Cosmopolitan realities of contemporary cities explored

What are the emerging cosmopolitan realities of contemporary Toronto and cities such as London, New York, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires and Paris? The upcoming conference Towards a Democratic Cosmopolis: Diaspora, Citizenship & Recognition will provide an opportunity to understand those realities and to discuss and debate the values of democratic cosmopolitanism.

Over time these geographical areas have attracted large numbers of migrants and immigrants in search of better economic, political and cultural conditions. The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and other world-class cities continue to serve as sites for the relocation experiences of peoples from a wide range of different ethnic, social, cultural, religious, political and other backgrounds.

Towards a Democratic Cosmopolis: Diaspora, Citizenship & Recognition will run Oct. 22 and 23 in the Founders Senior Common Room, 305 Founders College, Keele campus, and Oct. 24 at Vellore Village Joint Complex, 1 Villa Royale Ave., City of Vaughan.

Author Nino Ricci (left) (BA Spec. Hons. ’81), two-time winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, will deliver the keynote address, “Literature and Post-Ethnicity” on Thursday evening. Ricci will look at the writer’s role in articulating a Canadian reality in which ethnicity no longer serves as a primary or dominant means of constructing identity.

Professor Donna Gabaccia (right), the Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History Research and director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota, will present the keynote “Imagining Nations of Immigrants” on Friday night. Gabaccia’s talk will take a historical look at the "nation of immigrants" as one of several nation-building strategies. Both keynotes will take place in Founders Assembly Hall, 152 Founders College.

They are just two of dozens of speakers at the conference, including Mauro Buccheri, master of Founders College, who will talk about understanding how Orphic mythology is crucial for the creation of new foundations for cosmopolitan humanism. Ian Chodikoff, editor of Canadian Architect magazine and a lecturer in the University of Toronto’s John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape & Design, will discuss how suburbs of today are more ethnically diverse, globally connected and culturally aware than at any other time in history. Chodikoff says the influences of these factors on the built environment are unprecedented in the evolution of the North American city.

Greg Sorbara, MPP in the riding of Vaughan, will talk about how over time, individuals from certain immigrant groups have gained election to municipal, regional, provincial and federal office, taking responsibility for the political destinies of those they represent. Sorbara will trace the implications of this phenomenon in Vaughan on the evolution of cosmopolis.

The conference will explore the changing dynamic of migrations and immigrations in the GTA and why they are essential for contextualizing discussions of citizenship, recognition and identity in the broader environment of resettlement, through the use of an interdisciplinary perspective.

One of the questions to be addressed is the extent to which members of resettled groups – both migrants and immigrants as well as their descendants – feel they are part of a larger community (as Canadians) in electoral participation as well as other aspects of exercising citizenship.

Furthermore, do those resettled in the GTA and other cities in Canada and elsewhere shape their identities and experience recognition as citizens in terms of a sense of “place” and belonging? Or does a new form of global citizenship arise as a consequence of multicentred diasporas and does it need to be integrated into an understanding of an emerging cosmopolitanism?

This conference, a new event for York, brings together many research programs and diaspora studies that have evolved at the University over the last 50 years.

For more information on the conference and its speakers, visit the Towards a Democratic Cosmopolis: Diaspora, Citizenship and Recognition Web site.