Cosmopolitan Elites and the Making of Globality: M. N. Roy in the Role of a Lifetime (c. 1910s - 1960s)
When we read the term ‘world’, it tends to evoke something impersonal and large-scale, lacking detail and familiarity. But when the whole world was invoked in political arguments that sought to make the world anew, certain people were able to give it a face. This project centres on the Indian intellectual M. N. Roy (1887 - 1954) - an individual who was exceptionally capable of invoking the world to various audiences during the first half of the twentieth century, as he worked for organisations that promoted anticolonial nationalism, communism and humanism.
The project describes him as unusual but by no means singular in this capacity, as it situates him into various social circles that cover several ideological realms and continents, but where several individuals were nevertheless similarly able to represent the world. The project explicates how Roy and his peers and competitors became a political elite as they cultivated a cosmopolitan reputation that allowed them to be taken seriously when speaking about the whole world, even though - or because - they were in many ways outsiders in the places where they operated. By carefully considering the social and performative practices that turned them into credible cosmopolitans, the project uncovers the exclusive basis on which the universal claims of world-changing ideologies were made.