Edge People


General Culture

“As an English-born student of European history teaching in the US; as a Jew somewhat uncomfortable with much that passes for ‘Jewishness’ in contemporary America; as a social democrat frequently at odds with my self-described radical colleagues, I suppose I should seek comfort in the familiar insult of ‘rootless cosmopolitan.’ But that seems to me too imprecise, too deliberately universal in its ambitions. Far from being rootless, I am all too well rooted in a variety of contrasting heritages. […] I prefer the edge: the place where countries, communities, allegiances, affinities, and roots bump uncomfortably up against one another — where cosmopolitanism is not so much an identity as the normal condition of life. Such places once abounded. Well into the twentieth century there were many cities comprising multiple communities and languages — often mutually antagonistic, occasionally clashing, but somehow coexisting. Sarajevo was one, Alexandria another. Tangiers, Salonica, Odessa, Beirut, and Istanbul all qualified — as did smaller towns like Chernovitz and Uzhhorod. By the standards of American conformism, New York resembles aspects of these lost cosmopolitan cities: that is why I live here.” - Tony Judt