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Dissertationproject of Punny Kabir

Exploring practices of cosmopolitanism by the ‘cultural brokers’ of Bangladeshi diaspora in Rome (working title)

Rome is a popular hub for unskilled Bangladeshi migrants with a ‘European Dream.’ In several neighborhoods in Rome, they have created their own localized collective culture and a sense of community. Arguably, the migrants form a web of interdependence for reasons of supporting each other, minimizing the cost of living, and providing social stability in their initial phase of settlement. However, there are some individuals who hold a crucial role in this phase and operate as ‘cultural brokers’. They act as translators and facilitators in finding the newcomers accommodations, jobs, legal papers, and necessary contacts to settle in. They function in multiple layers of interaction between the newcomers, the already settled Bangladeshis, the local Italians, and other ethnic groups as facilitators and mediators between the various cultures. On the contrary to the elitist notion of cosmopolitans being English-speaking corporates, officials of intergovernmental organizations or NGOs, academicians, artists, or businesspersons, such cultural brokers also cross many cultural boundaries. They are open to learn various traits of different cultures, speak several languages, are themselves experienced in traveling, arriving, and settling, and know how to make friends and foster relationships not only locally but also transnationally. On the other hand, such a 'profession' often pushes them to resort to shady paths (e.g. bribery, commission, powerplay) in their pursuit of negotiating the cultural conflicts between the migrant and the host communities. My research aims to unfold the nuances of the everyday exchanges by the cultural brokers that cut across multiple cultural boundaries. Through ethnographic intervention, my research will investigate how certain people become cultural brokers, what are the repertoires of their cross-cultural exchanges, and what do they mean for both the migrant and host communities. The vital question that drives my research project is what if these brokers are also cosmopolitans? Could the notion of cosmopolitanism be remodeled meaningfully by building it on the practice of such cultural brokers instead of cultural elites?


Short biography
Punny Kabir is a researcher in the field of anthropology who is interested in topics like identity politics, migration, global inequality, critical cosmopolitanism, and diaspora. She is currently investigating cross-cultural practices of the Bangladeshi migrant community in Rome as an a.r.t.e.s fellow at the University of Cologne. 


Contact:  pkabir[at]smail.uni-koeln.de



  • Kabir, Punny (2021): Civic Engagement in Exile: Exploring Social Media Presenceof Dissidents From Bangladesh. In The International Journal of Press/Politics,194016122110472. DOI: 10.1177/19401612211047200.