The Young Cosmopolitans: Young People's Intercultural Work in an International School
Rondinelli, Elisabeth Eleanor
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This dissertation examines the cultural world of a group of young students who are navigating their late teenage years at Highland, an international boarding school in northern Europe, living and studying alongside many different kinds of people, both familiar and unfamiliar. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, I examine three interrelated phenomena. First, I analyze the formation of cosmopolitan practice in a school in which young people have sustained contact with one another under the aegis of strong institutional norms of intercultural understanding. The school has an overarching intercultural ethos, but little is known about the patterns of practice that emerge in schools that adopt such projects. Second, I examine how everyday cosmopolitanism coexists with everyday social division. This task is important because it involves looking at cosmopolitan practice as involving the development of a pragmatic orientation to life in diversity, rather than a commitment to abstract ideals of intercultural harmony. Third, I track the intercultural work that young people do, which highlights the specific norms, justifications, and practices that young people coming of age in diversity rely on and creatively produce. With a focus on meaning-making processes that young people participate in and produce, I argue that the relationships that take shape at Highland reveal the unevenly distributed labour and rewards of cosmopolitan practice.