A cosmopolitan research method and agenda would need to reckon with the primordial otherness of the humans we encounter either face-to-face or indirectly. Thereby, it would have to internalize methodologically the ethical constitution of any form of subjectivity. In this perspective, it is unethical to turn the other into an object of knowledge. This means that the days of ‘the Nuer’, ‘Muslim women’, ‘Europeans’, and other categorical designations of human beings are over (which they, at least in metropolitan-style anthropology, are anyway). Collective labels should not be resurrected for political and strategic reasons either (apropos Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s ‘strategic essentialism’). It goes without saying that anthropologists still will want to make sense of why and how human beings themselves (including anthropologists) use collective and categorical terms for other human beings.
A cosmopolitan anthropology that is grounded in an ethics of alterity, however, will take the methodological issue one step further. It will not only object to collective categories for human beings, it will also desist from the sort of claims to intimacy with the other that appear here and there in the ethnographic record. Such claims are forged from pretending to take hold of someone else’s otherness and then marketing this otherness to the rest of the world. Cosmopolitan anthropology, more than anything, is about the responsibility toward the other.
Ronald Stade, p. 229 in:
Rapport, N., & Stade, R. (2007). A cosmopolitan turn – or return? Social Anthropology 15(2), 223-235.