This panel extends critically Pnina Werbner's work on cultural imaginings and vernacular cosmopolitanisms by asking, what are the conditions that constrain, sustain or enable an everyday ethics of care and hospitality in an age of anxiety?
The precariousness and anxiety produced by global capitalism and routinely experienced by people in the south are increasingly coming home to roost in the north in ways that disturb the easy complacencies of both liberal middle classes and cosmopolitan elites. Some look to a reinvigorated analysis of political economy for new explanatory frameworks. Our central contention is that what anthropology more than any other social science can bring to the table is an understanding and appreciation of the importance of the cultural imagination in crafting and celebrating ethical and meaningful lives amidst the most turbulent and precarious of situations. More specifically, we ask, following Pnina Werbner, how and in what ways do cultural imaginings enable people to feel and experience agency even or perhaps especially when cultural acts and performances are not directed at changing unequal distributions of power or controls over resources? In what sense might we continue to speak of cultural production as a relatively autonomous field of affective relations, because distinct from, in Bourdieu's terms, the field of power? Finally, if affective cultures enable people to create, affirm and contest forms of sociability and different measures of what counts or qualifies not just as bare but as humane life, what are the conditions that constrain, sustain or enable an everyday cosmopolitan ethics of care and hospitality within and across own and other cultures in an age of anxiety?