Social solidarity in a transnational setting: The cosmopolitan position
This study investigates how people living in Europe construct themselves as ethical beings in the context of African poverty. Conceptually, the project draws upon Postcolonial Theory (Said, 1978; Hall, 1996) and contributions from Social Representations perspective regarding identity and positioning (Elejabarrieta, 1994). One of the major insights of Postcolonial Theory is that Africa represents 'Europe's fundamental other'. To explore what this means from Social Representations perspective, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 'laypersons', volunteers and professionals working on poverty-related issues and/or structural change. Drawing on discourse as the unit of my analysis, I analysed my informants' applied discursive strategies (mechanisms) and six different patterns emerged of webs of people's world-views, their identity construction, including their self-imagine and their deconstructed self, and a link to action - what they give back into the world. One of these positions, which I will call the cosmopolitan position, will be portrayed in detail in this article. My results support Taylor's (1989) ideas, claiming that although most people's moral ontologies remain largely implicit unless there is some challenge which forces them to the fore, people construct their identities around an abstract notion of the good. And included in this are not only questions of our own dignity, the respect for other people's lives, and well-being, in short: solidarity, but equally personal answers to questions, for example, what makes our lives worth living, touching implicitly upon all grand questions of humankind.