If You Believe You Are a Citizen of the World, You Are A Citizen of Nowhere

Monday 5 March 2018, 7pm | Emmanuel Centre

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If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what citizenship means.”

When Theresa May uttered these words at the Tory party conference in 2016, there was uproar. May was targeting the liberal establishment, who flit business class from Mayfair to Monaco, from Davos to Doha; those in positions of power, who, as May put it, ‘behave as though they have more in common with international elites than with the people down the road’.

But many people who don’t fit in this frequent flyer category felt under attack too. For this group, believing you are a citizen of the world is a badge of honour, not shame. The cosmopolitan impulse, they believe, isn’t about loyalty to any single community. On the contrary, you can be a citizen of your street, your city, your country and the entire globe. And in our interconnected world, those with a burning concern for global justice, for the environment, for the strife and carnage happening beyond our borders, see themselves as part of humanity at large – as citizens of the world.

But for a different group of people, May’s words resonated deeply. These are the people who feel genuinely rooted in their communities, who feel the strongest sense of solidarity with those who share their history, language and other elements of a common culture. These people often feel sneered at as nationalists or worse, as bigots, by the elites who do not understand their profound intuition that the nation state is the natural expression of group identity.

To unpack these divisions at the heart of contemporary politics, Intelligence Squared is bringing together Simon Schama, one of Britain’s most celebrated historians, who embodies the cosmopolitan spirit; and Elif Shafak, the Turkish novelist and commentator, who calls herself a ‘world citizen and a global soul’. Joining them will be the author David Goodhart, whose bestseller The Road To Somewhere identifies two tribes –’Somewheres’, who feel strong local and national attachments, and ‘Anywheres’, global villagers who value autonomy and mobility; and David Landsman, a former diplomat now in the corporate world, who is concerned about the growing intellectualisation of work, which is widening the gap between the professional classes and everyone else.


Founding editor of Prospect magazine who is currently head of the Demography, Immigration and Integration Unit at the think tank Policy Exchange. His recent book The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics is one of the most influential post-Brexit analyses and was a Sunday Times top ten bestseller.

Former diplomat who started his FCO career in Greece and ended it there as Ambassador. He also worked in what was still called Yugoslavia, oversaw the end of Libya’s WMD programmes and was Ambassador to Albania. He is currently Europe head of the Indian-headquartered Tata group. 

University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University in New York. His publications include Patriots and Liberators, The Embarrassment of Riches, Citizens, Landscape and Memory, and Rembrandt’s Eyes. His latest book is Belonging, the second volume of his history of the Jews.

Award-winning novelist and political commentator, who is the most widely read female writer in Turkey. She writes in both Turkish and English, and has published 15 books, 10 of which are novels, including the bestselling The Bastard of Istanbul, The Forty Rules of Love and her most recent, Three Daughters of Eve.


Kamal Ahmed

Economics editor at the BBC. He was formerly the BBC’s business editor and political editor at The Observer, and Director of Communications at the Equality and Human Rights Commission from 2007 to 2009.


Speakers are subject to change.