The Cosmopolites: The Coming of the Global Citizen

A Discussion with Atossa Araxia Abrahamian

November 17, 2015 · 6-7:15PM

World Room, Pulitzer Hall, Columbia University

  • Atossa Araxia Abrahamian, author of “The Cosmopolites: The Coming of the Global Citizen,” opinion editor at Al Jazeera America, a longtime editor and contributor at The New Inquiry, and a contributing editor to Dissent magazine.
  • Nicholas Lemann, Director of Columbia Global Reports, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Journalism, Columbia Journalism School, Staff writer for The New Yorker.
  • Rosalind C. Morris, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University, and Member of the Committee on Global Thought.
  • Joseph O’Neill, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Written Arts, Bard College, writer, and journalist.

Columbia Global Reports and the Committee On Global Thought welcome Atossa Araxia Abrahamian, acclaimed novelist Joseph O’Neill (The Dog, Netherland), and Columbia University Professor of Anthropology Rosalind C. Morris. Nicholas Lemann, director of Columbia Global Reports, will moderate a panel discussion on global citizenship, statelessness, and Abrahamian’s debut book The Cosmopolites: The Coming of the Global Citizen.

Photo Gallery



About "The Cosmopolites"

The buying and selling of citizenship has become a thriving business in just a few years. Entrepreneurs and libertarians are renouncing America and Europe in favor of tax havens like Singapore and the Caribbean. But as journalist Atossa Araxia Abrahamian discovered, the story of twenty-first-century citizenship is bigger than millionaires seeking their next passport.

When she learned that a group of mysterious middlemen were persuading island nations like the Comoros, St. Kitts, and Antigua to turn to selling citizenship as a new source of revenue after the 2008 financial crisis, she decided to follow the money trail to the Middle East. There, she found that the customers of passports-in-bulk programs were the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, oil-rich countries that don’t want to confer their own citizenship on their bidoon people, or stateless minorities who have no documentation.

In her timely and eye-opening first book, Abrahamian travels the globe to meet these willing and unwitting “cosmopolites,” or citizens of the world, who inhabit a new, borderless realm where things can go very well, or very badly.

"A perceptive, brilliantly reported investigation into the ways in which the forces of globalization are fundamentally changing the conceptualization and practice of nationality. This is that rare thing: a book filled with news."—Joseph O'Neill, author of Netherland and The Dog

"Abrahamian’s fluently told, fast-paced story takes her around the world ... A slim but powerful book of great interest to students of international law and current events."—Kirkus Reviews

Atossa with ShadowAtossa Araxia Abrahamian is an opinion editor at Al Jazeera America, a longtime editor and contributor at The New Inquiry, and a contributing editor to Dissent magazine. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, New York magazine, the London Review of Books, and other publications. She has also worked as a general news and business reporter for Reuters. She grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, and studied philosophy as an undergraduate at Columbia University, where she returned to study investigative reporting at the Graduate School of Journalism. She lives in Brooklyn.

Nicholas with ShadowNicholas Lemann is the Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor of Journalism, Dean Emeritus of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and Director of Columbia Global Reports.

Professor Lemann was born, raised and educated in New Orleans. He began his journalism career as a 17-year-old writer for an alternative weekly newspaper there, the Vieux Carre Courier. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1976, where he concentrated in American history and literature and was president of the Harvard Crimson. After graduation, he worked at the Washington Monthly, as an associate editor and then managing editor; at Texas Monthly, as an associate editor and then executive editor; at The Washington Post, as a member of the national staff; at The Atlantic Monthly, as national correspondent; and at The New Yorker, as staff writer and then Washington correspondent.

On September 1, 2003, he became dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, at the end of a process of re-examination of the school's mission conducted by a national task force convened by the university's president, Lee C. Bollinger. During Lemann's time as dean, the Journalism School launched and completed its first capital fundraising campaign, added 20 members to its full-time faculty, built a student center, started its first new professional degree program since the 1930s, and launched significant new initiatives in investigative reporting, digital journalism, executive leadership for news organizations, and other areas.  He stepped down as dean in 2013, following two five-year terms.

Lemann continues to contribute to The New Yorker as a staff writer. He has published five books, most recently "Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War" (2006); "The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy" (1999), which helped lead to a major reform of the SAT; and "The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America" (1991), which won several book prizes. He has written widely for such publications as The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, and Slate; worked in documentary television with Blackside, Inc., "FRONTLINE," the Discovery Channel, and the BBC; and lectured at many universities.

Lemann serves on the boards of directors of the Authors Guild, the National Academy of Sciences’ Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, and the Academy of Political Science, and is a member of the New York Institute for the Humanities. He was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in April, 2010.

Rosalind with ShadowRosalind Morris is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University and a member of the Committee on Global Thought. Her earlier scholarship focused on the history of modernity in Southeast Asia and the place of the mass media in its development, particularly in the encounter between old and new forms of mediation. More recently, she has been writing an ethnography of South Africa’s mining communities. Traversing these fields of inquiry, her work addresses questions of the relationships between value and violence; aesethetics and the political; the sexualization of power and desire; and the history of anthropological thought and social theory. In her formally wide-ranging writings on all of these issues, she attends specifically to the problem of language, and the matter of representation.

Professor Morris has served as a Director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, an Associate Director of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, and is the former co-editor of CONNECT: art, politics, theory, culture. She is also the founding editor of ‘The Africa List,’ for Seagull Books.

Joseph with ShadowJoseph O'Neill is a writer of Irish-Turkish descent, born in 1964, who grew up in the Netherlands, worked for several years as a barrister in London and now lives in New York. He has written three previous novels and a family memoir. His last novel, the critically acclaimed Netherland, about cricket in New York, was praised by Barack Obama. O'Neill's new novel, The Dog (Fourth Estate), is about an American lawyer who, following a break-up, moves to Dubai to manage the wealth of a rich Lebanese family. It has been long-listed for the Man Booker prize. He is the Distinguished Visiting Professor of Written Arts at Bard College.