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Cosmopolitan Culture as Elite Distinction among African Business Professionals in Johannesburg

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

This article unpacks the practices of cosmopolitan elite distinction among a group of successful business professionals of African origin, who were employed in middle and senior management positions in Johannesburg during the height of the “bull market” in 2004. It considers the self-identification of these professionals as cosmopolitan in light of our theoretical understanding of social distinction. Building on Veblen, Bourdieu, and Goffman, this article shows how these business professionals claiming to belong to a cosmopolitan community enacted these hierarchies through everyday distinctions in place, leisure and dress. The article concludes that while cosmopolitanism is an escape from local African identity, appeals to a cosmopolitan community transform and reconfigure society through the inscription of new inequalities and particularities.

Affiliations: 1: Danish Institute for International Studies Strandgade 56 1401 Copenhagen K. Denmark, Email:


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