas–roughly sketched as the Americans on the one side with e.g. Lovejoy and Strauss, and the ‘Cambridge school’ on the other, with e.g. Skinner, Dunn and Pocock–had weaknesses and strengths that Foucault could overcome and combine respectively.
The general topic of the thesis is cosmopolitanism as a political theory, primarily in Western political thought. It is as much a work of ontology–philosophy–as it is a work of epistemology–history. Since cosmopolitanism is not exactly a very well defined ontology, it is difficult to make its history. On the other had, it is difficult to make its ontology since we do not have a clear history. In my view, Foucault’s archaeology was a good tool to ‘deconstruct’ the doctrine into ‘unit ideas’, as a discourse composed of ‘objects’, ‘concepts’, ‘strategies’ and all glued together by ‘énoncés’ (or ‘announcements’). In this sense, it is providing the strength of Lovejoy’s and the US school of method in giving a constant to work with through time. However, one must take into account the critiques that the ‘Cambridge school’ provided to such an endeavour; i.e. the risk to run an anachronistic account on ‘perennial issues’ mainly set in contemporary terms. Foucault’s archaeology integrates such account for the context in which the objects, concepts, and strategies evolved inside a discourse, while the announcements are maintaining its stability through time for a historical analysis.
The research is then made easier. Instead of attempting to provide a definition of what cosmopolitanism is–and by that risking to compromise the ontology of cosmopolitanism–the thesis defines the contemporary discourse of Western cosmopolitanism. It then describes the archive of this discourse, choosing to focus on our early modern political vocabulary. I chose the Enlightenment period for the great influence it has on our poltical thought, and particularly France because of the influence it had in Europe.
My ambition is to pursue a PhD on this project where I would expand my theoretical method into something even more idiosyncratic and original, and also expand the research area to either include the nineteenth century or include other countries such as England and Germany, or both.
My final goal is to be able to publish a book in the next ten years on the history of modern Western cosmopolitanism. In the later run I would like to edit a more general opus on the complete history of cosmopolitanism since the Greek antiquity. There are very few historiographies on this political doctrine.